August 23rd, 2008.
After meeting online, discovering several mutual friends, messaging back and forth for over a month, and me chickening out on an open dinner invitation from him for several weeks. . . I finally screwed my courage to the sticking place, and agreed to meet him in Birmingham for drinks and dinner.
August 23rd, 2008, I stood on the corner of 23rd street, holding my umbrella against a misting rain, and gazing in the windows of What's On Second?, while I waited for my date to arrive.
He only lived one block away, and the area was one that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would become emotionally significant to me for the rest of my life.
This is one of the first photos I ever saw of him:
. . . but also recently divorced, and with a 12 year old son, and a toddler.
(I'm sure you can imagine that, not knowing him, and only being concerned for my well-being, many people warned me to be cautious. It turned out to be a baseless fear.)
But there was something about THIS photo. Others, too. . . after all, for the first month or so we only communicated online. No phone calls (I was chicken, as I stated earlier, and have always hated talking on the phone anyway), we just sent letters. Electronic letters, but letters nonetheless. Long, rambling letters that went on and on and on, about everything from what we had eaten for lunch that day, to what song was currently at the top of our respective current playlists, to our political and social views, and, of course, our taste in comedy.
One day, he started a letter off with:
". . . I was born a poor black child. . . "
And I freaked OUT.
Because that is the first line from The Jerk, which happens to be one of my favorite comedies of all time. =D
And of course we saw all the photos that the other had posted. . .
This photo of him holding Young Padawan is the one that really got to me, though. Of course he was handsome, and, from what I could glean from our interactions, was also funny, smart, hard-working, and devoted to his family.
But it was the look on his face, in this photo, that hit me.
His face is that of a man in pain.
Not an "ouch"; not a depression. It is the face of a man that has been gut-punched by life, but is pushing on. It is a face that comes from days upon days upon days of fighting, and setting your resolve to stubbornly keep putting one foot in front of the other one, even though you're still reeling from the sucker-punch Life snuck in on you, and you're just hoping that at some point you get your breath back.
It was a face, or a mask, or a mindset, or whatever you want to call it. . . that I knew very well.
I saw it every time I looked in the mirror.
We had talked, of course, through these many rambling letters, about the "curve balls" in life that we were each, respectively, recovering from.
We had talked about how we were both not just ready, but hungry, for someone that we could actually RESPECT.
And in this picture. . . I saw a man that knew pain. This was the man I had been corresponding with. The guy that loved music, the guy that was so funny, and wonderfully odd, and always seemed to be looking for his next belly-laugh.
But what *I* saw. . . was a fighter.
I saw strength, and determination, a healthy sense of "Screw you, world, I'm gonna keep going", and yes, courage.
And so I decided I would meet him. =)
. . . . . . . . .
It was the best first date I ever had. My cheeks literally HURT from laughing so much. And the next day, I could NOT stop smiling.
So we went out again for lunch and a movie the next day, and just. . . kind of never stopped dating. =)
From the moment we met. . . there was never anyone else.
My eye has never wandered, I've never looked at another with longing. . . because, since then, there have BEEN no others. Other men enter my line of vision, and my life, as potential friends, and nothing else. It is not something I have to work on, or try very hard to enact. It is just something that happened when I found him, and discovered that HE was The One for me.
Yes, yes, I know.
Norman Reedus exists.
But he exists in a very intangible way, not quite real to ME, and though he is fabulous and wonderful, and I have actually sworn to Thor's Mighty Hammer that I would one day MEET him (constituting a moral obligation to one day do so) . . . he is not the one for me, and I am wise enough to know it. =)
I was his. And I've never been one to put much effort (or any at all) into playing games, so I'm sure he knew it fairly quickly.
This song pretty much sums it up:
In the early days of our relationship, we went to a lot of bars. Not because we were drunks (though I am partial to a White Russian when the mood strikes me, I more often find myself in the role of the girl at the bar who orders a Coke, thus annoying bartenders everywhere), but because he lived Downtown, there were lots of bars, and those bars were usually playing live music.
And we both loved music.
. . . One of the songs that was on constant repeat in my head at the time was this one, and it always made me think of him:
From his profile online, one of the first things I noticed about him was that he loved The Flaming Lips. Who just HAPPENED to be one of my favorite bands at the time (and, honestly, still is).
We spent a lot of time listening to Yoshimi. =)
We spent several days at a time together. (My mom joked, a little worriedly at the time, about our "3-day dates.")
We lived like we were in perpetual recess. =)
We hung out in all of the parks Downtown, and I learned that just about every person that worked at a hot dog joint in Downtown Birmingham knew him by face, and usually by name.
(LOVE me some Nigel!!!)
And, as he was a Spinal Tap fan too, I felt I could trust him. =)
. . . AND his taste in movies.
We did cheap things, like hang out at his place and giggle and cook, and curl up and watch movies. (And giggle some more. . . . Seriously. We giggled a lot.)
He sent me this song, and told me it made him think of me:
. . . .Which, I think you will have to admit, is pretty effing romantic. =)
Or maybe it was just romantic for us, and different things are romantic to different people.
For my part, at the time, I was wearing out a Dashboard Confessional Live album every time I was in the car. (Do not judge me. I love them.) =)
And it seemed like every time I was in the car, I was on my way to see Michael. . . so this song was playing in my head for pretty much the first 2 or 3 months that we were together:
We saw more music:
We did a lot of talking. And a lot of giggling.
I introduced him to Arrested Development.
He introduced me to Indian food. =)
We spent time with the kids.
His lease with his roommate was up.
So we moved in together. In a little loft Downtown.
We went to work, I picked Padawan up from school every other Friday, Spawn came when he could, we celebrated birthdays, and Halloween, and Christmas together.
And a year, to the day, after we met on that street corner. . . we walked down from our loft hand-in-hand, with my Uncle Crant (the pastor) in tow, to that same spot to say our vows.
We were married, we were working, we were getting the boys whenever we could, and then. . . A BABY was coming!!!
We left our loft, and moved into a house.
We had two cats, a back yard, and, soon, three sons. =)
I think one of the first things that attracted my husband and I to each other was that we had both known great pain. And had both (somehow), found the fortitude to keep going, keep smiling, keep trying to "find the funny" in any situation. I personally believe it is THIS, this knowledge that all those things that people usually take for granted. . . a home, a spouse, kids, a job. . . all those things don't HAVE to happen.
It doesn't always work out that way.
Before we found each other, we were each. . . broken, in our own ways.
A family, a home, a spouse, and a life that you love. . . . has GOT to be one of the rarest gifts that can be bestowed upon man.
And suddenly. . . we had it.
Slowly, for the most part, the nightmares that have plagued my sleep for years. . . went away.
Just some scars from a life that used to trouble me.
I used to run at first sight of the sun. . .
Now I lay here waiting for you to wake up."
I don't see the tension. Or the weariness.
This modest little garden/oasis that he has created for us, with his own two hands. Where flowers and babies grow, music is almost always playing, and a plastic sword is never far from hand.
The one I trust, and cherish, and protect, above all others.
But mostly, mainly. . . I look at this man and I see my home.
Nothing that comes close to describing. . . .
The only word that pops to mind is: Gratitude.
Not to him, but to the Universe in general, or God, or whatever you choose to call it.
to spend out in the garden.
I don't care to beg your pardon,
Until we die."