It was my first day of the fall semester and I ditched one of my classes to go get him. I remember pulling through that pick up lane at the airport and seeing him there. There is something about those first moments after uncovering a secret affection... everything is different and everything is the same.
We went back to my house where he met my family for the first time. I remember my brother was faking like he was asleep and Kirby walked right up to him and immediately got in on the joke, jostling him and fake-waking him up. I loved that he had zero boundaries with this kid he had never, ever met. He treated my brother like someone he had known a long time. I know Kenny felt that love, too. Over the next few months, every time Kirby would stay over, he would sleep on the floor in Kenny's room. They were brothers long before our wedding day. I watched him pull the trashcans in for my mom from the second story window. He played basketball with my dad and brother in the driveway. And it all felt really big- him being here, in my house, with my family. It felt important.
I took Kirby with me to my photography class that evening (junior college, ya'll, you can do whatever the hell you want) and then had planned to drive Kirby back to his car parked downtown afterward. He was going to drive his car back up to his campus about 45 minutes out of the city. His roommates had all flown in that day and were moving in to what would be their house for senior year. He had been getting call after call from his buddies who were hounding him about where he was and when he would get there. I remember feeling like he was probably dying to get to his place and see his friends and be there for the first night in their new house, but he kept not leaving.
I finally asked him about it as a means to give him an out, if he felt weird at all about cutting our time together short. He laughed and said he didn't care. He wanted to be here.
(I wasn't knowing how to handle this new... whatever it was... at all. So insert any nervous, teeth clenched, heart eyes emojis here)
I think my photo lab was over around 9 and so we got in the car to drive back downtown. On the way, I got the most bizarre call from my mom and it went something like, "We just need you to know how much we LOVE Kirby and if you want to stay out and keep spending time together don't even worry about calling or checking in cause IT'S FINE." (Desp mom trying to wed off her daughter but, let me tell you, it was the best. The best.)
We got to his car and did the awkward linger while we tried to figure out how to say goodbye like this for the first time. And somewhere in there he suggested that instead of saying goodbye, we just don't stop hanging out. And I was like DUH and so drove all the way back to my parents house with tall cans and a pack of chew (which I really wanted to try that night for some reason, which was really gross and made me barfy, *weird detail).
We sat on our trampoline and talked until 3 or 4 in the morning. His phone buzzed in his pocket on and off the whole time, but he never picked it up.
And that was it. From that night on it was him and me. We lived about 35 minutes apart and had pretty packed schedules but we developed our little rituals on when to see each other, when to sit on the patio at his house while we listened to Death Cab and Wilco on a giant boombox, when to lay on the trampoline in my parents backyard with a beer and a pack of smokes.
I continued to be my tried and true awkward, pushy self and famously made almost all the first moves including saying I loved him first (and then reneging the next day because he didn't say it back)(I'm so lame, I know) and whining about why he hadn't kissed me yet. That fall was perfect. It was surprisingly cold and rainy for SoCal. We watched every Wes Anderson movie there was including the documentary at the end of The Royal Tenenbaums, over and over. We made each other playlists. I had a photo of him tucked into my dashboard. He met all my friends.
He hated it, too. But that scared him. He came home feeling all sorts of weird feelings. I picked him up from the same airport I had a few months before with a new heaviness. He admitted that on the flight home he had planned to break up with me. It was crushing to hear the words. We drove 45 minutes up the coast and sat in his car by the beach in the rain. I remember drawing with my finger in the fog on the glass as we sat in the still sadness. It's funny now how sad it felt and how obvious the remedy was- just don't break up! But I also think it makes sense to feel a little wrong when you first realize how impossible life would seem without the person you're with, especially when you're young it and it's only been a short time. If I find my children feeling those heavy feelings someday, I'll be sure to tell them that realizing you're supposed to be with someone for the rest of your whole life can be really scary, but it's the right kind of scary. You've got to go into it.
One night we were sitting in a hot tub at a nearby apartment complex that we used to sneak into with his roommates. We were pretty deep in an intense conversation about our relationship and finally I snapped and said, "Look, do you want to be with me or not?!" Kirby's mouth was below the water line and he just sat.... staring. About a minute went by and, when you ask a person a question like that, a minute is equal to about 3 months. I was breathless waiting for his answer. Finally he lifted his chin up above the surface and said...
*This is the prime example of painful Kirby silence. He still does it but I'm used to having mini-heartattacks now so it works out.
We cleared the hump that night and decided that loving each other was just what we were supposed to do. It was the easiest, most obvious thing. So we kept doing it.
One day in February we were sitting in the kitchen at his house on campus and out of the blue he looked at me and said, "Do you ever feel like we should probably just get married?"
I didn't require any thought to answer yes. Yes.
It wasn't champagne or rose petals or sunsets. It was just us in a kitchen. It was just a nagging question and an obvious answer. It's sort of a shocking realization when you come to it, you know? You are the person that is going to be mine for my whole life. The entire story is you. It was a heavy, quiet moment, after I answered- with me perched on a countertop and him across from me in a chair. I don't know if I've experienced a more romantic silence than I did in the kitchen that night.
I walked to my car with a new secret that night. But I knew it wasn't the proposal proposal. He still wanted to buy a ring and talk to my father and all of that. So I hunkered down to wait...
It was February. Just over 7 months since that night in the restaurant, 5 months since I first picked him up at the airport, and 4 months until I'd marry him in the backyard at my parent's house.
... part 3 coming soon!!