This June, my husband and I will have been married ten years. With that landmark in mind, I’m combing through our memories with the hope of creating a series of essays/love letters.
I first saw the man who is now my husband twelve years ago on Super Bowl Sunday. It was in his apartment, where our mutual friend had decided to throw a Super Bowl party because it was bigger than her apartment and, presumably, because Ian (my husband) was pretty good friends with the boy she had a crush on, and having the party there would make this boy more likely to come.
Ian lived with two roommates at the time, and I think one of them let us in to set up the party and then disappeared into his room (her room? I can’t remember which roommate it was, but he lived with a boy and a girl). Either that, or we just barged in–the girl throwing the party didn’t always have the best sense of boundaries. Either way, Ian didn’t know we were coming and I remember the startled look on his face and his big brown eyes when he saw us in his living room: an acquaintance and a girl he’d never met. He said a quick hello and then disappeared into his room and I don’t remember seeing much of him the rest of the day. Then again, I also don’t remember who won or who was playing, or who all came besides the boy my friend liked and his brother, a freshman, who kept meticulous track of every beer bottle he emptied (seven in all: he was quite proud of that number). Mostly I remember his roommate’s cats. I interacted with them more than anyone else. I don’t think Ian came out of his room more than once.
At this point, I had no interest in him. I mention his big brown eyes now, but at the time they didn’t particularly strike me. I knew a little about him, having heard his girlfriend talk to the Super Bowl party friend about wanting to dump him. If I recall correctly, her reasons had to do with his being too sweet (pathetic) and attentive (stalker). I remember sitting there silently while this girl ragged on him, going so far as to play a voicemail he’d left for her and then make fun of it, and I started hoping she did dump him because though I didn’t know him, she was obviously a terrible girlfriend. And I had this funny little thought, though from her description and his recorded voice I pictured him entirely differently than the khaki-wearing geek I would later see bewildered in his own living room, that I would probably end up dating him after she cut him loose. The longer she ragged on him, the stronger the feeling became. Before we left her dorm room, I was pretty sure that this was the boy I was going to marry.
Now, I don’t believe in fate. I used to. I believed that things were meant to be, everything happened for a reason, and that there was one perfect soulmate for each of us–blah, blah, blah. By the time of Super Bowl XXXIX, I was probably 50/50 on the idea. My faith in it had been eroded by the fact that I was twenty years old and I had only been on a handful of dates, that my first kiss was horrible, and that boys never seemed to be particularly interested in me. I had a surge of romantic fantasy when we listened to this poor boy’s voicemail and his girlfriend actually started complaining about how he wouldn’t buy her something–I think it was a TV?–way too big and expensive for a college kid to buy his girlfriend of something like three weeks. But then I saw him and honestly, I didn’t immediately know who he was. I’d pictured him taller. I’d pictured him blonder. Something akin to a boy I’d danced with at a bar in London the summer before. (I still think of that boy whenever I hear R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.”) And when he wasn’t what I’d imagined, I abandoned the idea. Especially because, while he gawked at me as I laid out chips and dip on his coffee table, it was more as an intruder than as a pretty girl.
It was a couple of months before I thought of him at all romantically again. In that time I developed a massive crush on a boy who sat next to me in my Victorian Literature, poetry, and fiction classes. He had an orange stripe in his hair and would elbow me from time to time to make sure I heard one of his witty remarks. He wrote strange, intense poetry about psychedelic Muppets. I was too shy to ask him out and he never asked me–I later saw him cozying up with a girl who was mostly tattoo ink, piercings, and hair dye–but we were buddies. The next semester, when I was pondering whether I should accept a date with Ian, I asked this boy if he could see me dating an engineer. Without looking the least bit jealous or uncomfortable he sort of squinted at me, smiled, and said he could.
To be continued.