I wouldn’t call my memory “reliable.” Fortunately for me, I married a woman who is capable of remembering things pretty much as they happened. Which is good because there’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a while now, I just didn’t trust myself to get it right. So, here’s Cathy, telling the story of how we finally ended up together. And just a word of warning: it turns out she’s much better at this than I am:
I came home from Columbia for spring break – I’m not the type of person to go off somewhere exotic to party. I was pretty burnt out from my overextended college schedule, so I was looking forward to a week or so of resting at home, spending time with my family, seeing whichever other friends were home, and eating my mom’s food. Finding a boyfriend was not on the list of things to do over spring break in Lock Haven.
You and I hadn’t been in touch – I’m not even sure I had your contact info — since you moved to Denver. We talked a bit that first year, I think, but not much more. I was pretty disappointed in you and your decision. In Lock Haven, we had been so bored, itching for something more. You had a chance to go somewhere and do something with your life and you blew it. You blew your talent, your intelligence, and your opportunity. And because of that, I didn’t want to like you.
Me heading to Columbia was my serious break from you, and I remember consciously telling myself that. I don’t think I reached out to you once during my first year in New York. And why would I? I was in an overwhelmingly exciting and cultured place, surrounded by bright and ambitious people. I didn’t want to think about you. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t.
I did. All the time. I wanted to share the whole experience with you. Concerts, bars, movies, art, theater. I didn’t want to do those things with anyone else. But I had to try, so I cut you off.
I thought I was doing pretty well until spring break. I was driving around one afternoon and saw something familiar: a red Honda Prelude driven by a guy in a backwards ball cap. It was a pretty unmistakable sight, one that always made my heart flutter. This time, the effect was no different, though there was an added “Wait, what?” because, as far as I knew, you were in Denver. “Why is he here?”
I called your parents’ house and your dad told me you had moved back a week ago. You called me back later that night and came over to my house the next day. We sat and talked on my bed and settled right in to what we always were. It was easy and comfortable. It wasn’t all good because I didn’t approve of any aspect of your life from the previous two years and wasn’t afraid to say so. But it was still…good. Jess came home from school and we all sat around the dining room table talking. There was a bottle of nail polish on the table. You let me paint one of your fingernails. I said something about Titanic being at the Roxy and you said “Sure, I’d see it.” And so we had our first date.
I should point out it wasn’t our first date; we had gone to plenty of movies before. It wasn’t long before we settled into our usual movie-watching arrangement showing our sweet (but never improper!) mutual affection: my head on your shoulder, and us holding hands. It was natural and easy, but I wasn’t exactly calm. “What’s going on? Does this mean something? I can’t let myself get sucked back into this.” But then I remembered that I had called you. I wanted to see you.
Afterwards we went to your house, watched TV, talked some more. You gave me a back rub because I was sitting in front of you. Nothing out of the ordinary at first. But then…I was wearing a turtleneck sweater with a partial zipper up the back, and you unzipped it. My internal dialogue pretty much just threw in the towel at that point. Best shoulder rub ever. (Though I’m not sure that I ended up very relaxed.)
At some point, probably way too late, I decided that I needed to leave. You walked me out, and we stood in each other’s arms. I’m pretty sure you were about ten seconds away from kissing me, but you stopped for some reason. And I wasn’t going to push that. After all, this could still end up with me reprising my role of Watts to your Keith, knowing that Miss Amanda Jones was out there somewhere. Plus, there were certain lines that I was not going to be responsible for crossing. You had to kiss me. I didn’t want any blame to come back on me if that wasn’t what you wanted.
A few days later I went back to New York, thoroughly confused. There were letters, phone calls, and emails. It was very messy and emotional. We met up again a month later, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. On the way home, you pulled over somewhere quiet. You didn’t say anything, just led me out to a picnic table, sat me down in front of you, and kissed me. I said, “Well, I guess you’re really serious about this.” Turns out you were.
I probably would have had fun had I gone somewhere warm and sandy for spring break. Maybe I would have even found a vacationing college boy and had a fling, something to tell my friends about. But instead I went home, and I found my heart. And that’s something I can tell my kids about.