the backwards love story, part dos

*I’m working my way through this a little bit out of order, starting with the engagement story here and then backing up to our first meeting below. The last chapter, that of me freaking the fuck out this summer in anticipation of us declaring our whole let’s spend our lives together! intentions to the rest of the world, will round out this trio soon. But now, part II, also known as the official beginning…

Dave and I met for the first time, as in the first real time, as in the first time where neither of us was marooned on a bathroom floor or intending to hook up with the other’s roommate, in June of 2007, in a hostel on a prime street corner in downtown Barcelona, right by Las Ramblas.

I was wearing a gauzy yellow top, sitting on a stool by the computers, slightly hungover and dehydrated after an epic night at what was eventually deemed to be a gay club, and then an epic day exploring the Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.

He was wearing a Penn shirt, which at first seemed to be a lucky coincidence, a perfect excuse to start a conversation, but then, like everything else, was ultimately exposed to simply be inevitable. (He had brought solely Penn t-shirts to wear during his five weeks of post-graduation travel. Go Quakers?)

Here I am, the day that we met, for real.

And here’s Dave, eating dessert at the restaurant we went to that night.

To explain to you how nervous I was, all I probably have to mention is that I didn’t order dessert after dinner. Yes, that nervous. Also, too nervous to insist or allow for a picture of us to be taken together. I have a shot of nearly every other moment of that entire trip, of my three and a half weeks spent crisscrossing Europe and sticking my toe in Asia, but I was too nervous to get one of me and Dave. I wanted to seem totally nonchalant that night,  didn’t want to act like it was a big deal that I had met this guy who I was totally falling for in an exotic Spanish city – even though under my breath all I could think was, howisthishappeningIamthecoolestpersonever! And my point-and-shoot simply didn’t fit in with the persona I wanted to project, the one who was trying to keep her shit together.

It was the only night I left my camera at home.

Not that I need it, of course.

I remember every detail of that night: the restaurant we went to, with the delicious tomato-rubbed bread; the hours we spent talking, about everything and nothing, in the common room until they kicked us out at 3 a.m.; the way he said “have a good rest of your trip” as the elevator doors closed to take him back down to his floor. “Have a good rest of your trip?” I repeated those words over and over to myself for the next week, alternatively pegging him as a callous asshole – “who says that! how impersonal!” – or as a sheepishly awkward science major, depending on which country I was in and what song had popped up as a backdrop on my ipod.

None of my friends can forget the encounter either, as I’m sure they’ll tell you. I wouldn’t stop babbling on and on about it: to Jon, as I nursed a sinus infection from my cousin’s house high up on the Italian hills overlooking the Mediterranean; to Amruta, in Istanbul, where I prattled on over mint tea and one too many tequila shots; and back home, where Bridget thought I was a lunatic for wanting to even show my face again to someone I had hooked up with in a bathroom. (The horror.)

I remember driving down to DC after I had landed stateside, riding shotgun alongside Nit with Meg flipping through maps in the back and turning to them and saying, I know this sounds crazy. I know I only spent a handful of hours with him. I know we’re not going to be living in the same place. I know it might not really happen for a while. I know all I have to go off of right now is a Facebook message from Paris and a promise to call. But I really think this is it. And them kind of nodding but also rolling their eyes and then going back to making fun of me for hooking up the weekend before with a 25-year old law student which – cringe – did seem dreadfully old at the time. And that was that.

Until, as these thing always go, it wasn’t. He called. We met in New York. He came down to see me in DC. And the rest is history.

Except, as these things always go for me, it wasn’t.

For someone who spends an inordinate percentage of her time devising detailed plans, I have a surprisingly tough time when those plans actually come to pass. Always being one step ahead of yourself – or two or four – can make the process of actually living your life nearly impossible. From almost our first date, I could see the whole future laid out before us, in a creepy crime show kind of way. We would date long distance for a year, and then he would move down to DC for a summer research gig, and then we would do long distance again, and then we would both move to Philadelphia for his rotations, and then we would get married and live happily ever after, just like my parents. (Double cringe.)

This internal monologue made things especially difficult for me at the beginning, when the facts of our relationship – we’ve known each other for a month! – didn’t quite match up to my feelings – I’m positive I’m going to marry this kid! Even my emotions themselves hadn’t quite caught up yet; I didn’t feel in love with him quite yet, but I was positive I would, and it was this relentless anticipating and waiting to catch up, waiting for other people (including him) to catch on to what I already knew (we’re going to be together forever!) that left me breathless and overwhelmed and slightly concerned about the very real possibility that I might be delusional.

Which, I understand, this ensuing engagement thing does not necessarily preclude. But at least now I’m delusional with a pretty ring on my left hand.

Thank you, Barcelona.

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