She won the bet.
I first talked to sovay a few days afterwards on LiveJournal. She had done some Googling and found me hanging out on my LJ writing "I done a show; it done good" so she said hello. I had no idea who this person was so I added a user note when accepting the friend request. After a few initial comment conversations, sovay's note read "Saw the Byfar Hour. Amazingly good taste." The writing was intelligent, the references wonderfully varied and the identity of this commenter a complete mystery. I had no idea who this person was, not even their gender: sovay was fond of a young Denholm Elliott as an avatar as well as Derek Jacobi in I, Claudius and a Claude Rains, but there was also PJ Harvey, a young lady with long hair and a garland, and a very punk Tank Girl-like picture titled Sovay. Looking at the avatars was the extent of my online stalking, because at that point I knew I had developed a bit of an intellectual crush on this person and gender doesn't enter into that one bit.
We met a few months later at the green room at Arisia but only briefly, passing by from one event to another. I was in a post-performance green room high so I have no idea what we talked about beyond the typical So This Is The Person I Know From The Internet stuff. However, I remember she spoke gently, had intense eyes and long hair, and was as erudite in her speech as she was in her writing. I also found out her name was Sonya. I told Neil "I finally met that person from LJ. She's pretty awesome."
For the next few years I saw her from time to time at one show or another; she'd hang out after a performance and say hi. I met her parents before I knew who they were. After The Lady's Not For Burning in 2011, Sonya made a specific point to tell me how much she really enjoyed the show. She said she had seen the play at thirteen and fell in love with it. She bought the text, the first modern play she ever even liked--so she was happy the show worked. (Renee had removed the play from its 15th century England setting and stuck it in Appalachia, 1919. It so worked.) Moreover, she said, I'd done a very good job as Hebble Tyson, and that the memory of my performance would supplant the memory of the actor she saw when she was thirteen. Nobody had ever said anything like that to me before and I didn't quite know what to say in return other than thank you I am glad you enjoyed it so.
Then I saw what she later wrote about it and didn't know what to say at all for a while except for well geez my intellectual crush seems to have one of a similar kind on me that is neat. (I said it to the cat, who blinked or yawned or did any number of things the cat would do.)
We continued to write back and forth over Internet services, and then January 2012 happened. Things were rotten for me that month. I'd burnt out completely doing a Red Shift show, I had been mired in a terrible existential fugue state since mid-December, and all I really wanted to do was just stay in my room and hibernate. I had no way of knowing Sonya was experiencing a similarly bleak month, a dark time of solitude and non-existence. I don't know why she decided to reach out and ask if I'd like to hang out sometime. I don't know why I accepted. I wasn't hanging out with anybody.
But somehow, and I didn't notice this until quite a bit later, she had managed to get past my defenses, the walls thrown up by depression and anxiety and bad echoes from the past, and reached me personally. And I didn't mind. I hadn't noticed. We went out to lunch at Christopher's in Porter Square, a place I knew I could at least get some kind of food in during the fugue state, and we ended up talking there for three hours. Then we went to Porter Square Books, got some drinks, sat in the back and talked for two more. We couldn't stop talking. We started talking online; we couldn't stop talking. She started visiting and we kept talking. We had to come up with a safeword for conversations, seeing as how we could stretch a Long Goodbye as far as the last bus home. Oh, Mr. Marlowe.
She liked cinema. She liked science-fiction. She spoke of Theodore Sturgeon and Stanislaw Lem. I asked if she wanted to go to SF/37, the 24-hour sci-fi marathon at the Somerville Theater. I had an extra ticket and said she didn't have to stay for the whole thing if she didn't want to. We ended up watching 17 hours, happily discussing the finer points of David Cronenberg and such, leaving early to walk in the pre-dawn glow to Verna's for donuts. Then we went back to my house and talked for four or five more hours, drinking tea, finally stopping after noon because neither of us could stay awake much longer to form coherent sentences. I said hey wow, we could tolerate each other for over twenty-four hours straight.
We found we shared a lot of common traits and loves. We found that we could finish each other's sentences. We found that we were both hurting. She sidestepped my mental stumbling blocks and I seem to have done a pretty good job with hers. We found that we could trust each other. And that we kinda liked each other. So much so that we almost nearly kissed after watching From Russia With Love at the Somerville, but a passing band of drunk Tufts students heckled merrily ("Get a room!"), I heckled back ("Get a drunk tank!"), we realized we'd just been in a Downton Abbey situation, and lost The Moment in fits of giggles. A few days later, without the help of the peanut gallery, we didn't get Downtoned again.
We emerged from our fugues of non-existence, a slow and carefully paced emergence. But we flourished with each other. We were very much like cats, growing more and more comfortable in each other's presence. At no time did we consider the other a project, a hopelessly broken person in need of healing. We just seemed to do better when we were together.
There are pictures of our first weekend together as a Couple. We went up to an old quarry near Rockport and climbed around on the rocks by the sea. We found we had always loved the sea. Housemate Tracy played nature photographer and took pictures, treating us as he does skittish lizards and prairie dogs. We are candid and often unaware of the camera, though we know he's around. We are dressed warmly. We are consulting a map. We are keeping watch over the shore. We are embracing. We look as if we'd been doing this for years.
We first said we loved each other at the Brattle. (The film was Sunset Boulevard. Try not to see anything in that. I don't.) We started travelling together. Seventy-two hours together in Washington, D.C. turned out to be just as fine as twenty-four hours together in Somerville. We found we both thrilled at discovering new food, spicy food, good food. We ate goat stew with ghost peppers and grinned at each other as it played pinball with our endorphins. We found we both lost track of time in bookstores. We rode a roller coaster together and I listened to her laugh all the way through, the joyous laughter that comes with giving yourself over to the g-forces and flying. 2012 turned from a year that promised nothing but trouble into a year of healing and a growing friendship. We found we were enjoying the bits of life we were sharing so much that we may very well kinda could probably actually if we thought about it somehow turn out to not just share moments of life here and there, but to share a full one.
So, with ambiguity having become completely overrated, we proposed to each other on our first anniversary as a couple. We both wanted to get married; we both could do the asking. We found we were equals in what we did. Gender didn't enter into it. 2013 became a year of immense change. I lost the dearest cat I ever knew. I began to plan a new life. And I did something I hadn't done since 1997: I moved to a new home on my own volition, rather than having the place sold out from under me or leases not being renewed. We were starting together for reals, creating something that wasn't just a new extension of one person's living area. It was brand-new.
It has not been perfect. We have had arguments. We have disappointed the other. We have hurt each other. But we talk. There's no reason not to. We explain without providing excuses. We apologize and forgive, and we learn. It is what you do when you love someone.
And there is love.
We are getting married today in the Somerville Theater because us. I can put it no better than that. It is an interfaith service with my father officiating along with Rabbi Talya Weisbard Shalem. Our rings are simple gold bands, the inside of each engraved with two stars. They represent a binary star system, two stars which orbit each other as they make their journey through space. We did something, however, that binary star systems don't: we were making our own separate paths when our attractions caused radical shifts in orbit. And orbit and journey we shall. When we picked up our rings today, we found that our jeweler, Jade Moran, included a poem.
Binary, fixed in spaceWe found each other.
One heart emanates from their
light that travels