My favorite line in all of English literature is the last line from James Joyce’s story in “The Dubliners”, “The Dead”.
“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end upon all the living and the dead.” It is this use of language that made me fall in love with Joyce. But it is the phrase, “His soul swooned slowly” that speaks to me in a very profound way.
19 years ago today, my soul swooned slowly- it is my 19th anniversary with my partner Lee. And believe it or not my soul still swoons when I look into his eyes.
I guess as a gay couple we shatter the stereotype that many of the Christian right hold about gay men. We are deeply in love and committed to one another in ways that rival any marriage between a man and a woman. Oddly enough many heterosexuals feel that marriage needs to be protected. That’s odd because I feel that my relationship with my partner needs absolutely no protections – it is strong, loving and quite frankly 19 years later I feel that sense that we are each part of a larger whole. Isn’t that what marriage is supposed to do? Someone needs to tell me why the religious right feels that their marriages need protection?
Since we are not afforded the legal rite of marriage it made finding a date for us to celebrate our anniversary an interesting exercise. Should it have been the day we met? No- that was a memorable day- but didn’t quite seem right. How about the first day we “did it”? No- that had a few things going against it- first is it just passionate exchanges or full fledged sex? We actually dated a while and were “making out” a lot when we would take long hikes together before we actually ended up in bed together. But choosing a date that had to do with sex—- seemed somewhat missing the mark. Sure it was an expression of passion and it was great, but quite frankly I had had sex with many men and it was important that this be different. We didn’t register as domestic partners until some years after we were already a committed couple. We waited until the state of California enacted laws to make Domestic Partnership really mean something and that wasn’t until about 4 years ago.
So we chose September 26, 1988 as the date to commemorate- a little over 2 months after we met. Oddly enough, we were a continent apart on that day. Lee had gone back east for vacation and I was here in San Francisco. I had only moved here in February of that year so vacations were not part of my new job yet. It was clear to me just how much I missed Lee while he was away and I guess it was mutual. On a phone call we had on that day September 26, 1988 we told each other that we were in love with the other.
What better way to celebrate our love each year than by celebrating it on the day where we said those simple yet profound words to one another – “I love you”.
We’ve had a number of challenges over the years- some we weathered better than others but it was our love that saw us through any challenge we faced. HIV is a constant companion for me- I’ve been living with it for over 20 years and I have been battling a more determined battle with it since I was diagnosed with AIDS in 1999. I’ve made HIV/AIDS my avocation, my work, and I have delved into HIV as an issue- partly so that is doesn’t intrude its ugly face into my personal life anymore than it has to.
Lee has always remained HIV negative and in my mind there was no option but to always remain safe. Did I yearn for that closeness without something between us?- yes. Did I feel that HIV loomed in our bedroom? Yes. Did I feel responsible for all of that?- yes. But even with HIV in our lives and in my body we found a rhythm – a way to give it less power than it had at first. I am thankful for that.
Over the years we have found remarkable ways to celebrate our anniversary- usually dinners at some of the best restaurants in the world. But it was 9 years ago on our 10th anniversary that stands out as the highlight.
Darwin our beagle came into our home that day. He was our 10th anniversary present to each other and little did we know that day that the love that we have for him would mesh with the love that we have for one another. Yes – its two men and a dog, but we are family. We are the definition of family values in the best possible way.
Each day I have on this planet with Lee is a gift. Darwin gives that gift, which is like a diamond, added brilliance and beauty. We are blessed.
Not long after I met Lee I wrote a poem. I think it sums up how I feel today:
Light shatters the Black of night.
Breaking forth, it grabs a glint of skyline.
It moves from the Gray beginnings in the East
Continuing its westward trek towards
The Final Peace.
Dissolution, preceded by the light- momentarily
Tearing the spectrum into a blaze of colors.
The light warms the contoured terrain
Nob Hill, Bernal Heights, Twin Peaks
Crisscrossed – Light and Shadow.
Light and shadow perform a pas de deux.
The Movement- Graceful, gradual and
Constantly changing with intricate patterns.
Other players involve themselves in the ballet.
The Adagio develops.
The Light and the Wall have interplay.
The Creation of an ever-changing Shadow.
The wall shields.
Everything in its shadow remains
Safely in the Wall’s cool, calm protection.
Obliterate the wall.
Disassemble it- brick by brick.
The light floods all in its wake.
We are part of the light.
From Morning’s grayness to Evening’s
Final Spectral Chorus.
The Brightness, The Warmth
Happy 19th Anniversary to the sweetest man in the universe! Happy 9th Anniversary to the best dog on the planet! I am truly blessed and my soul swoons as slowly and as profoundly as it did 19 years ago.