Written on Wednesday morning, shared on Wednesday night, posted Friday morning with a deep breath - things shift, arguments happen, but the feelings remain the same. Those are simple; continuously figuring out what to do with them is the hard part. Uncertainty is tough, and I am tired, but it doesn't mean that I should not be honest here, now.
I'm not sure what time it is as I write this; I'm sitting on Sebastian's bed (he's sleeping on the couch next door) and watching the snow come down on a white morning sky. It's cold in Germany, but the windows are thick and fit snugly into their frames, and the radiators gently pull heat into the room, and the doors quietly click shut and make small snug spaces, no cracks, so different from the Philippines and Thailand where I was delighted to see lizards scuttling around the walls at night. Those places melt the walls and throw the world wide open, when they work well. But this place makes the world pause, and the winter settles, and I feel safe.
It has been a good last few days. I am not used to slowness and stillness and absence of thought with the presence of feeling. It is something that is slowly (occasionally more rapidly and violently, but on average slowly) seeping into the balance of my life - of which work is a part, but not the whole. I have been leaning how to wake up slowly. I pride myself on being able to go from unconscious to fully-dressed, showered, and out the door with breakfast in my mouth in 5 minutes or less - it's not a bad skill to have, and has been honed through years of severely sleep-deprived residential schooling - but that is not the only way to rise, and I am proud I do it well, but not proud that it is the only way of waking up I can do well.
There are notes sometimes, on books when I wake up, in books I've gotten. Occasionally there is tea. (I do admit that Nespresso machines and their associated advertising are well-engineered and stylish, but I still do not like coffee.) And I have met people I've only heard about in stories - Cedric and Verena and Frauke and Kai and others, and his parents (who have been very kind), and I have seen what it looks like to have a history with people and with places that you haven't run away from or distanced yourself from as a preemptive defense mechanism. I have had food that I can't pronounce or spell (raclette is brilliant; rote grutze is fantastic but would be better without cherries, vanilla sauce is major win), and I've made champorado and Antonio Pueo (chocolate) in the kitchen.
Tonight I will make kare-kare and caldereta, proper rice and egg drop soup (because I like eggs), pears poached in red wine and I will fry bananas, and Cedric and Verena will come over for dinner. I have laughed about the drinking water being bottled. I have decided that I will attempt to substitute kale for bok choy in the kare-kare tonight (don't ask me how, I'll make it happen, I HAVE A WOK DAMMIT). I have learned that it is possible (although still difficult and awkward and inconsistent) for me to pronounce the "ch" sound, which is pronounced in German in a way that appears nowhere in the English language. I cannot tell how it sounds different, only that it feels strange, but from learning Chinese I know that if I practice long enough, my lips and tongue and throat will find familiarity in that muscle pattern eventually.
It is also a distinctly peculiar thing to have somebody else take care of you. Before this week, Sebastian and I have only really interacted on neutral ground (work, projects, open source, conferences, cities we've both never lived in, and increasingly now Olin) and on my turf (I've lived in Boston, New York, DC, and now Raleigh; we stayed with my parents for Thanksgiving, he's met some of my family and a few of my college friends). Even with that uneven footing, he's still somehow managed to hold his own and carve out shelter for the both of us when times get crazy. I do that too, a little bit more fluently when it's my space instead of neutral ground, and sometimes then I grumble; I'm tired, why do I need to do this now, why can't we just suck it up and deal, why does this have to take up so much time?
And so I am a little bit ashamed here, and a little awed that this is happening, when I spend a (very jetlagged) New Year's Eve leaning against his shoulder while he's talking with his friends, and asking once in a while if I'm all right, and I am - even if it's cold and I am tired and there are new people and music and things that normally would be a little overwhelming - they are a little overwhelming, but there's also a shoulder to lean on. And it stays there, and I trust it, and I trust him to steer us through the fireworks outside (we launch some rockets, I pitch whirling fiery things into the street, there's smoke and things exploding and my fingers go numb trying to shield the sputtering lighter from the wind and neither of us can strip the safety tabs off the rockets without help from Kai, and people are shouting and we are holding sparklers and running to avoid the flight paths of the other rockets) - it is wonderful and freezing and exciting and exhausting and through all that noise there is a hand to hold. And this continues. And it has continued for days - weeks, really... months.
And yes, sometimes he grumbles. But it is far less, and often it is in the other direction - why am I trying to suck it up and deal, can I please let him take care of me now? and usually he is more patient than I am stubborn. And I sink into exhaustion and there's someone sitting on the sofa that I'm lying on telling me quietly not to get up, and then the sofa has become a sofabed, and in the snatches of consciousness I'm not sure how a pillow has appeared, but the room is also dark, and I roll over and I'm dimly aware that I am warm now because there is a blanket wrapped around me. And I sleep, still not quite sure why this is so.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to wake up someday, but in the same breath I know that I am more awake these past few days than I have been in ages, that I have spent the last ten years or more drugging myself with work so that I feel nothing but white-hot productivity and then collapse. Awareness is something I struggle with. Acknowledging that there is quiet counterbalancing the chaos, that hugs can be protective-safe instead of (or at the same time as) protective-trapped, that rest is not a necessary evil, it is necessary and it simply is - that happiness is different from hyperactivity, and that sometimes it comes intertwined with pain, and that things can reach me, shake me - this is hard. I am struggling to be here. But it is worth it to be present, and there is somebody waiting for me there, in that awareness that is life. And I cannot say how grateful I am, and how sorry, and how hard I know we're both trying and how tired we always are, and how confused and awed and frightened I am and have been - and how deeply I am falling in love.
I have wanted to write about this for a long time. And it may not yet be time - he'll be the first person I show this to, and I will still not post it if it doesn't feel right to us both - but it feels strange to me not to write about someone who has become so much a part of how I breathe, and who has made the past year (longer, really) so much richer and so much more wonderful. It is awkward, and it will be awkward, to negotiate these boundaries; there are stories that will never be written here because they are not mine alone to tell, and there are stories that will be, and there will be many conversations about that, I am sure. Beautiful awkwardness.
I may not write about this again for quite a while - not this way, although there may be stories of the things we do, places we go, life. And things I do, places I go - because we're still two people and I'm just as stubborn and independent and full of wanderlust (and a huge graphomaniac) as I have ever been. But I wanted to note here - admit, to a collective memory I know I cannot erase or take down - that I have started learning how to hope. With all the terror and the risk and hurt that word implies, at least for me. Uncertainty.
I feel like I've been struck by thunder. It really is a beautiful and awesome world out there.