“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Throughout the course of the year that had passed since my ex had left the state of North Carolina and departed from my life altogether, I spent a lot of time by myself coming to grips with who I was and what I wanted out of life. I faced my personal demons head on and I learned to accept and appreciate the new me. Although there were slight setbacks at times, I had been really enjoying life. And I didn’t feel compelled to search out a new relationship. I was actually pretty content with just allowing things to develop in due time, and that felt good. Perhaps my patience would allow me to find my perfect match.
I’ll never forget the day that I left that note at the front desk of my gym for the girl who had caught my eye at orientation a year and a half earlier. It was only a couple of days prior to our Thanksgiving break senior year. I was so incredibly nervous. My hands were clammy and shaking as I spoke to the woman up front. It had been quite awhile since I made a real effort to court anyone, so I was definitely not well prepared to make my move. And after all, this was not just your average girl. This was the person I had searched out on campus every day when passing through the quad since arriving at UNC. In my mind, I felt at that moment that she could be my dream girl…my future soul mate. I now had my opportunity with her. I’d be devastated if she decided not to take an interest in my advances.
Soon after returning from break, we would finally have the chance to connect with each other. I was at a bar on one end of Franklin Street with a couple of friends…He’s Not Here, to be specific. We had been doing some significant damage to the blue cups that evening. I had anticipated that I might see her that night, so I guess I was seeking out a bit of liquid courage. It wasn’t long before she called me and asked if I (along with my friends) would want to head down to East End Martini Bar to meet up with her and friends. We finished our beers and headed off to the opposite end of Franklin. She greeted me inside with a hug. And at that very moment, something beautiful began to develop.
I can’t begin to remember all of the details of that night. Partly because I had been drinking that evening and I had become a bit of a lightweight with alcohol since I didn’t indulge very often. But the main reason that my memory of that night is clouded is because I was so wrapped up in her. We had a blast with each other; it was one of the best moments of my life. I do remember her smile, her big blue eyes, the entire outfit she was wearing down to the finest accessory, and the way that she made me feel inside when we were alone. I remember her kiss; it had never felt so right with anyone. We drank, we danced, and we ultimately ended up taking about two hours to say goodnight…we couldn’t stop talking or kissing each other long enough to walk away.
That evening in Chapel Hill marked the beginning of a long romance between the two of us. We started dating and quickly fell hard for one another. I had been in serious relationships before, but this was like nothing else I had ever encountered. We connected on every level in such an intense fashion that we just could not ever get enough of each other. I was unbelievably attracted to her, to the point of near infatuation. And she felt the same about me…it was a very passionate and intimate relationship right from the start.
We quickly began spending all of our time with each other. If there was an opening in the day in between our class schedules, it was a safe bet that we would find ourselves together. We’d work out with each other at the gym, take afternoon naps at my apartment, and then we’d spend the evenings in each others’ arms as well. When we first met, she was living in one of the sorority houses on campus, but within a few months she had been spending so much time at my place that we decided to move the majority of her things to my apartment. And with that closeness our bond continued to grow.
It was great being able to share the college experience with her our senior year. We both had a passion for athletics, so she and I connected for the bowl game that winter in Charlotte, and we made it to countless UNC basketball games together including our amazing win over Duke at the Smith Center. We were even able to witness our Heels win the National Championship that season – something I’ll never forget. And we also met up daily on campus. During the Spring semester I scheduled an elective course within her major and we took the class together. We’d walk to class together across campus in the morning and exchange notes with each other the entire period most days…it was slightly immature, but cute, too…like a childhood romance. And most days we’d coordinate picking each other up when one of us was out of class and the other was in or doing a lab on campus. We were inseparable. But there was never a point where it felt like too much. It only got better with each passing day.
We both shared quite a bit of uncertainty about our plans following graduation. We knew that we didn’t want our relationship to end, but we weren’t sure where we were headed. I was hoping to live and work in a big city in the Northeast, and she had very little direction in that regard. Her family was from Florida and she was a bit of a free spirit at that time, so she was open to any and all ideas. Ultimately we settled on Philadelphia. She of course was also a transfer student at UNC and shared the same challenges that I had experienced with credits being lost. So she would need to take a course during the first summer session to meet her graduation requirement, although we would both walk on May 15th.
I flew to the city to interview for my first job just prior to graduation and was awarded the position. I would start the week after commencement. The plan was that she would stay at my apartment in North Carolina until she finished her summer course, and then we’d move in with each other in Philadelphia and begin our working lives next to each other. I’d be renting an empty space and sleeping on an air mattress until she arrived, but I was completely fine with that. I could not have been happier about our future together. I couldn’t wait to see her.
I felt like a kid at Christmas time the day that we began the move. My father had gone to North Carolina and had worked with my girlfriend at the apartment for several days packing things into boxes and preparing for the trek north. When I arrived that weekend I was shocked to see that they had done almost all of the hard work. She and my Dad were pretty close and that was really special to me. I really found a lot of comfort in her connection with my family. We loaded the cars and the UHaul and headed off on our way.
It was only shortly after our arrival in Philadelphia that my girlfriend accepted a position working downtown as gym manager. She was an Exercise and Sports Science major at UNC, and her job fit her strengths perfectly. Aside from the short daily train commute, she really enjoyed her position and working in Philadelphia. I worked in sales with my territory being Center City so we frequently had the opportunity to meet up for lunch or say “hi” throughout the day. It was a good time in our lives. We were sharing in the adventures of the real world, and although we weren’t getting rich, we were happy and in love. It was exciting.
I knew almost immediately that this was the woman with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I never really had any doubts. And in going over things and analyzing it in my head, I never once questioned whether or not it was right. I couldn’t foresee a life without her. I had met my best friend and my soul mate. I decided that I wanted to propose.
I did the gentlemanly thing and asked her father’s permission and he gave me his blessing, and then after purchasing the ring I planned my proposal. We would spend the night at the hotel where we stayed on our first visit to Philadelphia as a couple. And then we’d walk to dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on Broad Street. I coordinated the route so that we would find ourselves crossing into Love park…and next to the sign, just out of reach of the mist from the fountain, I bent down and asked for her hand in marriage.
She began shaking and asking me if I was serious…and then immediately answered, “yes of course!”.