Lucy Bellwood is a professional Adventure Cartoonist based in Ojai, CA. Her documented expeditions include rafting trips through the Grand Canyon, cutting-edge oceanography in the Pacific, and an expedition aboard the last wooden whaling ship in the world. Her talks and essays explore the intersections of community, authenticity, and financial sustainability for creators. She is the author of Baggywrinkles: a Lubber’s Guide to Life at Sea, an educational memoir about her time working aboard tall ships, and 100 Demon Dialogues, a helpful guide to living with imposter syndrome.
It’s rare to be able to pinpoint how these things begin, but for once I know I started it:
“Dear Zina, I think you’re amazing. Will you be my housemate? [Y] / [N]”
I tucked that note into your bicycle handlebars eleven years ago. It landed us across the hall from one another in an over-occupied three-bedroom house on Southeast 45th Avenue. We were chaotic college kids who didn't eat together often. When we did, it was cookies made vast in the cast-iron skillet, or haphazard potlucks thrown together at birthdays. You and I never left for our morning classes at the same time, but I can still measure our entire relationship in breakfasts.
We each moved out, but the separation didn’t last. You came to squat in a drafty craftsman I was looking after, and we began to realize the truth: the two of us together in a space made life delicious. Our breakfasts grew elaborate: coiled Florentine sausages like flattened snail shells. Crispy samosa patties from Trader Joe’s. We started brewing Jing Assam for each other in the mornings, each of us learning how much milk the other liked.
When we moved into a house of our own, I bought us a tea kettle that whistled in harmony when it boiled. Rent was cheap, and we were happy. Those were the days of sweet potato hash, wilted kale, and increasingly exotic baked goods. There was the Me-Making-You-Tea-in-the-Morning-Because-You-Hated-Mornings Phase, but also the You-Making-Me-Tea-in-the-Morning-Because-You-Went-to-Work-at-5am Phase. I mixed supplements into your drinks for your chronic pain. You made sure I got enough calories when I was lost in drawing comics. When you were working a job that paid more, you slipped me cash with a sweet note about fair compensation for domestic labor. When I was flush from a Kickstarter campaign, I flew you home from a disastrous trip.
Making a home of each other snuck up on us.
There is an alchemy to cohabitation; something that emerges when two people build something together so slowly, day by day. By the time we’d succumbed to it, anyone with half a brain could see we were something special. But when they asked us what we were to one another, I never knew what to say.
I started reading up on the history of romantic friendships, trying to find a term that could do us justice. Boston marriage sounded promising (a 19th-century arrangement where two women lived together without the financial assistance of a man), but most people didn’t want a history lecture. They wanted a label.
Housemate was an insulting term for someone I read poetry to in the bath by candlelight. Girlfriend wasn't right either. We dated other people, but we shared a bed in our home; my dry, skinny feet nestled into the soft crook of your calves each night. You’d call my thighs around yours the Ravioli Roller. I came to know with painful intimacy how all the half-grown-in hairs on your legs would stand up the moment you dozed off. I’d lie there, gritting my teeth as they tickled, laughing silently in anticipation of how we’d cackle over breakfast at this instance of Sharplegs. One word. Our term for the phenomenon.
Our whole life together was threaded through with this kind of play. A secret language in the open, an encyclopedia of codewords, a game that was also true.
So when you looked up from the crossword one morning and said “Do you wanna get married?” I thought “Why not?” We told each other it was for health insurance, but we weren’t prepared for how much it would change us; how it would feel to sign the certificate and legally call each other “wife.”
That’s how it was the first time you made The Eggs.
“I’m trying something,” you’d announced, busy in the kitchen as you often were. Some time later you emerged with two plates. Abundant plates, as usual. Decadent piles. I could see fried eggs, their yolks barely set, topped with the smoky coffee chili oil a dear friend had pressed into our hands at the farmer’s market the previous summer. (“This chili oil,” she had said, with absolute conviction, “will change your life.”) Below the eggs, a bed of that Red Russian kale you love so much. And underneath that… yogurt?
Somewhere in the last ten years I’d learned to trust you.
We spooned heaping portions onto bits of sourdough toast and each took a bite.
“Oh,” you said.
“Oh,” I said.
The soft, salty heat of the chili, the creamy tang of the yogurt, the freshness of the greens… my taste buds were seeing stars. It was culinary alchemy. An experience I couldn’t define, but couldn’t wait to have again.
We made The Eggs every day for weeks, and every time we licked our plates clean. This breakfast set a new standard for breakfasts in much the same way our relationship elevated the way I evaluated all other relationships. Now I ask: does this surprise me? Does it encourage me to surrender to my most sensual self? Does it sate me and excite me at the same time?
You have taste in spades. Not just when it comes to food (although I certainly have you to thank for teaching me the tartness of barberries), but in everything. Your discernment in music, language, movement, color; simply being near you imbues my life with flavor.
So when I told you I had to move to California to care for my father—a choice that would take me away from every tender ritual we’d spent the past decade weaving into our lives—I was full of fear.
But you hugged me without hesitation and told me to go.
I don’t know that I ever felt more like wives than I did then; two people who affirm, over and over again, that the other’s enrichment is essential to our own.
Over the years I’ve found words for people who have done what we’re doing now, but I’ve also found a deeper truth: our queer community doesn’t demand a definition. They know that chili oil can change a life just as much as a marriage. That love is in the making and unmaking of beds. The candlelit baths. The laughter. The proffered feast that nourishes.
Queerness makes room within it for these relationships, or rather: queerness spirals outward. It blooms and embraces. That is the process by which we broaden our palates, welcoming what might seem new to us, but which is actually older than we know.
These days we eat other breakfasts with other people, delicious in their own way, but this is the one that I keep coming back to. It’s the one I think of when I think of our relationship, our marriage, our house: ingredients I would never have thought to put together in a dish I don’t know what to call.
Something so delicious that the minute I tasted it, I knew I would be happy to eat it for the rest of my life.
Lucy’s “The Eggs”
This is a recipe for decadent, beautiful eggs—a whole meal of them, perfectly balanced. Prepared as written, it serves two people.
Remember: Care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.