(Reed’s Song of the Day: Hey Thanks, by the Wonder Years)
Today I’d like to share with you all a sickeningly sappy tale.
My girlfriend and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day – not because of some kind of protest against commercialized love, but because our anniversary is on the 17th. This Saturday, we’ll be at 4 years, which is kind of crazy to think about.
4 years is a long time to be in a relationship. It’s an even longer time to be stuck with someone like me.
But in all seriousness, I’d like to mark the occasion by sharing the “how we met” story with the internet. Even my family and friends who read this blog may not have heard the entirety before. Despite raving all the time about how incredible Lindsay is, I don’t find a lot of opportunities to talk about the whole story.
Let’s start in September 2013, just a few days into my sophomore year of college, when I first saw Lindsay in the common room of the dorm we shared. I was a sophomore and she was a brand-new freshman.
My first thought was Wow, this girl is beautiful. I wish I had thought something a little less stereotypical and vapid, but hey. It’s what I thought. And she was beautiful – breathtakingly so.
She was also very quiet. She hung out with my friends and I a lot, and we developed a kind of core group of people on our floor in the dorms, but I never really got to know her. She always seemed so background, and I assumed – again, wonderful male douchebaggery here – that she had a boyfriend, because “Why would any girl that beautiful not have a boyfriend?”
I know. I have no excuses for the way I thought back then. All I can say is I try my hardest now to not put Lindsay on such a two-dimensional and body-centric pedestal.
So anyway, I didn’t really talk to Lindsay. Still, there were moments where I was able to see a little more of who she was. We used to host movie nights at least once a week in the dorms and sometimes there would be just a few people in attendance, and so I would end up sitting next to her and chatting about stuff before and after the showing. I realized just how sweet of a person she was – and that was my exact second impression. Sweet.
But I still didn’t even attempt to flirt with her. I tried to squish any feelings I had for her. I didn’t want to be let down by another girl.
Anyway, about midway through the year, we were getting late night food at one of the dining halls in the dorms. Lindsay had talked on previous occasions about the kind of crazy shit that can go down when her blood sugar gets too low. So when in the middle of the line she started to get woozy and weak, I kind of freaked out.
I brought her inside – rushed her, if I’m being honest – and grabbed her a cup of soda to drink. The time I sat with her, making sure she was okay, I realized how trembly I was. And when she looked up at me and thanked me for helping her, I had this thought.
Oh, shit. I kind of really like her.
Things went strangely quick after that, as they usually do with me when I finally admit I’m interested in someone. I asked her roommate about Lindsay and found out that in fact, she didn’t have a boyfriend, but she would always get super awkward around guys if she knew they were interested in her and she didn’t reciprocate.
Somehow that didn’t deter me. It was getting into winter now and I was spending more time with her – trying to be physically close with her during movie nights, making excuses to hang out. I even invited her to our Organic Chemistry class to sit in on lecture, where she would spend the whole hour drawing things on the back of my right hand while I was taking notes with my left.
I know, it’s like fourth grade flirting.
I thought it might be a good idea to ask her out on Valentine’s Day. My friends talked me out of that particular endeavor. Still, I found myself filled with a kind of nervous energy that weekend (which also happened to be President’s day weekend, so it was a long one). I decided I wanted to go for a walk around campus, and I went around to all of my friends asking if they wanted to come.
Only one person accepted.
So instead of having a planned date with Lindsay that night, I went for a walk around campus with Lindsay that night. It wasn’t a date, but still, it was the first time I’d ever been alone with her for multiple hours.
I asked her what kind of music she liked. She told me cinematic music, like “Time” from Inception. I asked her what the most important thing in her world was. She said family. I asked her what her biggest fear was. She said her grandparents dying.
I think I fell in love with her right then.
I was still sure she wasn’t interested in me, but at the very least, spending time with her was incredible. She had to go away that weekend on a trip with her family, but I spent the whole time thinking about her.
Well, that and one other thing.
See, we do this thing at UCLA called “tunneling”. There are a series of access tunnels that go under the school, through which steam and electrical and water pipes travel. Punk-ass kids like myself who like to do illicit things can pop a bolt on certain doors in campus, enter these tunnels in the dead of night, and go around looking at certain UCLA sights that don’t exactly appear on maps of the campus. Like an underground bridge below the gardens. Or the basement of the research library where they keep old texts in other languages. Or even, if you’ve been taught by someone who knows the way, up into the towers of Royce Hall, our performance building and one of the iconic UCLA sights.
Because I was the only one who knew how to tunnel, I took our friends a lot. We went that Saturday evening while Lindsay was gone, and when she came back she said to me, half-jokingly, that she couldn’t believe I’d gone without her.
I said half-jokingly back that I could take her that night – the early morning (like 2am) of February 17th – but that, because everyone else had gone on Saturday, it would just be the two of us. I fully expected her to try to extricate herself from a creepy situation like that.
Instead, she said, “Okay.”
Let me tell you, winding your way through the bowels of UCLA with the girl you have an enormous crush on, still not entirely sure she’s at all interested in you, is terrifying. I spent that entire night jumpy as hell, hoping that one way or another this confusion would be resolved.
At about 3:30am we arrived up in the Royce towers, from which you can view the entirety of campus. She was all eyes – looking out at the buildings lit up in the night – while I was trembling and sweating up a storm. I had never been good at making any kind of move, and despite being up in an incredibly romantic setting alone, I found myself petrified.
So I went for the casual physical contact, to try to gauge interest. Here’s how it went:
Me: *puts hand on the small of her back and kind of scratches her*
Her: “That feels nice….”
Me: So she’s okay with this, at least!
Her: “…my mom used to do that when I was sick.”
Hold up, your mom? You’re thinking about your mom at a time like this?!?
Suddenly, everything was in disarray. All the signals I’d thought I’d picked up on during our Valentine’s Day walk were suddenly suspect. Did she even know what I was trying to do? Or was she just oblivious to the messages I was trying to covertly send? My mind was chaos.
In the end, I honestly think it was the late hour that did it. It was approaching four in the morning, and she turned to me and said, “Thank you so much, Reed. This was such an incredible night.” And I was so tired of being adrenalized, so tired of trying to figure out whether she was interested in me, that I just went for it.
I said something like, “I can think of one way we can make it even better.” (Smooth, I know.) And then I kissed her.
And when I pulled away, she was smiling. So of course, being me, I immediately said, “Wait, you wanted that? Like, you like me?”
And she said yes, to which I responded, “But… why?”
I’m not kidding. We spent a little more time kissing and then there was a long journey back to the dorms, and the entire time, I was pestering her, trying to figure out why she was interested in me. What could make somebody like her – somebody so incredible, inside and out – want somebody like me?
She just shrugged and said she didn’t know.
You know, it’s funny – I was at the rock wall in our gym the other day and the guy who runs it told me not to worry about the “grades” they give the trails which determine their difficulty. He said, “don’t let the numbers bother you.”
And without thinking, I said back, “The only time I didn’t let the numbers bother me was when I asked Lindsay out. And that’s the only time I need.”
I’m still really self-deprecating in my humor. I still like to joke about being a five dating a ten, and it’s not okay. But the thing is, I’m lucky. I’m so incredibly lucky to be with Lindsay, not just because she’s beautiful or sweet or interested in me, but because she helps me to understand that I am every bit as perfect for her as she is for me.
Here’s to you, Wizzy. I hope you’re not a blubbery mess right now, considering you’ve heard this all before.