We met at a rap concert the last weekend of summer before my last semester of college. Our first date he pretended to like goat cheese and pear flat bread because I ordered it for the table. The lamb meatballs came out on fire surprising the both of us, adding another thing to be cautious of on our first outing. Never mind what we should and shouldn't say.
I liked him more than I thought I would, though his friends who knew me advised against falling for him. Not concerned about where it would go, we continued to see each other. Aaaand, I started falling for him. He said he wasn't in a place to be more committed and I pretended to be okay with that. I was enjoying his company and I wanted to be around him. I knew it was getting stickier when texts saying his name would pop up on my phone screen and words like baby and babe! immediately came to mind. Why was I calling him things only a significant other would say when he made it clear he wasn't interested to take it there? I had to get out of this situation before I was picking up the pieces of my heart off the floor. I ended it and walked away.
Him and I went to the same college which made things more complicated. Before I knew him, serendipity had put our first classes across the hall from one another and our second classes in the buildings next to each other. Trying not to see him was like playing hide and seek. The week back to school after I broke it off I stayed in my first class 10 minutes longer, ensuring he would already have made it into his next classroom. Again, serendipity came in on this one and the awkward path I took to get to class led me to him. Phrases that came to mind, "Why? How? Play it cool." He asked how my weekend was and I said "Fantastic", hoping my face and puffy eyes wouldn't give away the crying that took place over the weekend.
That evening we met up "to talk". Over tacos on a Tuesday he said he didn't want to see other people and that he did, in fact, only want to date me. This threw me and all my friends for a loop and although my guard was up, my heart was bursting.
January 6, 2013, on the way to the airport he asked me to be his girlfriend. I was leaving to Ghana for two weeks and would have zero ability to communicate with him. Excited to be going steady, we kissed good bye until I would see him next at that same airport to pick me up. Those were the weirdest two weeks of my life. Aside from the realities that the community we stayed in presented, it was very old school to make something official with someone and then not to speak to them for what felt like an eternity. Thoughts of him not showing up at the airport, loving life with me away and wanting to end it, occurred daily. Damn mind games!
Two weeks later there he was, at the airport, still wanting to be with me, aside from what my madness would have me believe. I opened the car door to a bouquet and the whole way home we shared stories of fears that felt real and looks that reminded us of how silly it all was.
Between then and now 3 years has passed and so much has happened. So much growth, learning and understanding. Hurdling over challenges and basking in bliss. Having hard conversations, too many to count and ultimately becoming closer and stronger as a team. Running into bumps in the road when drawing a line between us, forgetting that right and wrong don't factor into the equation of love. Respect, honesty, communication, support, laughter and love. Humility and acceptance. The ability to interpret actions and intentions charitably, softening the edge of conflict. Love isn't easy, it takes work, but if you both are in, it's the best work to do.
Growing together has given me a greater understanding of myself. You can only give to someone else what you give yourself. When I'm being rash, demanding and unforgiving, it's because the voice inside is screaming at myself in that same manner. Growing together in love has softened my edges. It's taught me what working together really means. It's learning a new language and appreciating difference over ease.
The story of us wasn't love at first sight. It wasn't I knew right away. It wasn't the fairy tale. The story of us was written page by page and told a tale of two people liking each other, unaware of where it would go and turned into two people loving each other, embracing companionship and overcoming hurdles. A beautiful unraveling, bringing our hearts closer together as we continue to turn the pages.