A timeline of love and recovery

He and I are in his bed on our third date and we’re about to make love.

We haven’t yet. I wanted to take it slower, and not rush into drunken, fumbling sex like I had with the boys who left me empty. This boy I’ll be in love with. It’s inevitable. When I was sixteen I thought I was, mistaking a consuming crush for it. Around that time he graduated from high school, moved away and left me indulgent in my heartache.

Only a year went by before he came back.

He had cancer — a kind of brain tumour children get. In the year he underwent surgery and chemo I visited him twice. We watched Bonnie and Clyde and took walks and smoked weed.

After that I didn’t see him until three years later, when we found ourselves together in a college statistics course. By that time I had been with other people, had fallen in and out of love, but he hadn’t fully recovered from his illness — his cancer was gone, but depression and exhaustion remained. We sat together in class, but were distant. A year and a half passed without contact. Then, down a hall I walked every day, I saw him coming towards me, and at last, we connected.

Now, here we are: on our third date about to make love for the first time. It’s then that he tells me he hasn’t been with anyone since he was sick. His cerebellum had the tumour and now his balance is off and he’s worried we won’t be able to do it as he wants to. He tells me this as I rub his head, feeling the place where the surgeon cut into it. We make love that night and it’s bad — clumsy. It takes time for us to get anywhere satisfying. We find it’s best with me on top, so he doesn’t get dizzy and doesn’t have to worry about holding up his neck, which tends to spasm.

It doesn’t matter that we can’t stand up or that we can’t change our positions quickly. Because we laugh as we make love, as I trace my fingers over the scar on the back of his head and whisper — finally — I love you.