It was our first Valentines Day together. I was nervous because it was during the first blush of real connectedness and I wanted to choose the perfect gift. We were still living on the boat and a month away from the prospect of moving to NYC.
Since we first met, Billy’s nickname for me was “My guy.” He would say it randomly and often. I hunted down a place in Westwood that recorded karaoke songs. I went, scared as hell because I am truly tone-deaf, and I recorded “My Guy.” You know the song, “Nothing you can say will tear me away from my guy.” They gave me the lyric sheet, it was a song I barely knew, and in the booth I went. What I didn’t realize was they piped out the recording session onto the street. And I belted it out, mindless of a potential audience and only thinking about trying to stay on beat with the music and lyrics. It was, predictably, embarrassing but I felt a rush of accomplishment.
I bought him a card with a cartoon on the front of a smiling heart peeking out a little window in a house. Inside it said, “You give my heart a home.” He framed it while we lived in NYC and it has hung above our stove ever since. That's why, when it came to deisgning Billy's headstone, the last line is "You are forever my Guyster and you gave my heart a home."
Billy brought me a rose, a teddy bear and a hand made card with a poem in it. I can’t find the card but I still have the bear. It drives me crazy I can't find that card.
When he played the cassette tape of my vocal handiwork, he broke out laughing then puddled up when he read the card. We went out to dinner, went back to the bar where we started our first date. It was a straight dive bar in Santa Monica that has since become fashionable. It was a great night for both of us.
Valentines Day 2001
Billy and I had been in couples counseling for about four months. Our communication was improving and the problems we thought we had were receding into the beach fog. This year, Billy bought me a retro ID bracelet with “Guyster” written on it. I went to one of those mall kiosks that custom make hats and shirts with little sayings that you can personalize. I got him an Izod-type shirt with two hearts embroidered in green and “Guyster” written across them.
I also gave him a card with a poem in it. It is corny but that’s all I know how to write. He loved it, started to make the cry face, and we hugged and kissed.
Later we went to dinner at Norms, a family style restaurant that is big food for very cheap. It was our favorite place to go. We splurged and had the shrimp and steak dinner. He also had the gumbo but since Billy hated vegetables, he spent much of his gumbo experience expertly isolating any offending piece in the soup. He often did that with his food. At first I thought it bothered him but I came to realize he liked the little game of fishing through whatever was on his plate and getting to what he wanted.
The card I gave him was similar to my first Valentine to him. It has a cartoon of a little smiling guy with a big hat in a clown car and it says “The Freeway Of Love” at the top.
Inside I wrote:
We have gotten on a better path
Happier now than ever before
No longer do we feel each other’s wrath
We love each other more and more.
Thank you for loving me the way you do
Standing beside me when all is wrong
I feel safe and secure when I’m with you
Like an angel’s wings, feathery and long.
You are and always will be my Guyster.
I love you, Terry."