My friend had this long-distance boyfriend once that oozed sexuality. He had dangerously curly hair and full lips and clear blue bedroom eyes; he didn’t look at you so much as he gazed and simmered and twinkled. I think there were tattoos – of course there were tattoos – and a piercing here or there in defiant places. He had a brilliant future in the sciences but a poet’s heart, and was wildly creative in a million different ways. Because of the distance, he would send my friend beautiful hand-written letters with drawings and poems. You could tell he enjoyed delighting her.
‘Men like that don’t exist for girls like me,’ I thought. Then I said it out loud, firmly, so I wouldn’t be disappointed when it turned out to be true.
I’ve always lived under the same labels: Funny. Smart. Creative. Sarcastic. Social. Crazy. Brown. But with the exception of ‘crazy’ and ‘smart,’ my partners didn’t match me in those ways. I never dated a scientist-poet with bedroom eyes. I was the one who made the jokes and the handmade cards; I was the one who dragged them to restaurants, museums, and parties. That doesn’t mean I was a particular prize, just that I wanted a partner driven by creativity who was interested in some of the same things. Through it all, I thought of girlfriends who had lucked out in that department: B’s boyfriend painted all of the beautiful art in their home. E’s husband whittled wooden hearts for every anniversary. K’s partner wrote unbelievable love letters that made my heart weep. J’s sweetheart dedicated an album to her.
I didn’t mind being the creative one in the relationship, but I longed for someone who wanted to make me laugh and make me cards. I wanted someone who didn’t wrinkle their nose at the prospect of cultural events. I wanted a guy who wrote me letters that made my girlfriends’ hearts WEEP. (A book or album dedication would have been okay, too.)
Instead, I got the Esq: A man filled with pragmatic wisdom and all the logic one can muster. He doesn’t paint, sadly, but he makes me laugh harder than any human ever has, often on an hourly basis. He’s not published and can’t play guitar, but he surprises me with lovely letterpress cards that appear on my pillow or in a book. Every day with him is better than the day before, and on the occasional Shit Sandwich days – something to balance out the good – he has infinite patience and compassion. So I don’t need him to whittle me anything; I’d rather have this guy than a wooden heart in my hand.
They were small labors of love near the Esq’s heart: street art and graffiti. He sent them almost every day, surprising me with beautiful photos of strange and interesting things. A lot of them made me laugh, and a lot of what made me laugh was clever and inappropriate. Some gave me pause; others were overwhelming. He photographed nooks, crannies, staircases and alleys on Capitol Hill; there were also sidewalks, streetlamps, windows, and transportation in Belltown. He took photos all over the city. And always he would send me the results, like a visual love letter.
These photos were taken with a terrible camera on an equally horrid phone. But maybe they were actually taken by an underground poet masquerading as a sensible shoe.