When I was 16 and we were a few months into the relationship, I used to write my name on Jeff’s hands and arms. Writing has always helped me make sense of the world, and I wanted to see if my name on his skin made sense, this boy who read me poetry and drew flowers and sad faces on my knees.
I used to think it was a curse, feeling every thing so much all the time, like this open, gaping wound that felt every jostle and scrape and scratch. Somehow, people my age were all growing up learning how to bottle their feelings and be cool, and mine were all out there and swinging rather wildly on my sleeve.
This boy never needed a disclaimer, some sort of warning or explanation. He walked into my life with an alien joke and settled right in. For the first time, I was fine the way I was, flaws and all, and jagged edges. He understood, and I would find that his own fit mine.
I don’t write about us often. It’s easier to write about our son, because my love for him is simple and uncomplicated, this fierce, all-encompassing love of a mother for her child. I rarely write about us because putting it into words seems impossible. How could I possibly do justice to a feeling this immense.
So I take pictures and write stories of us down in places where we might find them again a few years down the line, to remember. Places where our son might find them when he’s older, to know a bit more of who we were before he came along. Stories like how he walked 8 kilometres in the rain to my home back when we were in college, so he could afford the flowers he bought me for no reason from that little flower shop across Gate 3 where a bookshop now stands. Stories of the years when we kept falling apart and back together because we were both so stubborn and proud but ultimately needed each other more.
And stories of now when we’re a bit older, when it’s not so shiny and new anymore, when I’ve been with him longer than half my entire life. Stories of us now that we’re grown and have seen each other at our worst and most rotten, and how we choose each other every single day because we know, on this and every single alternate universe, it will always be us.
Stories of recent memory, like the first half of this year when I struggled with an unnecessary need for order and perfection. I’ve always had this urge growing up, and used to rebel directly against it with as much chaos as my then body could muster, taking a considerable degree of satisfaction in it. I thought I was keeping it together and you’d never even notice it, but he knows me better.
He sees me, and he unwraps this tightly wound ball of nerves I inevitably curl into some days, and reminds me of how much wild beauty there is to be found in the chaos, how much we love jumping in puddles and dancing in the rain. He reminds me that it’s okay for my desk to be a complete and utter mess most days, and how I used to delight in knowing where everything is underneath all that rubbish.
He reminds me that all my feelings find their purpose when I channel them into creating, and that I take photographs and write to tell my truths and the world as I know it, not by some imaginary unreachable standard I have somehow managed to set for myself along the way. He reminds me that I am still the same girl who wakes up and runs off to the beach on a whim or need for clarity, only this time with our five-year-old’s little hand tucked safely in mine — not entirely carefree anymore, but in its place, a love as vast as the ocean.
He reminds me that meaning and deep, profound joy are found in the grit and imperfections. Perfection bears no scars, and it is in our scars where we find our stories. He reminds me of who I am when I forget.