I wrote this a few years into our marriage, but dusted it off and edited the number at the end to share this vignette with the grand bloggisphere today because...drumroll...this month marks ten years of marriage for hubby and me. Ten. Years. Incredible, huh? Especially since I'm only like 21.
It didn't happen all at once. When I first met Todd, now my husband, he was still in his last year of high school, and I was a college girl. I didn't spare him a second glance.
But he remembered me. And when he arrived at the same campus a year later, he bragged to his friends back home about sitting across from me in history class. The way he tells it, he was drawn to me from the start. And quietly, over the months and years that followed, I came to love him back.
My first real memory of my husband is his voice, rich and ethereal, soaring effortlessly from our choir risers. I stood beside him during our Christmas concert, close enough to breathe the woodsy-sweet scent of his cologne. I didn't dare let him catch me eyeing him, but later that night in the stillness of my dorm room, my face warmed remembering the way his hair parted into flaxen curls, how tall he seemed beside me. And oh, what a voice.
The following summer, we both traveled to Spain and Portugal on a missions trip. I was dating someone else at the time, but I observed Todd enveloped in the throngs of homeless children, eroding the language barrier with a puppet and a silly voice. Their eyes danced with his, and my smile was even broader than the kids'.
I started the fall semester of my junior year miserable from a raging fever and a throat swollen with tonsillitis. Todd appeared at my apartment door with a jar of homemade soup, the glass still cloudy with steam. I later returned the jar with a note scrawled to his mom, assuming she'd made the soup. He never corrected me, but years later I discovered that it had been Todd who labored over the noodles and broth.
And he kept showing up, quietly, in my days. My college soccer team was in its formative years, which is a nice way of saying we were pathetic. But leaning on the far fence at every home game, Todd stood, silently exuding encouragement. When rain carved muddy puddles in the field and slicked the ball to uselessness, his solid figure stood outlined against the grey, drenched and unwavering.
We grew into close friends, spending hours holed in a corner of the library, poring over scattered notes and textbooks. He'd call at 2 AM to make sure I hadn't dozed off studying for an exam. And since I lacked the luxury of a car on campus, Todd drove me to the supermarket for those college essentials: cereal, frozen pizza, ice cream. He'd smile as I paced the frozen food aisle, waffling between mocha fudge and chocolate almond. When I finally picked one, only to race back and exchange it for the other, he never uttered a syllable of complaint.
Once, I concocted something vaguely resembling a stir-fry and brought it to Todd's dorm, where we pinicked on dryers in the laundry room. I winced at each bite of burnt chicken and soggy zucchini, but he consumed it all, every rice grain, and bravely, gallantly asked for more. I could have kissed him on the spot.
Our first Valentine's Day of being "us," he arrived at my appartment to exchange gifts. We fought over something so trivial the details escape me, but I remember him stalking off in silence, leaving behind his shiny package dotted with hearts. And I recall my flaming tears of frustration, the cold dread of remorse, the unraveling of my insides as I watched him disappear down the sidewalk. And then I knew.
I knew that my life was so closely woven with his that I couldn't remember who I had been before him. That I didn't know--didn't want to know--who I'd become without him. That in the middle of all the exams and groceries and zucchini, I'd fallen hard for him. And that I'd give just about anything to never see him walk away again.
My mom asked me later, "What changed, Nicki?" I had always insisted he was just a friend, nothing more.
"Everything," I told her. "And nothing." He just grew on me, rooted himself in my heart, and when I wasn't looking, wasn't paying any attention, he intertwined my life so completely that I couldn't tell where he ended and I began. And I found myself inexplicably, overwhelmingly in love with him.
We've been married ten years now. Ten wonder-filled, exhausting, exhilarating years.
So it didn't happen all at once. But sometimes the best love grows out of breathing and living and knowing someone so much that you don't want to breathe and live and know anything else. Sometimes the best love is the one that was there, quietly, all along.