I have looked it up and, apparently, sunflower is the symbol for a three-year anniversary. It is a flower just large and bright enough to distract one from the creeping realisation that this relationship seems less and less like a fling and more and more like a committed partnership founded on mutual respect, kindness, aligned political opinions, superb hygiene, thoughtful grocery shopping on Sundays, and other such Radiohead lyrics.
Yet, I am in love with you. It has stopped being a foreign state some time ago, and then it turned natural, rather than remarkable. I wake up to you, and you, Sam, are the last person to wish me good night, in that soft and concentrated space that only exists in the limb-crossed darkness. We recognise the other’s steps on the stairs outside the flat, and I no longer need to explain what I mean by this or that sudden remark — you can follow my train of thought with ease, in either direction. I suppose, what we are really doing is ruining ourselves for anybody else.
A friend of mine from Saint Petersburg, still living in Saint Petersburg, was once informed that I got a boyfriend and his name was Sam. ‘What is he like?’ she asked. ‘He’s tall and funny,’ said I. ‘Good,’ was her reply. ‘The world is too full of serious slouching people.’
Three years later, still silly and tall, you are walking the streets of Oxford, holding my hand and having endless conversations about fantasy novels and novel fantasies. Every once in a while a memory arrests us — Oxford is full of those — and we have to acknowledge it to move further. (Do you remember that cab before the King’s Arms? It passed by so near the pavement that we had to jump back, and that somehow was the funniest thing in the world, and it was a ripe summer night when partying ways seemed impossible.) (There is that exact spot between Cornmarket and Turl Street where you asked me whether I would like to spend Christmas with your family. I had not got the days off of work to travel home, and you did not want me to be left during the holidays on my own. We had been dating for two and a half months at that point. Everything was a gamble.)
Some things proved to be easy, like learning that love is not what you say, it’s what you do. Some things proved to be difficult, like not leaving the kitchen sponge in the sink once you are done with the dishes. Altogether, it has been different than I would have thought: trees growing into stones, the cold waters of a deep undercurrent, a learned and experienced understanding, a constant struggle to spend enough time together when you do not have enough time to spend with yourself. We graduated from ‘girlfriend’ and ‘boyfriend’ to ‘partner’ to ‘dove’ and ‘duck’. All embarrassment was left behind on a cross-country train looping around Didcot.
Happy anniversary, my darling. This has not been enough, and I still have so many years that I have lived before you and need to let you know all about. I hope I get to take you to Saint Petersburg before a sea wave of propaganda and climate change washes my city away. In a time of uncertainty and retro Cold War panic, I have a secret. I love you. So long as we look at each other the way you look at a Full English, we shall be okay.
Current album: Belle & Sebastian, Belle and Sebastian Write about Love
Current book: Brian Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness
Current TV series: Adventure Time, Series 1 (2010)