Today marks (as near as we can tell) the fifteenth anniversary of when PJ and I first met. We met during the new teacher training workshops for Ph.D. students at the University of Tennessee in 1994. We first saw each other a day before that — we both thought that we were supposed to attend a workshop about the Writing Center; it turned out that the letter telling us to go to that workshop had been sent to all of the new Ph.D. students mistakenly. But we didn’t actually meet until the real workshops started.

In 1994, I was definitely a shy, quiet kid who didn’t know how to start conversations with strangers. (I’m still shite at small talk and being friendly with people I don’t know, but I’m slowly getting better at it.) So, it’s clear that PJ made the first move towards friendship. In retrospect, I don’t know how he had the patience to cultivate my friendship that first year. I’m lucky he did!

We soon started going out to dinner from time to time, going to the gay bar, Trumps, and watching The X-Files at his apartment on Friday nights (I’ll never forget how scarily dark the staircase in his building was — it was an awful way to follow a really scary episode of X-Files.) We also had a class together that first semester, a seminar on Wallace Stevens and T. S. Eliot. Slowly we got to know one another and became really good friends.

Near the end our first year in the grad program we decided to move in with one another the next year. UT had cheap apartments for graduate students and married undergraduates. That fall our friendship developed into something more, and by the end of 1995 we decided that we wanted to try being together romantically.

This picture was taken around the time that we started this new phase in our relationship. (This was one of two times between 1994 and 1999 that I tried having longer hair. It didn’t really work. I still like the idea of having long hair, but I don’t think it was the best look for me.)