As first dates go, it wasn't anything super spectacular for either of us. We were both uncomfortable as could be. Even more awkward than a standard issue first date. We're both basically private, quiet people. In groups, we do fine. One on one, with someone we like, neither of us are talkers.
I remember sitting at the table with her in the local Italian place I'd taken her, waiting for our food. Our waiter had to sense the tension. We'd sit in silence, staring at the table, awkward glances at each other, turning away redfaced when we'd be caught looking too long. One of us would come up with a question, a perfect conversation starter. The other would answer in strained, hushed tones, the conversation would stop. Then we'd start the cycle all over again.
Neither of us finished our meals. Too many butterflies in our stomachs to leave room for much in the way of actual food. We went for a drive afterward, and tried to find ways to talk. Things were a touch more comfortable, but still very tense, very odd feeling.
She told me later when I said this wasn't working she felt like crying for a moment. She thought I was shooting her down. But before she could react I asked, since we were both such homebodies, if we could try a date at one of our homes. She excitedly said yes before I could even finish asking.
When I walked her to her door she asked if I wanted to come in. It was a Tuesday night, and we both had to be to work early the next morning. I said no, and saw a brief look of disappointment. I asked her for a hug goodnight. It was years before I found out, that was the moment it happened. That was the moment she decided she was going to marry me. Something so simple, so stupid, and just as awkward as anything else that happened that night. But I do remember it having a calming effect as we held each other for a few brief moments. All the awkwardness gone for just a scant few seconds, and a sense of belonging that made the rest of the evening pale in comparison.
Three days later, I spent the day with her. She made me a lunch, and we sat on the couch watching Discovery and the History Channel, spending more time talking than watching the shows. I do remember some of the shows, strangely enough. Voodoo and Hitler seemed to top the TV list that day, and stand out in my mind in stark contrast to the peaceful getting-to-know-you conversation that otherwise kept us occupied.
In the late afternoon we watched movies and relaxed. My arm found its way around her at some point, her leaning harder and harder into me as the sky outside turned dark. Our first kiss I later found out took her totally by surprise. I meant to kiss her cheek, she turned to ask me what I wanted to do as the movie had just ended. There was nothing awkward in her reaction.
In some ways it seems like forever ago. But I can still feel it as if it all just took place in the last moment.
This morning the memories were fresh for both of us. We smiled as we caught each other stealing glances as we got ourselves ready for work. I remember a time when thinking of being with the same person for ten years seemed an impossible dream of futility. Now, I don't want to remember what it was like to not be with her.
I'll be taking her back to that restaurant tonight. It's not in the same building anymore, having been as successful as us in the interim, and moving to a larger, more accessible place in town. But it's the name and the food we remember from then. Something tells me the conversation will flow a little easier than it did that night ten years ago.
Here's to the next ten.
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