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“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future.”
~ William Wordsworth ~
I met him in Dr. Riggins’ Educational Psychology class in my junior year at Lee College. I noticed him, but then I kind of forgot him. I remembered him again when several girlfriends and I brainstormed date possibilities for each other, but I chose him for someone else.
Test time rolled around, and I needed help. Steven’s smiling face popped into my head, so I called him.
“Is Steven there?”
“Just a friend from class.” Awkward pause and then, “Can I speak to him?”
“Yeah, hang on.” I heard muffled talking and teasing, and then he spoke.
“This is Steven.” His friendly voice warmed my insides and calmed me in a moment. We chatted about tests and notes and class for about a minute and a half. I thanked him, hung up, and didn’t think of him again until he called me several weeks later.
“Is Lori there?”
“This is Lori.”
“It’s Steven … from class. Do you remember me?”
“I remember you.” My stomach dropped a little as I wiped down counters in the dirty kitchen I’d decided to clean while my roommates all enjoyed more exciting Friday night plans.
“Do you like basketball?”
“Do you want to go to a Hawks game with me?”
“I’m a mess.”
“Are you dressed?”
“Then you look great.”
How could I say no? We’d only talked for a few seconds, and still, he surprised me. He stood out like a splash of color in my gray world. He did take me to a Hawks game (along with a crew of kids from the Boys and Girls Club we chaperoned), and we discovered each other that night in a noisy stadium filled with cheers and bright lights.
Every stolen glance, every half-smile, and every word batted back and forth sealed the deal; the search for love ended in Atlanta. We’d found each other. Strange and comforting and wonderfully odd all in a moment – to have the question answered instantly. We matched, and every corny, hokey, romantic cliché made sense. In each other, we’d found home. We belonged together, and I’d never belonged to anyone.
A few weeks later, as we danced in a wet drizzle under night skies, he asked me in between rain-dropped kisses to marry him. I said, yes. That was the romantic proposal with no one around, the one I kept secret from the rest of the world because they’d find our love crazy.
We danced to music only we could hear because we lived in a world only we could see. Love has a way of isolating in the most beautiful kind of bubble. Not a lot can beat the beginning of love in all its passion and purity.
Later, there was a public proposal surrounded by my college choir complete with live piano music. I said, yes, again to the backdrop of echoed, girly awws. I nodded and leaned into his arms, the safest place I’d ever landed. A few months later, we were man and wife.
This is often where the story ends and the happily-ever-after music cued to make us believe forever happens with peace, love, harmony, and perpetually smiling faces.
I’m not saying love is impossible or fleeting or unattainable. Quite the opposite. Love is real and wonderful and absolutely possible. However, love requires a significant amount of fight on behalf of its participants. If you’re not willing to battle for it, I’d suggest you skip the obligatory hoopla where you spend thousands of dollars on a wedding, and go straight for the parting of ways. Grab a spoon and some ice cream, and get yourself a few good friends to travel through life with. Don’t go the love route if you’re not ready to fight.
I found my one true love in the parking lot of the Boys and Girls Club in Cleveland, TN. I found him, and I still tried to kill the love he brought. I tried to dodge it again and again and again until I realized it was real; the bottom wasn’t going to drop out. He was the love, and he wouldn’t be stopped. He couldn’t be stopped.
So, if you’ve found your love, may I suggest you learn from my attempts to kill it? Do the opposite of what I did. Perhaps I can save you a few headaches, heartaches, and tears along the way.
Here’s to the messiness of letting your love live because giving love and getting love? It’s not impossible. It just feels like it sometimes.
I remember everything happening in pretty much the same way except there was a party at a friend’s house in between the first phone call and the basketball game invite. From that night, I remember her dress, and more to the point, how good she looked in it. She was cold, so I offered her my jacket. First, because my dad taught me to, and second, because some other guy’s dad might’ve taught him the same thing, and I sure as hell didn’t want her to wear his jacket.
The night of the basketball game sits in my memory as a series of snapshots, vignettes, and moments stuck in time — moments burned into my brain and heart and soul. I remember the second when I knew. I knew I had finally found a heart to call home — a safe place to fall — as Dr. Phil is fond of saying.
I walked out to the parking lot to meet her as she arrived, and she came striding around the Club van. I saw her face, and I was born again. She smiled this odd sort of embarrassed smile. What did she have to be embarrassed about? Then, she dipped her head down slightly. I’m pretty sure I lost consciousness for 30 seconds or so. She was and is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, the kind of pretty that immediately makes you realize you’re overweight and your nose is disproportionately round on your face.
I remember the van ride to the game, how I kept telling her who sang every song on the radio, unable to control my strange compulsion. I remember taking kids to the bathroom at the game, looking back up at her in her seat, and smiling, dreaming, floating. I remember talking about getting tattoos on the way home from the game, and I remember thinking about her getting tattoos and places on her body where she should get tattoos. And then I remember thinking it would be wise to save those thoughts for a time when I wasn’t responsible for the lives of 12 fifth graders.
In quick succession it all happened: confessions of love, a proposal, a marriage, a (sort of) honeymoon, and life together in married housing at school.
It’s important for me to be clear on this one matter. At different times through the years, both of us have been difficult to love. Wittingly or, much more likely, unwittingly, we have behaved in ways which were deleterious to our love. Suffice to say, as she did so well, love is a fight — a real and raw and ravaging battle. It is, however, worth it.
Worth it in every way.