Eighteen years ago I was working at a small grocery store in my hometown. Todd lived across the street. I remember the first time I saw him he came in to buy toothpaste and bleach. It was cold outside and he was wearing a knit cap; he looked adorable and lost and the minute he put that cap on his head I knew I loved him.
Because this was 1997 and Tinder and Grindr had yet to be invented, I asked him out like any other self-respecting homosexual man masquerading as a teenage girl, I slipped a handwritten note into his grocery bag. Would you like to go out with me?
The only thing missing were the two boxes for him to indicate yes or no.
For the next two weeks we did what the Duggars refer to as “courting” — an act which consisted of long walks followed by a few awkward side hugs. It was all very chaste and Puritanical. I began to think maybe Todd wasn’t gay the night I leaned in to kiss him and he turned his cheek. Of course he was gay and on February 17 he did not turn his cheek.
Over the years Todd has forgiven so much — he has overlooked my lack of patience, my tendency to overreact, my ability to make everything about me. In return for looking past this catalog of flaws and shortcomings, I forgive him for taking too long to tell a story and not being Latino.
Eighteen years is long time for any relationship, but in the gay community — where most relationships begin after last call and end twenty minutes later — eighteen years is a lifetime. I’m not sure how we did it or why we’re still together. There is no secret to our success.
And besides, it’s not as if we didn’t implode. We did. On more than one occasion. Some days it was a real struggle. But then I like that we almost failed. It made us real. It said we had something to lose in the first place.
Eighteen years later and there is no one I would rather share uncomfortable silences with than him.