I fell in love with how domestic we became. She would wake up early on weekends she worked and make me some hot chocolate (tea for herself) and we’d spend a slow morning waking up, sipping our hot drinks, and watching reality TV. I never saw her smile this much before. Her eyes crinkled up and some mornings, the mascara from the day before hadn’t come off all the way. Instead, it might’ve been smudged below her eyes. She was still the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. I leaned in to kiss her nose.
I’d walk her to the bus stop and kiss her goodbye, and then a few hours later, I’d walk to her work and we’d hold hands on our walk back. So many small moments that I’d been daydreaming about for months unfolded like my favorite story–satisfying, happy, wholesome. I brushed her hair and braided it up. She kissed me with an “I love you” every morning. We went weekly grocery shopping and I pushed the cart for her. This was working. We were working.
You know the magic carpet song from Aladdin? The one that starts with “I can show you the world”? Jas was my Aladdin this summer. She showed me so many new places and things–some she’d grown up with, and some we both explored for the first time together. It started with just her hometown–a whole new beautiful in itself. Jas didn’t seem to care for it too much, but I loved it. I loved taking stuffy double-decker buses into town together, walking along the pier and admiring the boats. I loved getting caught in the crowds of people walking from shop to shop, pushed along like a fish stuck in the current. I loved grabbing a bite to eat at a café and walking up a flight of stairs or two to find a place to sit. I loved taking turns smelling Lush’s bath bombs, taking pictures by the old churches, walking shoes against brick, only hearing a whole palette British accents.
In the first week or so, Jas planned a secret trip for us and her family to take together. I made a lot of guesses, but reading the signs on the highway didn’t improve them very much. About three-quarters through, I figured our destination town was Great Yarmouth, but I had no idea what made the place special. We paid for parking at a meter and I finally spotted what I’d been looking for–A sign for Sea Life. Jas and I talked about going on classic dates–dinner dates, movie dates, picnic dates, walks in the park, Netflix and chill, aquariums. Later in the week, she planned for us to go to an owl sanctuary too, which we’d also talked about doing because of my nickname for her.
The first time we left her town via train, we traveled to a nearby city called Chelmsford. Reason for this destination? Taco Bell. Despite how much Jas eyerolls me for my love of Taco Bell, we still made the long trip to satisfy my withdrawals. The one truly disappointing thing about the UK is the lack of Mexican food. (And I’m not about to pretend TB is authentic Mexican food, but I appreciate the True Mexican Food and the Tex Mex. The UK can’t do either of these well.) Learning the British version of a Nacho Supreme had me in near tears. (No beans or meat, just cheese, pico, and guac.)
We took our first trip to London to see Dodie perform at the Cereal Killer Café in Camden–a part of London where you can’t see Big Ben or the London Eye, so I missed all the classic tourist stops on my first trip in. Dodie is a cute musical YouTuber who I’ve become a fan of because of Jas (like most things, if I’m honest.)
The crowd waiting to see Dodie stacked pretty uncomfortably into the venue, so much so that Jas was practically sitting in my lap, and she was skin-to-skin with the girl on her other side. It didn’t matter so much when Dodie started singing. Her soft voice flowed smooth as honey. We chimed and sang and smiled and clapped. Dodie was actually the first live performance I’ve seen, and I got to share that with Jas. I held her hand–and although we held hands a lot–it felt safer here.
After the show, we stood in line to meet Dodie, pretty grateful that we’d been in the back of the venue, because it made us one of the first in line, and our train departure time was quickly approaching. We bought tees with a song lyric, “She / Means everything to me” before our turn came. We hugged Dodie and her sister, chatted quickly about missing the show’s theme (Dodie’s sister was the only one of the four of us who got the memo), complimented each other’s outfits, took three cute selfies, (Jas hugged Dodie a second time like an awkward peanut), then we all but ran to the tube station, because missing our train would mean waiting until 4am for the next one.
By the time we got to the train station at London Liverpool Street, we had one single minute to find our train platform and board before our ride pulled out of the station. In my head, I already gave up, but my eyes flickered between the multiple screens, trying to identify our train. Jas ran to an attendant and asked for the platform number, and before I processed, she grabbed my hand and led us running across the station. Without even checking our tickets, the attendant at our platform waved us through with an urgent, windmill-arm spin and a look that said, “the train won’t stop if you don’t make it.” We actually boarded a train with turning wheels and collapsed into a pair of empty seats. I’d broken into a sweat but Jas looked untouched by the exhaustion.
Believe it or not though, this wasn’t my most panicked train moment. When Jas and I traveled to Warner Brother’s Studio Tour, we got a little muddled trying to make our way from one of London’s train stations to Watford Junction. At first, we hopped on a transit that looked like a London Underground because our stop seemed to be on the list, but we were pretty sure we were meant to be on a real train, not a tube. We looked at the long list of stops ahead of what we assumed had been ours–over a dozen. The panic of meeting our tour time had me standing again, looking between Jas and the map before declaring, “I don’t think we’re on the right train.” She agreed and we both went to depart the car. I stepped onto the platform as I heard loud beeps and turned to see the train door close before Jas could join me.
This was an unmatched panic like I have never experienced. My throat instantly turned dry. Instant sweat beaded across my forehead and in my armpits. The lump swelling in my throat grew as tears watered up my eyes. Even worse than being separated in this unfamiliar place, every minute I spent calling Jas to figure out what to do got charged as an expensive international call with my American carrier. Despite the fact that only seconds passed before she stepped onto the platform again, I had a severe panic of being alone in that train station. She hugged me when she got to me, probably seeing the tears about to spill over, and explained how tube cars have buttons near the door for reopening. (A button I was definitely not aware of!!!)
Seeing Warner Brothers Studio Tour legit made me cry. I’d been dreaming about coming here as a kid–using birthday wishes and shooting stars on it and everything. I never really believed it would happen, but Jas made it come true. Afterward, we went to our hotel and Jas ordered us my very first afternoon tea–complete with coffee, tea, juices, cream, sugar cubes, mini sandwiches, little cakes, and scones with clotted cream and jam. Ugh, it was so cute and delicious.
After tea, we took a long bath together, and after figuring we’d love to have sex in this nice hotel room, we ended up passing out at the daring hour of 8pm. This actually worked out in our favor because it wasn’t until we woke early the next morning did Jas announce our tour time for London Dungeons was at noon. (And this was not a quick train ride, tube ride, and uber ride away, either.) For two gays ridden with anxiety, you’d think we’d be better planners than this.
This time in London, we hit all the big tourist stops–Big Ben, London Eye, Trafalgar Square. All were just as amazing as I’d imagined and beautiful places to hold my girlfriend’s hand. For some reason, I was never really scared of holding her hand in public. I think maybe that I expected myself to be, but I wasn’t. Maybe in London it was easy because it was oftentimes so crowded that holding hands was the only sure way of staying together.
But even back in her hometown it was easy. We went to town once with one of Jas’ childhood friends who asked if anyone was ever rude to us for it. We told her we hadn’t run into any problems, and she said if we did, she’d beat them up. She wasn’t one to joke about it either. That girl was a badass who could probably knock me out cold with one solid punch.
Later on, we took a trip to Norwich, a city nearby who’s home to my favorite mustard and a really, really old Cathedral. (Yes, those were the reasons we made the trip.) About three minutes after leaving the train station, a bird SHIT on us. Somehow, my crazy quick reaction jumped out of the way in time, but the same can’t be said for Jas.
I gave her a nudge on my way out, so miraculously, the poop only hit her shoe, but it got splattered, noticeably, all over it. I popped into a nearby Poundland to buy some hand wipes and knelt down to scrub the poop off her shoe. I would NEVER do this for anyone else, and if that ain’t true love, then I don’t know what is.
Continue to Part 7.