This is the inaugural writing of a–hopefully–reoccurring piece. The writer has interviewed the people involved and constructed a view of their relationship. The names of the subjects are redacted, but you might know them. You might also know the kinds of relationships we are describing in these pieces. No matter what relationships you find yourself in, you might find a new perspective on them from reading about others in our community.
The two figures are outlined by the dim string party light of Stirling’s Coffeehouse. A golden lock falls from the bun on top of his head. Her brunet hair is held back by a clip. She faces away from the porch towards the cemetery across the street, jawline and sidebangs perched in porch penumbra. His freckled forehead and bushy brow glance softly into the bridge of her nose. He doesn’t study her face. He already knows it. His face captures the warm bulb off-put, his blue eyes shine into hers. She watches its movements, taking in the curves, indentions, and the soft wrinkles lay about.
They met three years earlier, in the first year program (FYP), at a bonfire. He played the guitar, and he was wearing a jean jacket—a detail etched indelibly in her memory. It hung over his broad rugby shoulders as a fire separated them. She was about to start a regretful relationship with another person. He would start to fall in love with her.
Weeks after the bonfire, he tells her some half-baked plan that he’s going to bike to Nashville. He’s going to some reunion of a camp he worked at years before. He says biking will only take a day or two. She, of course, offers to drive him. Two hours later, they know each other’s music taste. They arrive at a farmer’s market, and they look like a couple as they walk around buying goat cheese. It might’ve been a first date.
The end of their first semester nears. He’s drunk and will be sleeping on the couch inside of her house. He walks upstairs into her room to ask for a blanket, but he admits that he is in love with her. Christmas break comes, and the girl-who-hates-phone-calls ends up overjoyed that she gets one. She imagines him and a jean jacket on the other end of the line.
He runs out of money for another semester at Sewanee and hangs fences to make up for it, somewhere far enough from the Mountain. They still end up together.
A year later, on vacation to a ski resort, in Breckenridge, Colorado, a pandemic sweeps the nation. The resort asks them to leave. Sewanee asks them to not return. They decide to spend what they assume will be a short time together at her Dad’s house in Kentucky. It ends up being seven months.
Her family isn’t the familiar force she remembered them as. Their behavior month after month drains her. The family becomes strained. But her partner gives her hope and provides comfort. They never stopped talking to one another, never isolated each other in what they both found to be a stranger’s household.
They come back to the Mountain, and both of them attempt to communicate to their friends as if the months of separation didn’t happen. They found solace with each other.
Now, she’s learning to play rugby, like he does. She still has a golden nose-ring. He doesn’t wear a jean jacket anymore. She is aspirational; he is grounding; he is a sun beam in a cold room; she is your favorite corner in a bookstore. She looks at him knowingly. He looks at her without any reservation, nakedly in love. It does not feel awkward to watch their assurance in one another. They do not hold hands, or kiss overtly to show affection. They hold each other in each other’s glances. To watch them is to know how much they would rather be playing house somewhere, for him to cook some wonderful meal, for her to scrupulously wash the dishes, and for them to end up on the couch snuggling.
They want to grow together. She might get a Fulbright fellowship, and they might move to the South Pacific to teach English. He might get an offer from some rugby team in the British Isles, and they might make a home in a strange place. For now, they sit on the same bench, drinking tea, while a romping cat climbs between their legs, happy to be in close proximity with the person they love.