Thursday, May 8, 2014

How do you know?

I love skimming through the Facebook page for "Humans of New York." It's a pretty fabulous idea, really. A man with a camera walks around the streets of New York City and asks people to tell them a little bit about themselves. Sometimes they are funny...
"I've taken over five thousand portraits of people in New York, and I find out a little bit about everyone I photograph..."
"Well, you're not finding out a thing about me!"
Sometimes they are sad...
"I was never once afraid to fight. I was a brawler. A bull. I even fought in Madison Square Garden. But it knocked me out for a whole year when my mom died."
Today, one had me really thinking.
"I remember the first time that I knew I loved him and I was going to spend the rest of my life with him. We were driving down some back road in Utah, and we stopped at a light in front of an old water park, and he looked to the left to make a turn. And at that moment, I knew. And that night he kissed me for the first time."
"But you said he looked left. Weren't you sitting on his right?"
"Yeah, I was looking at the back of his head. Not quite as romantic, is it?"
I know people always say "When you know, you know!" when they feed you icky cliche quotes dripping with cheese about destiny and fate and timing. But you know what? I like cheese. And there really is no other way to put it, other than when you know, you really freaking know.

The beginning of our relationship was laden with crap that should have sent us running (and to be honest, one of us did try to run... But I convinced him not to). After knowing who he was since I was in grade school, we finally met in a bar while I was gulping whiskey, and still neither of us remember the details of the first few times that we hung out. It was supposed to be easy breezy and no strings attached. But after knowing each other for just over two weeks, on what was probably one of the worst nights of his life, he asked me to be his girlfriend. It was Halloween, and his kids were not brought home on time. In fact, they weren't brought home for another 20 days. He was miserable. He was erratic. He was a parent who didn't know where his babies were. I understood that he was probably only asking me to be his girlfriend because he was vulnerable, he was sad, and it was about to be the longest night in his entire life. So I stayed with him that night. And the next night. And the next night...

Two weeks later, and still no kids. It was also my 26th birthday. I was living in a tiny apartment in the ghetto (no really - g h e t t o!), and he decided he was tired of staying at his house without them there. He came over carrying a toothbrush and a 12 pack of Busch beer. He'd been in meetings with lawyers all day, and he looked like he'd aged about ten years in just thirteen days. By the end of the night, he was finally pissed off.  He punched pillows on my bed until the frame shook, and I remember thinking to myself Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?

And I immediately answered my own question: love

In that horrible second, I knew there was nowhere else I'd rather be. After knowing him for exactly 30 days, I knew that I was going to spend the rest of my life with him... while he was punching pillows, cursing the entire world, and having the most miserable, taxing, gut-wrenching moment of his life. That Human of New York was absolutely right. Falling in love is not always so romantic. Sometimes it's messy. Sometimes it's really hard. But it is always worth it.

Nine days later, after his kids were home and safe, he said it was time for us to call it quits. He said I deserved someone who didn't have messy situations, and he would be okay with just him and the kids. But I am a horribly stubborn woman so I didn't go anywhere. Three months later, we were painting the kitchen when he said, "Hey. I love you, too. You hear me?" I'm not sure how long he'd known it, but I figure it was somewhere between the whiskey on day 1 and not leaving him on day 39, even after he told me to go.

It's day 572. Every night we sleep on the pillows that he beat to a pulp, and every night I am reminded that when you know, you know.

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