We had met nearly a year before. That might not seem significant in the grand scheme of a long and adventure-filled life, but then, the college years…those were dog years – a lifetime in every moment. Seven years in one. SO MUCH happened in the course of a single day, if not to you, then to your best friend, to whom your soul was knit. Or else you learned something entirely new at your 11:15 Woman’s Studies class that you had never known before. The world just kept opening up. Romantic entanglements, unexpected connections, sudden flutterings of feeling came unbidden yet welcome, infusing every day with a particular kind of intensity. That’s where we met; in that little window we spotted each other across the proverbial Crowded Room. To take the theatrical metaphor one step further, I feel like we wandered into this little gazebo, smack in the middle of a rainy, misty autumn afternoon, not the least bit surprised to find each other there, but sort of mystified at the timing. In retrospect I think we knew, even then, that the timing was somehow right, somehow pre-ordained.
(And you know, sometimes I think that these movies and books that so shape me are just coincidence. And then sometimes, like right now, I know that I have found my life’s manuals – my own metaphorical vernacular. The Sound of Music Gazebo. Drinking cognac on Emile DeBeque’s balcony. The Prince Edward Island gazebo when Anne finally meets Gilbert again and begins to know her destiny. That scene in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan finally sees Tom Hanks in the garden and sees the truth. These things taught me who to be, and what to hold out for.)
So, where was I? Yes. Finding each other. I’m writing this now without benefit of my real-time descriptions of things. My journals are filled with the moment to moment details of this love story, up to the second reports of what he was wearing, what he ate for breakfast, how he caught my eye across the table at Dunkin Donuts. I’m not looking there now. What you’re reading now is revisionist history. It’s all tinted by a perspective made up of two daughters, and family tragedies, and health issues, and years of favorite shows and weekends away and quiet nights on the back porch beside the chiminea.) This tale-telling is not without bias. There will always be bias now.
We met a number of times before we really “met.” These didn’t seem particularly significant then, but looking back, they contributed to the whole picture of the person I began to know that autumn. But, he had a girlfriend at the time. That was pretty simple. And I had a boyfriend at the time. So even though there were some confusing glimmers, I dismissed it. I wrote about it, so it obviously itched something inside, but I dismissed it. Then the boyfriend behaved foolishly. I could have worked it out, but by then, I had become distracted. I hadn’t meant to. I hadn’t planned it, but I lost some focus, and so the “breaking up” path with the boyfriend became more clear. (It would muddy later; this is a multi-layered story. But that gets a chapter - or two -of its own.)
So, I was free and ready. Free for the walks on the athletic fields after rehearsal, with no one noticing we were missing. Free for a planned but unplanned “Who knew YOU would be here?!” breakfasts at the DC. Free for an impromptu skip-classes-and-take-the-bus-to-Northampton day. I had played both sides of the romantic equation – been the pursuer and the pursued. I hadn’t done the waiting thing, though. Not like this. I would have much preferred a number of other romantic scenarios, but this was the one that had found me. This grey-eyed boy with the argyle sweaters and the quiet passions and the wells of sadness and the artistic soul had wandered in and no use protesting. He had arrived, and he was that Someone I had Been Longing to See.
Many months passed, and I know that those stories will be told eventually; I really do think that they’re worth the telling. But this story, this First Kiss story is the one for today.
The whole school year went by, ups and downs and way downs, during which we mostly avoided each other, and then we left for the summer. I fantasized and ruminated, but I went home with thoughts of other boys, and he went home still with a girlfriend (who lived in the next town over) and still with all the cards in his deck. I had made myself very clear, and I intended to non-passsively wait it out. I would keep it simmering on the back burner, but continue to entertain whatever came along. Some wonderful things came along; summer fireflies of feeling, and I loved them. But then he called me out of the blue on a day I was so sad, and I made a decision. I decided then and there to take my own leap of faith, put all my eggs in that one basket, and to close some other doors to make room for this one, the one that was supposed to be opened in exactly its own time.
On the day he called me to ask me on a carefully worded non-date, I knew without his telling me that this journey had begun. He never said that the girlfriend was gone, but I somehow knew. Almost a week later, on another sunny summer’s day, I drove to his hometown for our first date. That, too, is its own story, complete with a picnic under a tree where butterflies flew out from under my sundress. (And I could not make that up if I tried.) The day was full of quiet confessions, revealing histories, tentative testing of the waters. It was the following week that we made a plan for me to come up and get him, and bring him home to Hull to spend the night (in the Pink Room, which was the name for the guest room at our house) and take him to see my summer show, the trainwreck of a musical called Bring Back Birdie at YPST, which was also one of my most cherished theater experiences ever.
After the show, we went to the cast party for a while, then came back to my house and decided to take a midnight walk on Nantasket beach. It was chilly - sweatshirt weather, and everything was so still. He had been very quiet for most of the night. I had attributed it to having to listen to the worst score in the history of musical theatre, but when we got to the beach, he finally started talking. About his concerns about it - us - being too soon. He’d just ended a long and intense relationship. He needed time, space, he needed…He walked away, toward the water, leaving me standing there, knowing that it was done. He wasn’t ready, or I wasn’t the right one, or it wasn’t worth the trouble it would cause. It was finished. When he walked back toward me, he looked straight into my eyes and said, “I love you, Kelly.” And he kissed me. It was a kiss of surrender, and relief, and determination, and so profoundly worth the long, long wait.
It was Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. It was the Captain and Maria. It was Anne and Gilbert, but more…better…it was us. Patrick and me, after what seemed forever, and I had been right. It had been worth it. He was the One, and I had held out for exactly the right cinematic, ocean-breeze filled moment. It was the Best First Kiss.
We’ve had our bumps along the road, Patrick and I, but more than anything, we have lived a passionate love story. I will write this story in all its messy glory someday, and my girls will see a living example of what I hold to be most evident: that the answers to every question already lie within them, and when they find the right road, they will always know. They will know with every fiber of their being, and there will be a soundtrack, and perfect scenery, and the chemistry…yeah, chemistry…of Right. Just…Right.