It Started With an Email

I was working as a long-term substitute with my own computer log in when the email came through: “Hey. Is everything Ok?”

I stared at the computer screen and then minimized my email, turned to the incoming students, and went about teaching for the morning because no, everything was no Ok. Nothing felt Ok.

When I had a minute to collect myself, I re-read the email. It was from my friend, Cortney, who shared an apartment with my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend. He was concerned because I had come over on Sunday and rather than using my key, I had knocked. I then disappeared into my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend’s room and he could hear serious discussion going on.  And my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend had seemed tense and weird and when Cortney asked him if everything was Ok, his answer was, “no,” and that was it.

So he emailed me because he couldn’t stop worrying about us.

I ended up spilling the entire sad sack story of the weekend and how it ended in the demise of my boyfriend-now-ex-boyfriend’s and my five-year relationship.

His response? “Don’t take this the wrong way, but that is actually a relief. I thought you were pregnant.”

Thanks, yo.

From there, we emailed back and forth sporadically for the rest of the school year. He had a tendency to worry about me–we had been friends for years, after all–and he wanted to check in to make sure I wasn’t making destructive choices (I was) and that I was eating (I wasn’t) and that I wasn’t holing up in my house feeling sorry for myself by crying to the cat (I was).

For awhile I only responded to his emails and didn’t initiate any threads because thinking about him made me think about my ex-boyfriend and it was just too much. But once school got out and I didn’t have a regular job to go to anymore, Cortney and I started emailing more often. He would stop over after work with a pizza to hang out–his way of making sure I got a decent meal since he knew I was broke and living on vodka and Doritos if left alone to make my own choices.

It wasn’t my proudest moment in life, Ok?

After my summer of wallowing, I ended up getting the full-time teaching job I am in now, and shockingly (to us anyway) Cortney and I started dating. The emailing did not stop; in fact it increased now that we weren’t seeing each other all the time due to my actually having to go to work. If I could look back on those emails, they were probably so sweet and carefree. It makes me smile to think about how young and starry-eyed we were back then.

We still email back and forth every day and I have been in this job now for almost fourteen years. One of us will start the daily thread with a “Good morning!” or “Hope you got in Ok!” Some days–like when my students are working on a test independently and Cortney is at his desk all day, we will go back and forth rapidly exchanging silly jokes or thoughts about anything from what next week’s dinners should be, when we should have our own date night, or even what is going on with our kids. Some days we only have the morning check in and then not much for the rest of the day because I am on my feet with students all day or he is out of the office or busy with calls.

Some days the topics get pretty serious. I tend to write out my feelings better than verbalize them, so there have been times I have spent my lunch period on my email typing out long messages about my mental health or other serious topics that I need to make sure I get my words just right. He will do the same. It has always been a way to give each other our thoughts and then let them sit before we respond either with another email, or in person later that evening.

We don’t do everything right as a married couple, but one thing I am proud of is our communication. Long before that first email, Cortney and I were friends who shared with each other and empathized with each other. We celebrated the great things, but we also cried about the bad things. His reaching out to me that day was just an extension of that.

We still reach out to each other every day. When Cortney was traveling for work recently, the loneliest I felt was during my work day when there were no emails coming through. After fourteen years of check-in’s and random banter, going a few days with complete silence was hard.

People who know us sometimes like to give me a little grief about how “chatty” Cortney and I can be–how we tell each other everything and send each other photos. When I was in Atlanta, Cort and I texted constantly, and my friend The Pastor’s Wife teased me a bit of being like a teenager. I know she was kidding and that it was actually out of love for us that she said what she did, because really, it’s that goofiness that has carried us for this long. It’s the easy way we communicate with each other that has made our relationship not just survive the past fourteen years, but actually build it up.

a golden state

You are the hole in my head
I am the pain in your neck

One of us likes to make a list and check things off as quickly as possible…has a “if it’s going to get done, I have to do it” attitude.

One of us likes to make a list and hopefully get to things when the time and money is right.

One of us is afraid to nag.

One of us needs reminding, but hates nagging.

One of us holds it in until it bursts into rude nagging.

One of us hates feeling like a scolded child.

You are the lump in my throat
I am the aching in your heart

I reached out to you this week.  Everything was catching up and blinding me and pressing on my chest.

You told me to breathe.

You told me, “Everything is ok, baby.  We run this shit.”

You made me laugh.

Hand-holding.

Back rubbing.

Stolen kisses.

Tissues handed to you during a funeral service.

Random hugs that make Eddie run to join in.

We are tangled
We are stolen
We are living where things are hidden

I share a lot here in this space, but I also keep certain things ours.

The things that are too special.

The things that are too damning.

The things that are too petty.

The things that are too ours.

You are something in my eye
And I am the shiver down your spine
You are the lick of my lips
And I am on the tip of your tongue

The “guys” give you a hard time because you always say you have to “check with Kate.”

I know I’d rather be “in” with you than “out” without you.

You admitted in your vows that being lazy with me is the way you see your forever.

My safe place is your arms.

We are luck
We are fate
We are the feeling you get in the golden state
We are love
We are hate
We are the feeling I get when you walk away
Walk away

Your grandma, newly widowed, said this week, “My best friend is gone.  I have no one to talk to anymore”.

Her children exclaimed, “that’s not true!  You have us!”

She shook her head, “it’s not the same”.

She is right it is not the same.

After 63 years of marriage…of rehashing and giggling and discussing each night before bed, over dinner, in a quiet moment stolen away from the kids, in the car after an event…something grows. Something more than a marriage is made.

You are the dream in my nightmare
I am that falling sensation
You are not needles and pills
I am your hangover morning

We are tangled
We are stolen
We are living where things are hidden

Our friendship started many years before our marriage did.

There are times when I look around at this life we are living and giggle in awe.

I would have never ever guessed YOU were my forever…

That we would create this…

That I could be this lucky.

That we would be living in a golden state.

*Lyrics by Eddie Vedder from the song “The Golden State”

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