He had a cocky smirk on his face when our eyes meet, almost like a child who got caught stealing from a cookie jar. Crowds of kids swirled on and off between us. Instinct declaring upon a single glance I would be burned alive, yet oxygen was fueling the flames inside my veins. Ignore it my head sang but it was too late, I couldn’t tear myself away.
How does a chance encounter end up laying the foundation to something extraordinary? What are the odds of meeting the one person who could derail all of the plans I had so carefully crafted? At an event I wasn’t supposed to addend no less.
Yet there he was, with a grin permanently plastered across his face. As if he had already won the war even though my stubborn nature was still trying- failing to rebel. My cheeks flushed poppy pink. I could barely make out the shape of my own hand let-alone guess the trajectory which this night would take us. Glow sticks were waved into the air as school advisors cranked fog machines to max capacity.
When the cloud cleared, he was in the middle of awkwardly peeling another girl’s hands off his body. Wait a minute… how dare she? Yet he was still looking at me. I lifted my chin to meet his gaze while heat crept up my spine. The girl was persistent. Her hands balled into fists which gripped his T-shirt as they danced even though he was becoming exacerbated with her. So, I squared my shoulders, waltzed over, and I cut between them to take what was mine…just as the beat was getting good.
“You looked like you needed rescuing” I mused into his ear.
“I’m so glad you stepped in to save me.” His voice sounded husky.
He was exactly a foot taller than me. Lean, with brown eyes which turned to gold in the flash of a strobe light. His dark hair curled a little on the ends and he had to hunch over to meet my small frame. Something between us felt perfectly clear as we danced our way towards curfew.
“What’s your name?” He asked but I could hardly hear.
“You can call me Lish.”
“No. L-I-S-H.” Confusion furrowed his brow.
“My name’s Rob.” He said, and I was left feeling spellbound encompassed by his arms.
Outside glossy gymnasium doors, the teachers had hauled tables from the cafeteria. We grabbed water bottles out of ice chests which were provided and re-hydrated before heading home for the night. If I had been less naive, I might have noticed he was rather inebriated. Instead, I handed him a slip of paper containing the phone number he had asked for, and hoped he would call. To this day we’re convinced he accidentally used it to smoke a joint.
Freshmen year of high school Rob had been an honor roll student who spent the summer playing football. He was in band, taught himself how to read music, and played several different instruments. He tried out and made it onto the swim team. He won second place in the state for a math competition, even though his calculator broke less than halfway through it. While everyone else had the advantage, Rob tackled equations in his head. He was smart, driven, and accomplished.
By sophomore year none of his achievements measured up to the allure of spending time with the wrong people doing the kind of things which got him into trouble. Rob and his friends ran from the cops after being clocked going far above the posted speed limit. Rather than face jail, his brilliant idea was to lose the tail by sneaking into a subdivision and parking in a stranger’s driveway. He forgot to take his foot off the brake and was caught over the glowing lights that bounced off the pavement.
It should come as no surprise after searching his jean pockets the following day, the phone number I gave him at the dance was nowhere to be found. It also shouldn’t come as a shock when I was told by a mutual friend about Rob’s more wild behavior, I decided I wasn’t interested anymore. The spark of electricity between us was quickly snuffed out by my stubborn nature and refusal to settle.
The following Monday Rob looked for my face throughout the hallways at school. Yet when I was finally located, I turned on my heel… to head in the opposite direction. There was no way I was getting sucked into making the same mistake twice. He assumed I was angry because he never called.
When the new class schedules were handed out the following semester, I showed up to P.E prepared to do whatever it took to avoid exercising. I waltzed into the weight room and ran right into Rob. His body towered over mine and his mouth was wearing that smile again.
On the track, we were manipulated by our teacher into running for a passing grade. I pulled my hair into a ponytail and stretched out my hamstrings even though I planned to jog at a walking pace. I linked arms with one of my girlfriends out of solidarity and when the whistle blew… we practically crawled towards the finish line.
“Hey Trish!” Rob shouted.
“If you can’t bother to remember my name… you and I are not on speaking terms.” I quipped.
Using his long legs and height to his advantage, he embarrassingly sprinted from one classmate to another.
“Do you know what the redheaded girl’s name is? I need to know so I can get her to talk to me.”
By the time he had it figured out, he had already lapped me and was running backwards with his hair blowing in the breeze. There was a glimmer in his eyes and a wicked smile crept across his lips as he faced my direction.
“I’m going to convince you to go out with me Lish.”
“Over my dead body.” I laughed with conviction.
Seventeen years of marriage, eighteen years together, and over twenty years of friendship. I still can’t believe that he talked me into it. Waking to find his fingers tangled in my hair and his lips covering mine, taking walks together on rainy days, and kissing underneath streetlamps. There is nothing more enchanting than strolling through this messy life with his hand in mine.
Happy anniversary week to us!