Things have changed a bit in the time since I last posted. I feel like I'm in the "happily every after" part of the Great Beyond now.
I ended up not taking the job I'd accepted in San Diego. Instead, I'm working in a clinic in Santa Cruz. My last name is different. And we hope to have the keys to our new house in less than a month. Happily ever after, indeed!
Not long after that last post, I decided to get a hair cut. I'd had the same long straight hair since...second grade. It went through various stages of dead ends and disrepair as I'd go a year or more without time for a haircut. I decided it was time for a change. After all, I was about to start my career after residency and maybe I would have time to blow dry it and get it cut a little more often. Maybe, in short, I would have more time to take care of myself. One could only hope.
So I went to a salon highly recommended by Jane and told a petite asian woman with perfect long stylish hair to "fix me." She was an artist--a stylist with all the vision I lacked for my locks. After over an hour, I came out a new woman (or at least that's how I felt). My hair was above my shoulders in a shallow a-line. I had bangs (actually "fringe") brushed over my left eye brow. They'd done my make up and sold me the products I would need to maintain the new look. I decided to go to the beach to celebrate.
From the grassy knoll over-looking the PB pier, I took a picture and posted it on facebook. The comments were copious and favorable and I was feeling smart and strong and pretty again over the next couple days.
One of the last comments was from a friend of mine from my UCSC Dante Seminar class. He suggested that I needed to start a whole new fan page for my haircut.
I got butterflies. He was one of those men about whom I'd always wondered. He'd offered support from afar (Taiwan where he taught english for two years) via email when Mike and I were struggling. We'd exchanged maybe an email per year on average in the ten years since we'd seen each other. I remember having a crush on him in the confusion of college romances.
I researched him on fb. He didn't have any pictures of himself posted. He was teaching special education high school students back in Santa Cruz again. His profile picture was of a beach. I started to have a crush again.
I messaged him. We resumed esoteric discussions and caught up on the paths our lives had trod. Though I did enjoy the depth of the intellectual conversations, I knew I could not sustain that all of the time. I remembered he'd been equally as nerdy as I in college and started to think it was nice that we'd reconnected but long-term I could not constantly inhabit such an academic space.
Despite this, I had started incessantly checking my email and fb messages hoping he'd responded to my long daily responses to his long daily responses. One afternoon, I found a short message from him: "I was just thinking about you and wanted to say hi: Hi! :-)" I breathed a sigh of relief and thought we might have something after all.
At one point, he'd mentioned that if I was ever up in the bay area again (I'd been up to visit friends several months before), we should meet up for lunch. As our email correspondence continued, I started to figure out soon I could plan a trip up north. And in the meantime, he suggested that it might be nice to talk on the phone instead of only writing. We set up what would be our first of many "phone dates."
His voice sounded the same--deep and comforting and still familiar. I was nervous and talking fast. I felt myself slow down as I listened to him and a calm orb started to glow in my chest. At one point, I quoted "Anchorman" and he later told me that was a big points-winner in his book.
We talked twice more on the phone before I went up to see him. Actually, Jane and I had originally planned to road trip up together on Memorial Day Weekend 2010 and see him and visit other friends and hang out in Big Sur. Jane decided to go to the Strawberry Festival with my mom (I think she was actually wanting to give me a chance to spend time with M). When I told him, he asked if I was still planning on coming, though. I wanted to. He said that perhaps he should play it coy and not act too excited about it, but that he was really looking forward to seeing me.
By the time I flew up there after leaving early from our med-peds annual retreat where my two male fellow residents who has witnessed the destruction of my previous few relationships had grilled me about this new prospects suitability, I was Nervous (capital N). Would I even recognize him? Should I hug him? What were we going to do all weekend? What if it didn't go well? I wasn't even sure he would have a place for me to sleep since he'd confessed recently that he'd been sleeping on a couch the last couple years. (Though he said I didn't need to bring a sleeping bag, "There will be a place for you to sleep.") Oh boy. And, Jane and mom and Colin and Becky were all out at the Strawberry Festival out of cell phone reach. I was Nervous.
He met me at the airport and I did recognize him (and he still looked as handsome as I'd remembered--if not more so). We did hug. Over the weekend we: went to Ikea, ate at Taqueria Vallarta, ate at Zachary's, hiked Natural Bridges (he slipped once and I helped catch him--the first time we touched hands), listened to music, talked, walked his dog, visited his classroom, and started to fall in love. And I did have a place to sleep. He'd bought a king-sized bed and new sheets and was really sweet when he showed it to me and said he wanted me to be the first one to sleep on the sheets.
I wasn't still wasn't sure he was romantically interested until we were sitting on the couch the second night I was there and he took my hand and said, "So, Miss S, what should we do with you?" I snuggled up to to him and cleverly said something like, "I don't know." The music started to skip a little later as we were talking and he didn't want to get up to change it and end that first hand holding.
Needless to say, the weekend went well. He drove down to seem me a few weeks later, with many long phone conversations in between. Bryce told me I was a like a teenage girl again, but not really again because I'd never been that giddy and obsessed with phone calls as a teenager.
I flew up a couple times more. On my second or third trip up, I decided to start looking for a job in the area. He felt committed to finishing four years with his students at least and I was in transition anyway. And we knew then we wanted to be together. I asked him at one point, more for realistic argument than anything else, if I should get my own place when I moved up. We both thought it was a silly idea.
He planned a trip to Kauai for the last week of September, 2010 and we spent a week snorkeling, hiking, looking for sea turtles (in vain) and enjoying our fancy four-pool resort and frequenting our favorite breakfast spot. On the day before we were scheduled to come back, we were swimming under a waterfall and he asked me if I thought it would be a good place for me to ask him to marry me. I got pretty bashful and think I said something oh-so-original as, "Really?!!"
We flew back to LA all giddy and engaged and stuff. Mom and Bryce met us at the airport and gave us my car which I'd already packed before I'd left for Kauai. We'd planned to drive up to what was soon to be our first place before we started out on the trip.
Ten months later we were back in Kauai getting married on the Hanalei Bay Pier with by brothers in lilac shirts with man leis performing a hilarious and heart-felt ceremony (M had ordained them online with the Church of Life or something). Jane and Becky had made me a beautiful simple bouquet and everyone was taking pictures (though Jane was the official wedding photographer). Becky did my hair and she and Jane tied me into my corseted lace beaded strapless dress. The dress was everything I thought I hadn't wanted and too fancy for a destination wedding but ended up being totally perfect.
It had started to rain on our way to our first wedding site (a big lawn near a little green church we'd liked), so we decided on our plan B (which ended up being way better anyway). As we were a self-contained caravan of five cars with the two of us plus 19 guests, with M and I in the lead car with his parents in the back seat (his mom not super thrilled with my theme of premeditated lack of planning, though she loved how it all turned out in the end), we just made a u-turn headed toward the pier.
M. asked a portly man along the way how to get there and the man said there was no pier on Hanalei Bay. M's mom got even quieter in the back seat. M found it pretty quickly though (it did indeed exist as we'd visited in on our trip there ten months prior).
The wedding was amazing--simple and loving and beautiful. We all met at an Italian restaurant afterwards and M and I had changed in to matching blue boutique Bali outfits. Toasts were made and love was spread and food was shared.
We spent the rest of the week visiting with everyone going back to our favorite breakfast place and snorkeling with sea turtles. I did have to go to the ER two days after the wedding where the doctor there let me tell him what I though he should do (an ultrasound as I though it was an ovarian cyst and I didn't want the radiation of a CT). Ended up I had an ovarian cyst the size of a nerf football (which has since been removed laparoscopically this last October). The sickness and health part came in sooner than I'd expected! He takes good care of me.
Happily Ever After...to be continued!