“Can you drive my car home?” We had spent the evening playing cards and sipping on beers with some of our guy friends. She had one too many and decided to walk the 8 blocks home to her house. I had a test in the morning and had been taking it easy.
“No problem! Which one is it?” She pointed to her greenish Toyota Tercel. I hugged her said I’d bring her car home safely. We only lived a block away from each other.
I hung out for awhile longer, dreading going home to study. I already knew the information, but also knew too many beers wouldn’t help my test-taking skills in the morning. Around 8pm I said goodnight to my friends and hopped in her car. I threw my purse in the passenger seat, put the key in the ignition, and “Oh crap”. Reaching down to put the car in drive I realized…it was a stick.
Oh crap oh crap oh crap.
I had driven sticks before, but during the day…and with someone talking me through it…and at one point I think I gave my little brother whiplash trying to figure it out! It was a short drive home, but we also lived in a college town where the police had nothing better to do than pull over college girls who didn’t know how to drive their friends’ cars.
I quickly dialed another friend, Jenn, who I knew drove a stick.
“Hang on, let me pass you to Chris. He’ll know how to explain it better.”
Her friend Chris got on the phone, and with his charming English accent talked me through driving the car. I was a little bit embarrassed having never met him before, but I was grateful for the help. “You should probably just drive here. We’re at RoyPac.”
RoyPac…RP…Royal Pacific…one of our most frequented bars. Pool tables, dart boards, the best staff, and the grossest bathrooms. We loved that place. My friends and I went there all the time for cheap drinks and entertaining evenings. I briefly thought about my test, but brushed it aside. I had already studied and knew I wasn’t going to learn the information any better at this point. I also knew I had the car to get home, so it wouldn’t be a crazy night. I agreed to come by. Chris stayed on the phone with me until I got there.
Walking in the door I saw Jenn with a whole group of people playing darts. She introduced me to Chris and I thanked him, but my eyes and mind were somewhere else. I am pretty sure she introduced me to the rest of the group, but I was wasn’t really listening…just waiting for her to introduce me to the blonde guy with the great smile.
And that was the night I met my husband.
I often think about what would’ve happened if my friend hadn’t asked me to drive her car home…or if it was an automatic…I probably would’ve gone home, studied for my test, and gone on with my life. Instead, I met the guy I would obsess over and maybe casually stalk for the next 3 months.
I didn’t stay out for long that night. I had a test in the morning and a car to drive home…when I got there I said to my sister, “I met the man I’m going to marry.”
(Please excuse the quality and faces in this image. Photos were few and far between back then…we hardly knew each other. This one isn’t from that night, but within a month or so.)
The three months that followed he was all I could talk about. I didn’t have his phone number (and frankly, I would’ve been to shy to call him if I did), but I knew Jenn would hang out with his friends on the weekends and that there might be a chance that he would be there. I found myself going out a lot…just hoping to see him. Most weekends I’d run into him one night and we’d spend time together as a group wandering from college bar to college bar, playing pool and darts, dancing, and talking. I liked him. I liked him a lot. I found him to be charming and sweet, funny, and a lot of fun.
In June, a week before graduation, I started getting nervous. I felt this great connection with him, but we had never hung out minus the comfort of darkness and beer. What if he didn’t like me? What if he wasn’t interested? What if I never saw him again? That last weekend I went out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night hoping to see him one last time before we graduated and moved away.
He didn’t come out.
I was feeling really down, like I had missed my opportunity. I was afraid I’d never see him again. Trying to cheer me up, my roommate, Nowal, and my sister took me to get a milkshake at a fast food restaurant in town. We were standing around waiting for our treats when my sister’s mouth dropped open. She was looking out the window.
“You’ll never guess who is about to come in here.” I turned around and there he was…in the daylight. I instantly turned bright red. He came in and I prepared myself. I looked him right in the eye and said…
That was it. Hey. Hey? HEY!?!?! That’s it?! He said hello. The guy behind the counter called our number. We got our milkshakes, and we went home. I may have actually literally banged my head against a wall out of frustration. I hadn’t been expecting to see him there. Even more I hadn’t expected to get so nervous, to have nothing to say, and to walk away. Now I had really blown it. Graduation was in two days, and now I was sure. I was never going to see him again. I could’ve cried.
After pouting for a day or so, I decided I had to let it go and just be excited for graduation and this new step in my life. I was reluctant to let myself feel happy, but this was a big deal. Nowal was graduating as well and we decided to have a party. The families and our closest friends would be invited back to our house immediately after the graduation ceremony for a BBQ and then after the families left the rest of our friends would come tap the kegs. (Hey, it was college. Don’t judge.)
The big day came. We picked up the kegs and got the house ready. Our families came into town. Everyone was excited. The weather was great. It couldn’t have been a better day. We put on our caps and gowns and made our way to the quad to find our places in line. They had us arranged by major and by last name. There was no one near me that I knew and we had to wait for what felt like forever. I was so bored. Nowal and I were texting each other from opposite sides of the quad trying to keep ourselves entertained. Finally the lines started moving and merging together. We were walking at a snail’s pace, and the stadium was still a half mile away. Plenty of time to text and walk…and twiddle my thumbs.
Everyone looked the same in their black gowns and caps. I had given up spotting anyone I knew by this point. I don’t know what made me look up, but I did. And there he was. To my left. Walking right next to me. His blond hair sticking out just a bit from the cap, eyes shining, and that great smile. Our lines were moving separately and in spurts, so the conversation did too. Quick hellos, congratulations, is your family here, what are you doing tonight…we had a long walk, but not much time to talk which melted my shyness away quickly. It didn’t hurt that I was able to text Nowal between bits of conversation.
It turned out his little brother was in town (and not yet 21) so he had no plans to go out to the bars to celebrate. I invited him to our party and he accepted. I explained that the families would still be there until about 6 and that they could come any time. Our lines separated and we were off to our seats. I lost him in the crowd, but kept looking for him throughout the whole ceremony.
I didn’t know when he’d show up at the party…or if he even would, but at 6:00 almost exactly there he was. He met my whole family before we’d even been on a date.
Later that night, most people had left. He pulled me aside and said, “I think it’s about time I ask you on our first official date.” I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Two days later, he picked me up for dinner.
So why am I telling you this? That dinner was 8 years ago today. I know it sounds cliche, but it gets better every year. We’ve grown so much together.
And so, to my husband, who I love more than anything: thank you for being you. Thank you for being supportive and thoughtful. Thank you for being silly and laughing with me. I know I say air guitar is never cool (and it’s not) but thank you for doing air guitar in the car while I sing too loud. Thank you for always asking me if I need anything, for holding my hand, and for snuggling up next to me while we sleep. Eight years ago I knew I had found someone special, but I didn’t know just how amazing we could be together. You keep me sane. I love you so much and look forward to all of the years to come. You’ll always have my heart.
Left: Us at the graduation party (notice the sunburn lines on our foreheads from our grad caps). Right: 7 years later on our wedding day (Photo by Bb&Company)