A decade ago, today, I went to a bar I really hated. My sister was celebrating graduation from university and I wanted to support her. A blue cups bar with cheap beer and undergraduates; it was as awful as I expected, except for the company. My sister and her childhood best friend were celebrating together.
You were there because my sister’s childhood best friend is your sister.
I have known you, from afar, for about as much of my life as I can remember. Mostly I knew your family and your home, because video games were your life at age 11 and hanging out with your sister’s friends was so not cool. I remember hot dusty drives in our un-air conditioned station wagon down the long gravel road to your house in the woods. I loved that house.
I had a dream about you once and a crush on you for, like, at least two weeks in middle school. I asked you to dance to Stairway to Heaven at a middle school dance. You said yes to be polite, but you were a foot taller than me and the song was 7:58 long. You recused yourself partway through and I was mortified for at least 30 minutes.
For fifteen years I forgot about you except for some vague awareness that you grew up and did something with computers. But before the graduation party I had seen you one other time, six months before. I was out on the town with our sisters and we ran into you, out on the town with your friends.
I told your sister you were hot.
She told me you were getting married in May.
I reluctantly forgot about you again.
But on May 9, 2006 there you were, looking sweet. I laughingly told your sister so, with an eye roll in honor of your impending nuptials. She turned to me with an expression I couldn’t quite interpret and smiled. “Well you know, he’s not getting married anymore.”
I’m sure I excused myself politely. I can’t remember. I do remember the shirt you were wearing. And what a kind smile you had.
And there we were, you and I, wrapped up in conversation for the rest of the evening, all my senses on high alert. I could feel it.
Then the evening was over. I didn’t have your number. My sister was moving to Japan in a few days. I had no excuse to see you again.
Yet somehow out of a stadium full of 75,000 people we stumbled across each other two days later at graduation. That kicked off a week of unlikely, just barely possible chances. And we took every one of them and spun them into a life as fast as we could. We had both been on pause after long spells of not-quite-right with someone else. We were ready for the life we wanted. A life I still think isn’t quite possible and can’t really believe is mine.
A life back on this marvelous land, in the home I loved as a girl. A life with you. With the babies we made together. With our families. A life of commitment with one of those maturing marriages that I’d heard of but never witnessed in person. The ones where you fight less over time and help each other become better. I always thought those partnerships were some kind of gigantic hoax.
Then, not long ago, I realized I was in one. May 9th was when we began.
It’s not always pretty, but damn, it’s good.