Thursday, February 14, 2013

Writing Prompt #3: First Love v. True Love

The prompt is supposed to be: First Love.

First Love: Nope.  Not even going there.  But here's a list of words that describe my "first love" without too many of the details:

Young, exciting, starry-eyed, naieve, intelligent, worrisome, dramatic, poetic, thrilling, adventurous, risky, stupid, heartbreaking, emotional, nauseating.  The whole things seems so cliche now; me a lil' freshman in high school falling for a so much more mature senior.  Both of us pretty intelligent, band and drama kids, teacher kids, "good kids" to the rest of the world.  But we were so young, thinking we were so mature-- which, apparently is normal for teenagers.  (This, combined with my other teenage experiences, is what terrifies me about parenting a teenager some day.)  Our "relationship" lasted an insanely long time for high school relationships-- almost two full years (I think).  But fortunately, years and distance separated us and eventually ended something that was 100% not meant to be.

So I'm changing the prompt to: True Love

And this is where I talk about my husband.  Most of you know him, but sometimes people are surprised by our story. So here it is.

I had moved to Tinytown in the summer of 2002, after finding an elementary counseling job.  I lived in a three-plex across the street from the school.  My little apartment was actually pretty nice-- 2 bedrooms, full bathroom, kitchen, living room, full (unfinished) basement, and detached garage.  All for the bargain price of $350 a month.  The outer back door to my apartment was shared with the apartment next to me, so you had to walk in the same door and then choose the apartment on the right (mine) or that on the left.  The one on the left sat empty for the majority of the first year I lived there.

Then, in March of 2003, as I sat on my living room floor and prepared for my Thesis project, I heard movement in the apartment next door.  I had come to enjoy having the place to myself, and was a little apprehensive about having a neighbor so close with only our paper-thin walls separating us.  Although judging by the Jimmy Buffet and Billy Joel I heard seeping through the walls, I had an inkling that maybe my neighbor wasn't so bad.

I never saw him move in, but I started to see him leave for work in the morning and come home in the evenings.  He was elusive; his little silver Mitsubishi with Dubuque county plates only appearing in the garage every so often.  I noticed another vehicle, presumably belonging to a cute girl, gracing the parking lot on a few weekends.   At the time, I was also "kind of" in a relationship.  You know how relationships taper off-- when the 'on again/off again' syndrome really seems to set in.  So I was.. curious.

As is often the case in Tinytown, word spread quickly about this new bachelor in town.  (Word had spread quickly about me when I moved to town eight months earlier) I learned that he had come to start the new lumberyard in our town.  I learned that he was single. I learned that he was moving from Decorah, where he had previously worked.  I even learned his approximate age.  All from people in town.  All before really seeing him up close.

And then one day, I saw him up close.  Fate brought him coming in through our back door as I was heading out.  Or maybe he was going down the stairs as I was coming up.  Something like that.  We accidentally met in the little entryway and exchanged hellos and smiles.  (My first thought: "Wow.  You have amazingly straight white teeth.")  I asked him his name.  He told me. I said hello.  I did not tell him my name.  I left the building.  (I know, and I teach kids how to have social skills?)

I don't remember much about the next few weeks.  I'm sure he stalked me.  He claims the opposite.  Whatever, I guess it really doesn't matter.  (Just for the record, he stalked me.) The weather warmed up and we happened to bump into each other more often.  We smiled.  We chatted.  I was becoming more curious.  I was much more "off again" with my relationship.  The little blue car that visited him was not around as much.  One evening, he dropped the news that he was moving out of the apartment..... and into a house about a mile away.  We ended up going for a walk to see the house.  We ended up drinking Coors Light on the steps outside our apartments after the walk. We talked about my hometown, Spencer. We talked about his hometown, Dubuque. We talked about being Catholics.  We talked about his Jimmy Buffet and Billy Joel and my Indigo Girls and Natalie Merchant.  We talking about how both of us want to get a Labrador puppy as soon as we're home owners.  We talked about how math using the alphabet instead of numbers is stupid (which quite possibly sealed the deal on my falling for him).  Although he had only lived next door for a few weeks, and we had just begun talking to each other, I had come to kind of enjoy his presence.  After that night, I remember feeling a little sad about this  fleeting friendship, surely being over now that he was moving down the road.

The following weekend, I attended the wedding of my college roommate.  My college besties were all in attendance and I was eager to talk about the new reason behind my glowing and spunky energy that comes with new love.  But.... my "off again" relationship was there too, as he was sort of a part of the college groupies.  It was weird and awkward-- gently breaking the news to him that we're really off-again, this time for real.  This time because of something that might be very real.

As I drove home the next morning, I noticed that I had a message on my phone from a 563 number.  563=Dubuque!  I half listened/ half laughed to the message that he had left me-- obviously extremely late the night before, in the drunken company of one of his best friends.  The message has become somewhat of a joke now, as he had forgotten to hang up, which allowed me to hear eight minutes of drunken camaraderie with his buddy, singing off-key and laughing about nothing in particular.  When I returned home to my little apartment, the garage next door was noticeably vacant and so was his apartment.  I thought about this new friendship and wondered if we'd be able to bump into each other now that he had moved.  I was probably just starting to think about what I could possibly need to pick up at the lumberyard when I opened the door into my apartment, and found this:



He had slipped his business card under my door before moving that huge and scary mile down the road.  He had written a little note on the back:

I carried this business card around in my purse for years.  One day, I realized that if my purse was ever lost or stolen, this single business card would be the thing I would miss the most.  So now it's tucked away in a safe spot, not carried in my purse. 
Minutes after arriving home, my phone rang.  It was him.  Asking if I wanted to have dinner with him.  Like a date (yes, he really said that).  So two days later, on May 5 2003, he took me out for dinner at Applebees.  (This has become another joke in our relationship because we never eat there, and cannot figure out why we chose Applebees of all places, especially on Cinco de Mayo)  I remember exactly where we sat, I remember that he drank Coors Light and I drank a Corona in celebration of the holiday.  We talked and laughed through dinner and then he brought me home.  He walked me inside and I'm pretty sure he hung out for awhile, watching tv and visiting.  When it was time to leave, we stopped in the kitchen as I opened the door to the hallway.  He leaned down and kissed/squished/smashed my face/bumped/ me.  It was quick and bad and uber-disappointing.  It was not the kiss I had been preparing for in my mind, and he had to feel the same way about it.  He made a swift exit and pulled the kitchen door behind him.

I was left standing in my kitchen, wondering what the H had just happened.  Here was this guy, attractive to me in so many ways, fun and funny, smart and cute, not to mention his perfect beautiful smile and yet.... he was either a just terrible kisser or there really was no physical chemistry between us.  I think I was dumbfounded.  I literally stood frozen in my tiny kitchen when there was a knock on my door.

---Cue the dramatic and romantic musical score for the background--

I opened the door, only to find him standing there.  He must have sensed my confusion because he (honestly, this next part really happened) pushed the door aside and pulled me back into my kitchen.  He said something to the effect of, "I couldn't leave without doing that over." And then, he leaned down and kissed me.  Like, reeeeaaaallly kissed me.  You know the kind, where your head gets a little dizzy and you're not sure where your eyeballs are in relation to your knees-- that kind of kiss.  And then, just as dramatically, he exited my kitchen.  But not without promising to call me the next day.

And folks, that was basically it.  He called.  I called back.  You pretty much know the rest of the story.
Our very first photo, taken on the front steps of "our" apartments.  
I'm not lying when I say that not a day goes by without me feeling grateful for having met and married my husband.  (Although yes, I have moments of definitely taking him for granted, and yes he drove me crazy this one time.)  But I totally believe that he is my match.  He has always been someone that I am totally, completely, comfortable with-- even in those early stages of our relationship.  I honestly can't really explain it, how it just feels so natural and right and real.  It feels like I have known him for my entire life and yet our relationship still sometimes feels surreal and new.  He's sweet, caring, considerate, and intelligent.  He's serious.  He's goofy.  He thinks he has dance moves.  He's athletic.  He's a hard worker, he's athletic, he knows his trivia.  He's a professional. He's a good tipper.  He's a gift-giver and hand-holder and hugger (to me).  He's happy, sometimes too happy (for me).  He's a handyman-- with abilities to fix anything, even my low spirits--sometimes.  He's funny, he's an introverted-extravert, and an expert on everything.  He's a fantastic daddy.  He's an outstanding husband.  And I'm so lucky he's mine.  He's totally my true love.

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