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So I had just managed to get off my feet for the first time in fifteen hours, and I was beat. Hoofing it around a giant anime convention with a flimsy staff badge granting flimsy authority, trying to keep a crapton of kids getting the whole convention thrown out, that was hard work. And I collapsed in my chair, whipped out my phone, and saw a shiny red numeral one over the OK Cupid icon. I cracked it open and there was a message waiting for me, and it went exactly like this:

*waves* Hi from the other side of the country =P. I used to live in Seattle, but moved to Boston after teaching in Korea. Thought I'd send a message since we seem very similar =). I don't watch as much anime as I used to, but I more learn the themes on piano. I'm learning a bunch of piano pieces from Hell Girl and of course the trans anime Wandering Son cause yeah, I'm trans too ^^.

I'm always so awkward when writing messages. So ummm yeah.... what video games do you like? I adore music rhythm games and western rpgs like baldurgs gate and fallout. I also do a lot of tabletop roleplaying. Right now I'm playing as a spoiled brat cleric in Dnd who even left a battle with a sea serpent to go instruct servants to get her luggage.

Exploding whales, eh? I have a confession... I cried during the whale falling from the sky chapter of Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Hope to hear from you. I also have skype which is micechasekittens so yeah I'm starting to ramble so I will cut it off here =)

~~Elise

And I guess the most telling part was that immediately the voice in my head raged up and said "yeah, you're not good enough, you little shit, what makes you think you deserve her?" And for twelve hours, that voice won. But I replied back. And she straight-up plundered my heart.

Elise wasn't living in a good place at the time. She was living in East Boston somewhere on Meridian Street, in a burnt-out townhome that made the one on Paper Street in Fight Club a goddamn palace. The bathroom used to be a bedroom, but was converted to a bathroom, and had exactly none of the ventilation that bathrooms normally had and that made the mold fall off the ceiling in clumps. The fire alarm would let everyone in the building know if there was a fire on the eastern seaboard, and the landlord would try and get his sleazy self in Elise's love life, sleazily. It was not a good situation for her.

Turtles: they go marching and do turtle stuff

Of course, she was in Boston, and I was in Portland, and this was at the turn of Summer 2014, just as Labor Day walked on by. We spent hours and hours together each day on Skype. Sometimes she cried. A lot of times she cried. She had no friends, college was crushing her, and she lived in that. And one day, she was crying to me, and she had in her arms, a giant turtle plushie.

When one marooo is on their back, another maroooo will come and flip them over.

And I commented on it, saying from the other side of the continent, "tuuurrrrrtle!" with elongated vowels and such. Her mood softened a little bit. And she said, "say it again like that." And I did. Slowly but surely, a smile broke across her sad face. Elise talked to me a bit about the sad times in her childhood.

She said, holding that giant turtle plushie, that she had no friends growing up, no one would ever talk to her, and that her first word was when she was six years old, and it was dammit. She didn't have the best childhood, no friends, but she made friends with her wooden blocks and her plushies and stuff. An elaborate fantasy rose up around her plushies--they had superpowers and could fight all the baddies everywhere in every dimension, and they were also able to keep Elise some silent but friendly company while they did so. The kraken said woodoodoodoo and the penguin said merp-merp! and the turtle said marooooo as it flew through space.

Hey Elise? I need to have a serious discussion with you.
What's going on? I'm listening.
You see, I'm a maroooo and I have a strong shell.
That's a very important discussion, and I'm a turtle as well!

And over time, as she got older, the fantasy fell away and gave birth to the crushing reality of slinging terrible membership cards at terrible chain bookstores, going through college to wrap up a degree. Being harassed and yelled at and made fun of for being trans. She took what little solace she could, and she called me daily and we talked for hours. I'm a girl, and I'm lesbian, and she's a girl, and she's a lesbian. Just seemed like the thing to do.

Elise tried asking me out once, and I broke her heart by saying that I can't really make long distance relationships work. I didn't get to see the fallout of what I said, but she assured me, it was bad. Crying and horrible wailing and such all over the place. But I was very much in love with her, yes, I just needed to be able to hug whoever I was in love with. I kept talking with her; she was my dream were it not for the massive geological cockblock of the North American continent. She said I should catch a flight to go see her, she'd pay for it. I countered with how I had work, and not 36 hours later I was fired, and another day after that I was on the flight to go see her with my own eyes for the first time.

She came walking up to me along the sidewalk of the upper deck in Boston, a cute dress and beat-up sneakers that absolutely didn't match. And she looked at me, and I noticed she had a lazy eye. At exactly that moment, a voice rang out in my head: if you leave her cause she has a lazy eye, I will never forgive you. Now you fucking love on that adorable sweetheart, goddammit, and I hugged her and it felt so amazing.

How much maroooo
Is being a maroooo
Cause I'm a marooooo
For you (for you)
For me? For you!

That night, I fell asleep clutching the turtle which I had only ever seen before on video calls, with my head on her bare chest, probably drooling a bit. She always slept on her back like a mummy, but she reached an arm back around my back, holding me to her, and it was the best thing.

I remember a week later, I was flying back home to Portland, crying the whole way home. I had "Eyesdown" by Bonobo on one-repeat. And every time I listen to that track, I'm reminded of the anguish I felt when I left her behind. We kept up our skype talks all the same, but now it was a bit different. We had a taste of life together. We knew how it could be. So I told her, one day out of the blue, "you are a turtle and you have a strong shell." Her eyes lit up immediately. She responded back with a hearty "maroooooo!" She was so goddamn cute.

Anatomy of a turtle:
Strong shell!
Feets for marching!
Cute tail bump!
Adorable smile!

When maroooo started to describe turtles themselves and not just the sound they made as they flew through space (or really, whenever they did turtle stuff), I don't really remember. It just kind of happened. I think one day, I just said "I love you, my marooo," and just like that, it was done, language evolved again. Over time, things continued to grow and expand. It ended up developing into a whole big thing that I even contributed bits and parts to. In a way, turtles have become the iconography of our entire relationship. I drew a little meme on my tablet about the anatomy of a turtle. Since then, that anatomy of a turtle meme has become a basis of important philosophy for both her and I, and we'd just shout it out: strong shell! feets for marching! cute tail bump! adorable smile! maroooos are amazing.

Anyone who tried to call us furries didn't quite hit the mark. It was never a furry thing. We kept it as far and away from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as possible, as they're not really turtles, but mutants, and they don't really embody the peaceful calm of a marooo sitting on the bank of a river. Songs about turtles began to form, little twenty-second snippets of song that Elise and me would enthusiastically sing back and forth.

Elise is a sea turtle who swims in the sea for fun
And Tanis is land turtle who lays on the sand in the sun

One day, Trump was elected. This was widely regarded as a very bad move, and me and Elise had decided there and then, that we had to get married before we lost the right. It didn't take much; we got the paperwork from the courthouse, paid the sixty bucks, found the podium in the closet (why did I own a podium? why do I continue to own a podium? I live in a tiny apartment), got some folding chairs together, and one of my dearest friends from school who's been with me all my life, married us there that night. There was a tiny plush turtle on the podium, and I know it marooooed as we kissed.

You're an adorkasaur
Cause you're a honeybunch
And you're a sweetie pie
And that's why I love you much

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