This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click on the handy-dandy image in the sidebar labeled “Our Story.” And thanks for following along!
The other night I did something I’ve done a thousand times. I walked out into the dark, over to the car, got in and took my seat next to Taylor. It was pitch black except for the lights on the dash and the music sprung to life as he turned the key. He reached over for my hand and we pulled out onto the road. Completely normal. Routine. It’s happened a thousand times. But last night as we drove along the country roads back from Silverton, music drifting along in the background, a smile suddenly came to my face. I looked down at our hands in the dark, fingers interlaced, and remembered when it wasn’t so common. When it wasn’t normal for me to climb into a car with the boy I loved. When it was the very first time we ever climbed in a car together and drove that very same route.
Shortly after that cold, rainy November night that included the legendary viewing of Aladdin, we made the trek down to his hometown to attend a college group that he’d gone to in the summers. I’d spent hours trying to figure out what to wear on my first official outing as his “girlfriend,” and had settled on my favorite jeans and brand new gray “Oregon,” sweatshirt. When in doubt, always go the athletic route.
He picked me up at my door and we headed out into the night, towards his little blue Corolla. The drive down was a little awkward at first. We’d crossed over into uncharted territory just a few days before and were both still a little uncertain in our new roles. I wasn’t sure what to say. I was still a little bit afraid that it had all been a dream. That he’d wake up one morning and realize he’d made a mistake. That I wasn’t anywhere near deserving of his company, much less the title of his “girlfriend.” But as we drove further and further south, he started to tell me about his home and we settled into our familiar rhythm of conversation.
Anyone who knows my husband can testify to the fact that when he talks of things he loves- things like basketball, Silverton and fantasy basketball, to name a few- there’s this certain tone that takes over his normal, intelligible speaking voice. He gets increasingly louder as he goes and I think the best way to describe the change is to say that when he’s excited about something, his voice literally sounds like a grin. Not only is there a giant smile spread across his face, but his tone is somehow smiling too.
This has charmed me at times and driven me nuts on more than one occasion, but in that moment, I was pretty sure that face, and that silly, excited tone, were just about the most adorable things in the world.
The night went relatively smooth. He introduced me to a few of his friends, we sang songs and listened to a talk, and we sat together at a tall bistro table, drinking Italian sodas and whispering back and forth. The lighting in the room was rather dim, except for a small candle that glowed in the center of our teeny table. Taylor had taken to fidgeting with said candle and as we got ready to head out, fumbled it to the point that it rolled over and spilled all over me. Hot wax dripped across my knuckles and down the front of my new, prized sweatshirt. He was embarrassed, and apologized profusely as we made our way out of the church, but I shrugged him off, all the while quietly mourning the wound to my favorite hoodie.
The first few weeks of our relationship went much the same way. Simple, sweet; a few awkward bumbles here and there. We were both a little hesitant. A little unsure. We played card games with our friends. We stayed up watching Gilmore Girls til the wee hours, holding hands and playing footsie on the couch. We listened to music, ate bottomless steak fries at Red Robin and slowly got used to our new titles, “girlfriend,” and “boyfriend.” It was so different from any of the relationships I’d had before. So innocent and fun. I wanted nothing to change, ever.
But my team was headed off to Hawaii for Thanksgiving and it would be over a week before I’d see him again. Again, I feared he’d come to his senses and decide he’d made a lapse in judgement, but my worries didn’t stop me from daydreaming of him all the way to the island of Oahu. Reflecting on the first few weeks of being liked by a boy so beautiful, looking at him still took my breath away. Reveling in the way it felt when he laced his fingers in between mine. Thinking about the wave of heat that crashed over me whenever he touched me, even if by accident. I was knee deep in basketball season, but I was neck deep in new love.
The trip consisted mostly of talking about, practicing, or playing basketball, but one night, gathered around a stone table outside of The Cheesecake Factory, Melissa, Jaime, Mandee and I bared our souls and bonded for life. Andrew had finally kissed Melissa, you see, after nine months of dating, and we were interrogating her for every single detail. Squealing and giggling, teasing her about things that seemed a million years away at the time, things like marriage and babies. That night The Fab Four, as we would later call ourselves, was born. And in the same month that I’d already received one of the biggest blessings in my life, I somehow ended up receiving three more.
After we got home from our trip, it was all studying and basketball and games and finals. November flew by and all of a sudden it was time to head home for Christmas break. But not before I had my first two “official,” dates with my new boyfriend.
I remember the first date as clear as day. We went out to a “fancy” dinner at The Farm Cafe in Portland, followed by a play based on one of his favorite books, “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” He held my hand as we walked. He paid for my meal. It was dark and rainy and cold. I felt a million years old. It was the first of thousands of meals we’d share together and though the food was nothing special, the whole night was just so “us.” It set the tone for our whole relationship and I can close my eyes and relive every minute of it to this day. We picked up dessert at Rose’s Deli and drove back to my apartment to watch Dirty Dancing and snuggle on the couch.
Our second date included a little more fanfare. My friends and I, now firmly established as The Fab Four, had decided we’d plan a Christmas Date in Portland, get dressed up and invite our male counterparts to come along. Us girls spent the entire day getting ready, borrowing clothes from a well-dressed teammate and laboring over eachother’s hair, before meeting up with the guys to ride the Max into the city. We walked around Pioneer Square, looking at Christmas lights and shivering in the cold air, before filing into Rock Bottom Brewery for warm burgers and fries. We hopped on the Max again, feeling like big time city kids, and rode up to 23rd street to have dessert at Portland fixture, Papa Haydn’s. I had a six layer ice cream cake that I still order to this day. Taylor and I took our first picture together, it was the first time I’d seen him in dressy clothes and we held hands under the table as we ate our dessert.
When we got back to our apartment, we all decided to watch a Christmas movie, and I picked White Christmas. As the musical numbers increased, the audience dwindled, and soon enough it was just Taylor and I left watching the movie.
He was acting a little bit funny. A little bit like the night when we’d watched Aladdin. Doing lots of deep sighing and fidgeting. At one point, as I reached up to take a silly selfie of us laying on the couch, he reached down and pressed his lips to my forehead. I hit a wall of adrenaline that coursed all the way down to my toes before dying out. And then he kept on sighing. I didn’t know what to think, but I silently wondered what in the world he could be wrestling with after such a magical evening. When the movie ended, he bid me goodnight and left through the sliding door at the back of our apartment. I was convinced I’d freaked him out by taking him on this date, and he was about to call things off.
I trudged into my room, changed into a large t-shirt and took to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, feeling depressed about our inevitable end. As I was washing my face, I heard what I thought was a knock on glass. I didn’t have my contacts in or glasses on, so I squinted around the corner, wondering who it could possibly be at that hour. Shocked to see Taylor standing on the other side of the locked glass door, I forgot my current wet face and pants-less state, and scampered over to let him in.
“This is it,” I thought. He couldn’t even wait until morning to break it off. He had to be rid of me as soon as possible. I sighed a deep sigh of resignation before reaching for the handle.
But as I pulled the stopper out of the way, he grabbed the door handle from the outside and flung open the glass with great enthusiasm. He quickly stepped up into the apartment, grabbed my still dripping wet face with both hands, and planted his lips directly upon mine. He kissed me twice, softly, then took his hands off my face, turned around and said determinedly,
“There. Now I can go to sleep,” as he stepped out of the door and walked away.
I stood completely still, shocked to the core, until the cold outside reminded me that I was indeed pants-less and the slider was still ajar. I shook my head, closed and locked the door, and walked dreamily back to the bathroom to finish what I had started.
He’d waited exactly one month to the day for our first kiss. He wasn’t freaked out about our date, he was simply trying to work up the courage to kiss me! And his pure determination had completely blinded him to the fact that I had been standing before him in nothing but a baggy t-shirt and a pair of underwear.
I woke the next morning, sure that I had dreamt it, but the look of pride on his face when I saw him that day told me it was real. I’d never dated a boy who’d waited that long (or at all) to kiss me, and I’d never been kissed with such purpose before. Something told me I was in deep trouble.
To be continued…