It's been exactly six years since I met Radley. We were at my best friend's birthday party and he was the new guy, a friend of a friend. I think about that night all the time, about how lighthearted and nonchalant I felt when I asked him to dance. (Yes, I made the first move.) In case you're curious, he totally turned me down, and Radley claims it's because he didn't want to leave a conversation. (My side of the story says that he's just sometimes adorably shy, and his height makes him nervous about dance floors.) Naturally, like anyone would do, I just found somebody else to dance with, and when Radley came to look for me minutes later, I was dancing with another guy. He said no, I moved on.
We laugh about it all the time, realizing that our first moments together were basically both of us rejecting the other. Looking back, the whole night seems to make a lot of sense. For the first time, I reached out to someone, and when it didn't work out, I didn't stay. That marked something new for me after years of reaching out, getting a no, and then standing by, waiting for the answer to change. In so many cases, and in so many relationships, I found myself waiting when I should have walked. It came from a place of fear, mostly, and also from a sense of need. I didn't need anything the night I met Radley, in far more ways than just with love. And without need, I was fearless.
Instinctively I've come to understand the portrait of my life with him as the marker — there's the time before Radley and the time after. And how strange and thrilling and surreal it's been to watch the after grow, to watch it gradually catch up to before. At before, my hair was long and blonde, his buzzed, his face clean-shaven. We were tan, too tan, and we only wore sandals. I listened to a lot of moody songs, he only played reggae on the radio. That was before. We'll be forty when before and after meet, and I find myself wondering what we'll look like, what we'll listen to, whether we'll still take our coffee black and watch movies on Fridays and go running on Sundays. I wonder if he'll go gray by then, if I'll still love breakup songs, if our home will still be filled with the same art. At forty, I'll have lived as much of my life with Radley as I have without, and I hope a part of me still feels fearless.