“Do you wanna go hiking?” I asked J, one Wednesday evening back in 2005. The university was on winter break, and we were hanging out at my house, trying to find something to do.
At my words J looked momentarily surprised. It was already dark outside, after all, not the usual time for a hike. “Okay,” he said, and then started to list off all the hiking options he could think of. “The thing is, at this time of the year, most good places are a bit of a drive from here. We could make it a camping trip . . .”
It was after 10 p.m. when we were finally packed and on the road. We drove out almost two hours to Quincy Lakes, set up camp, and the next day wandered around basalt cliffs, frozen waterfalls, and icy lakes until it was dark again. Then we drove back home. One thing I’ve always liked about J is that he’s totally up for these spur-of-the-moment excursions, and he doesn’t insist on quitting just because of limited daylight hours or because of a little discomfort.
I was thinking about this on that first drive out to Quincy in ’05, and I was thinking about one of the bigger relationship questions, one that had been on my mind for some time: When do I know? When do I absolutely for-sure know?
Maybe love doesn’t work like that, I thought to myself. It’s not something you find once with another person and then possess indefinitely; it’s something you find again and again, and if you can find it again and again with the same person, that’s when you’ve found something lasting.
As we were driving west along I-90, J leaned over from the passenger seat and kissed me on the cheek. A short while later we reached our exit and I pulled off the freeway. I turned off the engine of my Saturn, and before he opened his door to climb out I said, “I love you, J.”
After a pause J said, “I love you too.”
It was our first time saying the L-word, and it felt surprisingly simple. We both got out of the car then, and went hiking.