When I was 10 years old, my parents got divorced. For a long time, they lived in the same city, Portland, OR, where I grew up, and I’d spend one week with my dad and one week with my mom. One week off and one week on, as they say.
The summer after my freshman year in high school, my mom moved to Chicago, and left me and my brother and sister to live with my dad. I’ve spend a lot of time in therapy over that situation, but this is not the story of that. The short version is that I spent a year struggling to live a life that made me miserable. So when I was a junior in high school, I gave up on that, and I moved to Chicago to live with my mom and I started my junior year at a new high school.
This was…not the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Generally when I look back on high school I think of it as a pretty dismal experience, except that high school is where I met one of my best friends.
I can distinctly remember the first time Andrew registered on my radar. I was sitting at a lunch table waiting for school to start and his girlfriend walked by in a really really terrible lace – I don’t know. Let’s call it an outfit. I think it was a suit, actually. A white lace suit. Andrew reached over, pinched her sleeve, and said “This is nice.” And I immediately thought to myself “Oh no. We’ll never be friends.”
So of course we became best friends, and we went to homecoming together and Andrew came to my house for my mother’s crazy dinners all the time and we went to bad movies and he drove me around town in his mother’s station wagon and even though I had just come from an all girls school and I had no real idea that you could be best friends with a boy, Harry and Sally notwithstanding, it turns out you can be. And we were.
And we got older, as you do, and we graduated high school, and did I mention Andrew got a 1520 on his SAT’s and got into MIT? We were sort of nerds, but he was way higher on the nerd scale than I was. Regardless, he didn’t go to college at MIT, he went to this little school in Minnesota, and I can still remember the moment he stood in my parents living room on a warm summer afternoon and opened the letter with his roommates name in it and said “Huh. I guess I should call this kid.” and I thought no more about it.
My whole life now is because of that letter.
I went off to school at UCSC and Andrew went off to school in Minnesota and because email hadn’t quite yet been invented (I KNOW!) we called each other A LOT. And most of the time that I called Andrew, he wasn’t there, and so I ended up spending quite a lot of time talking to his roommate, Erik, instead. I was 17. I have known Erik since I was 17. (I KNOW.)
And pretty soon I was calling there to talk to Erik instead of Andrew, because quite frankly talking to Erik was way more interesting than talking to Andrew, and then we were talking all the time, two times a day, for hours on end.
The next year they came and visited me and my roommates during spring break, drove all the way across the country in Andrew’s mom’s old station wagon, but it was finals week and we didn’t say a lot to each other. We were better on the phone.
The funny thing is that my roommates were meeting all these boys all over campus and I could never meet anyone. The boys I liked didn’t know I was alive, and the boys I made out with at parties always ended up breaking my heart. I just wanted someone to be nice to me, but somehow the super hot jerks I kept throwing myself at didn’t turn out to be the type to bring you flowers on Valentine’s Day. This took me a long time to figure out. A lot longer than it should have. And I had extra practice in the summers too, with super hot jerks at home, but the point is that I can remember a very specific moment, sitting on the steps of my sophomore year apartment, in despair. Despair that I would never find anyone, despair that because I would never have a perfect manicure like my housemate Sarah, I would never be on a softball team and drink beer with my teammates like my housemate Alison, I would never know all the cool music or the cool books and because I was so hopeless, so far from perfect, no one would ever choose ME. I would never find someone for me.
(Although thinking back on it now I did get a fair bit of action in college, but that’s another post for a different blog. Let’s just say I had a hard time finding a boyfriend and an easy time finding someone to make out with and leave it at that.)
I am pretty sure it was our junior Year when I took a Greyhound bus from Chicago to Minnesota, and let me just be honest with you, internet. At that point in time, I really really really liked this boy. Kind of a whole lot. But I had no idea how he felt about me and even though he didn’t have a girlfriend and I didn’t have a boyfriend, he remained remarkably circumspect with his feelings. I mean, seriously, when I look back at that time, I still kind of wonder “does Erik like me?” even though the evidence suggest yes.
Anyway. I visited and we drank a lot of wine and went out to dinner and we went to a dance and to the least romantic movie of all time (Apocalypse Now he took me to Apocalypse Now!) and I cleaned his apartment and he did not notice (I should really have paid more attention to that part) and we got very drunk and he sat next to me on the bathroom floor for hours while I thought about barfing and let me paint his toenails. I wore some clothes that were NOT WARM ENOUGH for winter in Minnesota, internet, NOT WARM ENOUGH AT ALL. And yet, NOTHING! NOTHING. The boy did NOTHING.
Oh! Here is a picture of the outfit! Aren’t you just shocked he wasn’t all over that?
After graduation, Mr. E was headed off to do something boring and related to geology in Wyoming for few months before he went back to school to do more things that were boring and related to geology at the University of Michigan, and before he got there, he came to visit me for a few days, where I was living in Chicago with my parents while I tried to figure out what to do with my life and there may have been some drinking and then finally, finally! There was some, um, let’s say, hugging. (I think maybe he liked me, internet.)
And then he went off to Wyoming, and this is where God or Whoever or Someone Up There held my hand. I don’t even know What or Who or If I believe in anything like that, I really don’t, but the best way I can think of to say this just that – Someone Up There Held My Hand. Because I was totally OUT OF MY MIND BUTT CRAZY IN LOVE WITH THIS BOY and of course this made me want to call him up 7,000 times a day and ask him how he felt about meeeeeeeeeeeeee and if he was in looooooooooooooooooove with me and what kind of flowers he thought should be in the centerpieces at our wedding, but he was out in the middle of nowhere and he could only get letters.
There were no cell phones, there was no email, and so for three months that summer, we wrote each other letters.
I think those letters might be where we really first did fall in love. Someone up there knew I needed this chance to not kill this relationship dead with my pure and naked crazy NEED and I think those letters saved us, I really do. They made everything else possible.
When Mr. E got back from Wyoming, we started talking on the phone again. We had a huge fight when he told me that he told his mother I wasn’t his girlfriend. We took a lot of Amtrak trips. We drank a lot of wine. We went on some very inappropriate camping trips and we fought about juice and we had very large phone bills.
And you know the rest of the story, essentially. I moved to Ann Arbor and we lived in our first tiny apartment together and one day he asked me if maybe I wanted to do this thing forever and I said yes and then we got a dog and then we had these ankle biters and now I’m sitting on our couch in our house while our children fight over a banana, and sometimes when I think of all the events that occurred to get to this moment I am both astonished at the miracle of all that had to happen and did and also certain that things could have gone no other way.
It was meant to be, somehow, this story of us. Meant to be.
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