I say we met in a bar, he says we met in a restaurant. I think it sounds funnier to say we met in a bar – a couple of Irish and all that. He thinks it sounds unromantic, like we were a drunken one-night stand, which we weren’t. Not even a kiss until the third date. And it was a restaurant, there’s that too. But we did meet – that part I remember.
He was all wrong. His hair was supposed to be dark brown and more straight than wavy but it wasn’t, it was red and curly. He was supposed to be 6’3” and he was only 5’11” (and ½). He was supposed to be rich and powerful looking, appropriate for an ingénue; but he turned out to be a geek with amazing artistic talent and a gaggle of geeky friends (I may not have been quite an ingénue, either). And we were supposed to be fabulous together – that’s what people would point and say – oh, look at them, they’re fabulous! So I looked over his shoulder when he entered the restaurant. I was pouring drinks behind the bar (I told you there was a bar involved) but he got my name and cleverly acted as if he would forget it before he finished dessert.
And that was it; I didn’t see him for two weeks, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I hadn’t given him another thought, there were too many other things to think about, not to mention keeping an eye out for Prince Charming. But when he walked back into the restaurant (with a bar!), something strange happened; I realized I had missed him. Prior to that moment, I had forgotten he existed; this was some kind of odd reserve ‘missing’ that kicked in as soon as I saw him again. The sensation intrigued me. I figured I could ask Prince Charming about it when he came along.
We chatted some, here and there, and he made me laugh. Not the chuckle you get when mildly amused; the kind of laugh that overtakes you. Everyone wanted to be around him, including me.
The romantic part was easy. He was awfully handsome with a mega-watt smile that most people have to pay for. I have yet to find the right words to describe the blue of his eyes and when I found out how well he danced, I gave up any pretense of wanting to be “just friends.” Our time together was fun and adventurous and meaningful and quiet and comfortable and serene. We had so much in common: literature, archaic vocabulary, movies. We both said we loved to hike, bike and climb but really preferred car rides, sitting and watching. Food was not for sustenance but an integral part of any experience worth having. He disliked cats but pretended to find mine adorable.
We connected most on our disdain for permanence. He had moved often as a kid, I as an adult. We didn’t hate tattoos, just couldn’t understand having something you couldn’t wash off. Hair dye needed to be gone in a month and jobs were there to make money, not to get your name on a door. To us, a relationship was only as good as its breakup. He had recently gotten out of a long term union and I had yet to have one that mattered. I still glanced out the window for Prince Charming and he peered around every corner, just in case. We kept things nice and casual, if not exclusive and committed, for six years.
I had this nagging suspicion things were amiss when it became harder to be without him than with him and he wondered if maybe he didn’t feel the same way too; so we decided to marry. We got engaged in New York in the rain – it was terribly romantic. The only problem was that marriage sometimes means permanence; at least that’s what they make you promise in front of the officiant.
It’s interesting how many flaws you can find with a person once you declare them perfect for you.
Invitations were yanked from outgoing mailboxes by sweaty palms only to be put back, tear-soaked, by shaky fingers. Some people were not informed of our happy news right away – Robert Plant knew of our engagement before some members of the intended groom’s family did. The nine month engagement was decades longer than the six year courtship.
The morning of our wedding, in the house I had rented with my parents, we all rose early as a result of butterflies – the stomach kind. My parents tried to speak of frivolous things to keep things calm while I set the table – organizing relaxes me. My folks expressed their wishes for the day ahead – the sun to peek through the June Gloom, an F-16 from the nearby base on the horizon, elderly relatives to be rested enough to enjoy the festivities.
My only comments were that I hope the groom showed up and that I think I liked this napkin fold better than the other.
I remember standing in the parish hall in all my silk finery as people populated the church. Everyone had things to do, which left me alone far more than I had anticipated. I was adjusting something on me that didn’t need adjusting when one of my bridesmaids walked in – his sister, to be exact. She put a brush in her bag and casually mentioned something that he had just done. Ah, I thought. He was there, he’d shown up. It was then that I first remember breathing. I had always said that I had no idea if I would get him down the aisle but if I did, he would never leave.
I was right.
We were not young when we married, nor were we naïve. We knew the other person better than we knew ourselves. We knew what flaws we would be yanking our hair over in ten years time and what attributes we would brag about to others. We knew we would have kids, God willing, and know tough times as well as good. We knew we would get a dog.
We did not know he would become a professor and I would choose to write. We did not foresee a child with special needs that would change our entire way of thinking. We did not anticipate the deaths in the families and how they would restructure the family dynamic. We had no idea how amazing he would be as a father; my own father cites him as the best he’s ever known. And we certainly didn’t see owning so many cats (well, he didn’t.)
We thought we would make it; we hoped we would, at least. Others hoped too, but had some doubts.
So here I am, not fabulous, not acclaimed or tripping over awards; he is still writing the same screenplay he was writing when we met. Somehow, we lost our 30 year-old physiques and changed our world views. We are a little mellower, even though our responsibilities are much greater. What tomorrow holds is not quite as important as it used to be and I have learned to share a closet.
I am a better person because of the man who dared to walk down that aisle ten years ago. He is my first love, my only love and my true love. He is my happily ever after.