How We Met: Part 1
It’s so important to remember when and why we fell in love with the person we love. This is going to be long because I like details and because Simon is sleeping right now and because nobody is forcing you to read this and because someday our kids will want to know this story and because I may start fudging the details unintentionally later on.
Our story goes back to early 2001. I was attending college at Cal Poly Pomona and discovered an opportunity to do a semester long exchange at another US based college. Immediately, Texas came to mind. All the stereotypes were appealing to my city girl upbringing – the flat land, the cowboys, the boots, the belt buckles, the accents, the slower pace of life, and the cows with the long horns that I later learned were called…wait for it… Longhorns. I had even mentioned in a family newsletter YEARS prior that someday I would go to Texas, find a Baptist Cowboy, and wrangle him back to California. I happened upon this exchange program after the cut off date and should not have been able to go. Yet with the help of a very sweet and determined college counselor, I was checking in to my dorm at the University of North Texas a month later. Thank you, Peggy. Your persistence changed many lives.
The semester was a blast. There were so many rich experiences and new friendships. For the full “local” experience, I got a part time job at a grocery store in town. One of my favorite coworkers was a guy named Paul. We spent lots of time together, always platonic. We would drive to different places in Dallas and talk about life, God, and our friends. Paul would especially like to talk about his best friend, Simon. At the end of that semester, Paul let me host a dinner at his house, which was actually a trailer. Single wide. Gosh, I love Texas. Anyway, I had just finished portioning out everyone’s plates with not a lick of food left, and Simon shows up. The nerve! I had to scrape food off of all the other plates to create the additional plate for him. I was later informed (as in, years later) that Paul had invited him and just forgotten to tell me.
A few years passed. Paul and I would chat on the phone occasionally. We would catch each other up on life – he always had something good to mention about Simon. In September 2003, I flew out to Denton to visit Paul and other college friends for the weekend. That Sunday evening, Paul had to attend a meeting for youth workers at his church so I went along for the ride. We walked into the meeting room and Simon was the first face I saw. He couldn’t remember my name, so he just said, “What’s up, California?” I melted. I did not remember him being so handsome, slightly nerdy, and friendly. He even met my preferred-but-not-required wish of being taller than me (I’m 5’9″) and skinny (’cause that’s how I like ’em). But I played it cool too. Saying what’s on my mind and being extroverted had tended to scare off the male population so I put on my best manners and chatted with him briefly, doing my best to act only slightly interested as only a melodramatic 23 year old could.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Paul and I were heading out for dinner with friends. I told Simon he was welcome to join us. He said he had already eaten. My hopes were dashed. This dinner-crashing fellow with the thick East Texas accent really was a jerk. But 20 minutes later, Simon showed up at the restaurant. Confused, I asked him why he was there since he said he wasn’t coming. His response? “I said I had already eaten. I didn’t say I wasn’t coming.”. Folks, that’s the smart aleck stuff I have been dealing with ever since. And I love it. Most of the time. The next day, which was also the last day of my trip, all of my friends mysteriously ended up being busy. Simon said he would come hang out with me and, still trying to hide my true feelings, I casually agreed and probably even said, “whatever” for the continued dramatic, aloof effect.
Simon and I spent that entire breezy September day talking. We ate and talked. We walked and talked, We played the board game Mastermind and talked. We went to a bookstore and talked. We covered just about everything – politics, our favorite kinds of music, religion, views on morality, medical histories, favorite foods, past mistakes, future dreams. We thoroughly discussed so many topics that normal people probably don’t discuss until many dates later AND STILL LIKED EACH OTHER. I still remember that day so vividly. What we were wearing, the way the sun and wind felt, the way I felt alive, the smile I couldn’t wipe from my face.
Then night came. I returned the rental car, boarded the return flight, and watched the Texas horizon grow smaller while my mind raced faster. He was in Texas, I was in California. How could this ever work? I cried as the bright lights of Los Angeles guided the plane home.