Monday, February 15, 2016

Paying Attention to Defining Moments

I heard the door open as she walked into the lobby, where I had just finished the last performance in the third year of my undergrad theatre program. I was still in theatrical make-up, wrapping up the goodbyes to the cast and crew after a successful run. Thankfully, I had just played a Texas debutante in “Vanities” and didn’t look too weirdly made-up. I noticed her immediately. I swear I felt a jolt, an immediate connection. I heard a voice in my head shout, “Pay attention. This is your defining moment.”
On the left: NYC in 2014
On the right: 1989 in an Atlanta airport photobooth
I remember that moment very clearly. I can see her walking toward me as if it was just yesterday. I fell in love with her almost instantaneously. I had never loved a woman. I had never thought about being with one for the remainder of my days, but in that split second, I knew she was the ideal I had sought in my young twenty-six years. Later that evening, over drinks at a local bar with friends, when she touched me casually and something like an electric shock surged through my body, I was thoroughly convinced something magical was taking place. When people say they don’t believe in love at first sight, I usually just smile. I know it can happen. It happened to me.
I went home that night and had a talk with myself. I knew the journey would be difficult. The culture I was raised in would not accept my love of a woman. I knew custody of my child
would come into play. I knew this would be the hardest decision I ever made in my life, but it was also the easiest. I concluded, after hours of arguing with myself, that not taking this chance would haunt me for the rest of my life. I didn’t know if she felt the same way, but it was worth the risk to find out.
I drove by her house the next day and saw her in the yard. I stopped. With my heart beating out of my chest, I strolled up to her trying not to look desperate. She was watching a Braves game on a small TV she’d brought outside, sipping a Coors, and perfectly content with her life as it was. She had no idea that was about to change. She smiled and told me that her roommate, who was my best friend’s girlfriend at the time, was not at home. To my surprise and with a little until then untapped swagger, I boldly answered, “I’m not looking for her. I came to see you.” That was my first and only pick-up line offered to a woman. It seemed to have worked. She smiled again and offered me a beer. From that moment on, we have been together. It took a couple of weeks of casual dates and a pre-season softball party to secure the deal, but I’m so glad I took the chance that she too felt a connection with me.
February 12, 2016
We celebrated our twenty-eighth Valentine’s Day yesterday. We stayed home. I read research material while she watched sports and Jaws movies. I cooked her favorite meal. She brought me coconut water while I soaked my aching back in the tub. We laughed, we hugged, we sat next to each other not talking, each lost in our own activities, but I’ve never felt more loved. We don’t do extraordinary things on designated days of love because we love like there is no tomorrow every day.
The day I found the one, the one that still makes my heart pitter-patter 10,139 days after that first breathtaking moment, was the luckiest day of a happy life. Today, the day after the world’s official day of love is just another day of living with and loving the person that makes me whole. I am so grateful for her and that I found the great love of my life. I think the world would be a different place if we all had that kind of connection with someone. My life would have been so different if I had not listened to that voice that urged, “Pay attention, this is it, this is your moment.” I thank the stars that I believed in love at first sight back then. I certainly believe it today.
This book was inspired by our story.