We first locked eyes across our college cafeteria. He had a girlfriend then. When we started hanging out, he referenced a zen koan in which a man savors a strawberry while perilously hanging above a pack of hungry lions. He compared me to the strawberry.
Sitting together on a weathered futon in his dorm room late one evening, I described the battles of my youth: alcoholic parents, insomnia, child protective services. Next thing I knew, we were making out. The old cliche proves true — tragedy brings people together. He had his own difficulties of course: a recovering alcoholic father, a negligent mother, and a heroin-addicted sister with two kids. We were victims struggling for control of our own lives.
He was charismatic with a sly creeping smile. Everything was a joke. Everything was something to laugh about, to enjoy. He loved me immediately, and he told everyone so. I'll probably never feel so loved again for the rest of my life.