Or, for those who aren’t Catholic, or UK Special Air Service, “Who Dares, Wins.”
I didn’t think anything was going to come of it. Hell, at one point I thought she was coming out to make a move on one of the other guys. I had made my new years’ resolution to stop fooling around online and try to make an effort at real-world communication with people, and besides, I still had months to run on my “I’m going to stay single for a year” pledge. And when we were trying to sort out details on the phone, it was unbelievably awkward – she wasn’t saying much, and I was rushing to fill the silence, and she kept waiting for me to shut up, and sometimes that can take a while…
All I’m saying is that if you looked at the two of us – who we were, how we were, relative alcohol and nicotine intake (especially then), personality generally…you would have bet the house that nothing would ever have come of it. Especially if you heard that my first move on getting back to my place was to open up the photo album.
But there were sparks. Huge ones. The future best man, sitting across the table at dinner, later remarked that the spectacle of the two of us trying to play it cool was transcendent comedy. Our future wedding reader (and roommate for a year) had to pointedly correct the speculation that “I don’t think he’s into me at all.” Each of us knew something was happening, but neither of us knew that we both knew. Or something.
And eventually, she went in for the cuddle, and got it. And I went for the kiss – as well hanged for a sheep as a lamb – and got it.
Who dares, wins.
The worst hack romantic comedy writer in Hollywood wouldn’t dare pitch the nonsense that followed over the next 48 hours, right down to the scene with snow all over the ground and all the Christmas lights still up after almost a month and the mad dash to not one but two airports, and the spectacle of one man doing his best Darrell Green impersonation the whole way (slainte, mate). But shortly thereafter, she worked up the nerve, shoved all the chips to the middle of the table, and asked “how long before I can say I love you?”
And I took a deep breath, kicked my original plans over the side, and answered “Now’s good.”
Who dares, wins.
It takes a certain amount of foolishness to pledge yourself to a long-distance relationship 2500 miles away, but we did it. Valentines’ Day in DC, to eat dinner at West 24 (James Carville’s old Cajun-fusion place) two tables from Mike Wilbon. My birthday in DC, to pass muster with the denizens of the Four Provinces. A whirlwind 48-hour trip to meet in Atlanta, given the excuse of somebody else’s party. My trip to Silicon Valley, to face the guns of a seemingly endless stream of family, college friends, co-workers, you name it, all giving me the same look I would have gotten if I’d walked up to the table and said “Do you mind if we dance with yo’ dates?”
And ultimately, in a Cosi in Alexandria one day in May, a decision: a future that inevitably led toward California if things went well, but which would begin in DC. And a month after a plane crashed into the Pentagon, she loaded up the Jetta and headed East.
Who dares, wins.
I see looking over this now that I’ve left out all the important stuff. The whirlwind year in 2003 that led to the move in 2004. How we almost bought a house, then didn’t, and wound up with the perfect house as a result. How we almost lost our minds trying to get out of toxic jobs and took turns falling ass-backward into something good enough to let the other person go nuts for a while – and wound up with the perfect spot for each of us. How after an entire life of being willing to live with the devil I knew, I stopped being afraid to step out on the ledge. How the lights of San Francisco twinkled across the bay as Nat “King” Cole’s music led us onto the floor
I think there was originally meant to be a song here. But I’m not sure what would really sum up properly. Maybe “Brown-Eyed Girl” or “A Pair of Brown Eyes” or we could fall back on “Stray” by Aztec Camera, which she played for me that first weekend, or…never mind, I got it. From a song I first heard during another snowy January in Washington DC, back in 2003, I turn it over to Mssr. Suggs and his band of Nutty Boys:
I never thought I’d miss you half as much as I do
And I never thought I’d feel this way, the way I feel about you
Soon as I wake up, every night, every day
I know that it’s you I need to take the blues away
It must be love, love, love
Nothing more, nothing less, love is the best…
Happy anniversary, sweetie. The first ten were only a good start…