We lay back on the rooftop, sharing a grilled cheese, looking up at the handful of stars that poke their way through the orange veil of light pollution. The words come tumbling out, rolling down to the Dufferin Street traffic below: “I love you.”
Six months before, we caught eyes while outside the library, handing out pamphlets for the students’ union. Swapped stories over Quebec beer after a day-long anti-oppression workshop. Promised each other, this wasn’t going to be anything serious. “Not boyfriends,” we agreed with a cheers. Even so, one morning it slips out, spoken like something we already both knew: “See you after work, love you.”
“Would you be my boyfriend?” A question written in sharpie marker on the cover of a mix-CD left to be found on a desk one morning. The first song was a cheesy pop ballad, the kind Markus knew Andrew shamelessly adores. The answer in a text, “YES!”
Seasons change. Markus spills a glassful of wine the first time he meets Andrew’s friends. The couple helps Scarlett, Andrew’s sister, move across town on a hot Sunday afternoon. We start to catch glimpses of each other, the faces we make when we think no one’s watching, the secrets we’ve never trusted to anyone before. We find out who we are when we’re tired, when we’re sore, when we’re riding a bus for 12 hours to get standing room tickets for a Broadway show.
In New York, we start out our first ‘couple trip’ by huddling on a bench with two slices of pizza. It’s a heavy summer heat, too hot to hold hands, so we just intertwine our pinkies. A passerby comments to their friend, “If that’s not love, I don’t know what is!” When we come home, we say the words ourselves and know it’s true.
Andrew is met with harsh winds and predictions of -40° Celsius during his first visit to Winnipeg. We share a glass of red wine over a Scrabble game with Grandpa and Gramma, talking long into the night. Late into the following summer, as the leaves start to turn, we go to the Harwood-Jones family cottage and help clear leaves off the roof. Grandad and Nana prepare a hearty supper (gluten-free and vegetarian, of course).
Another winter, we trek out to Fredericton together and look through old family photos. Andrew’s father tells us stories about little Andrew and Scarlett, all the adventures – for better or for worse – that the McAllister’s have faced down together.
We drive to big coastal cities and fly to small mountain towns. Road trip to zine fairs and conferences and protests and vigils. We wade through pain, chronic and acute. Anxiety attacks and addictions and seasonal depression. We find our chosen families, and lose people we love. We mourn the dead, fight for the living, get burnt out, breathe, then come back swinging. We change our hair, get tattoos, pierce our faces, make ourselves anew. Every time, we fall in love all over again.
We talk about alternatives, day-dream of utopias, apply for co-ops. We vision all that life could be, expansive and effervescent. We try to live into that world wherever we can find it today. As life hits with wave after wave, we hold our pinkies tight and swim our way to queerer shores.
When Hannah approaches us with the idea to co-parent, the three of us start planning to bring a child into the world. We decide to move in together, but Markus gets accepted to an MA at Queen’s. So Andrew carts all of his partner’s known possessions to Kingston and back again.
Finally, six years in, we start to build a home. Two bedrooms across form one another with Hannah on the main floor. And of course, the most important member of our household, Dunkin the corgi.
We thought we had it all figured out. Of course, things are never so simple.
After a lot of long talks and careful planning, we announced our engagement and began organizing our ‘quedding’ for October 2020. Then, everything changed. We put on masks and hunkered down for the long haul.
In January 2022, our family grew a little bigger. Hannah went into labour on the afternoon of January 25th. 33 hours later, baby River was born.
River Nason Harwood-Dees arrived on a snowy winter morning and our world changed forever.
If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, its that life rarely goes to plan. Every morning, we wake up thankful to have another day together.
In October 2022, come hell or high water (or a global pandemic) we will finally slip on our two silver bands and go hand in hand to the unknown.
Whatever comes next, we know we’ll have each other.