“Well, I don’t want to play with you,” I muttered, my arms crossed in front of my body. This boy who lived a couple blocks down, decided he could just join our neighborhood capture the flag game, a summer tradition, and rewrite the rules. Not on my watch. I mean, I wrote up rules on a piece of paper, put it in a “Capture The Flag” binder – I don’t remember putting this kid through our strenuous vetting process. And now, he wants to play this game without girls. Huh. Since I was the admin, it just showed how ignorant he was to the whole shebang.
I disliked Nate from the start. He was a know-it-all (so am I), and so in elementary and middle school when we crossed paths, I kept my distance.
In high school, we meshed again. This time, we became friends when I started dating his best friend. Band geeks to the core, we were always thrown together in jazz, marching and concert band. From my vantage point on the floor where the first clarinets would sit, I would glance back from time to time to Nate sticking his drumsticks up his nose for my amusement. I would roll my eyes, and this exchange would continue until our band teacher would sigh and scold us out for not paying attention.
We worked together at a local grocery store, and I would always look at the schedule, extremely excited when we would work the same shift. Slashing boxes and putting up canned goods, we made every mundane chore fun.
Things started to change, and I thought, “No, no way. He’s my friend. I don’t like him like that.” Also, I was going to college soon and he would still be in the whole high school scene. But still, this lingering feeling took hold.
Finally, the week I graduated high school, I did the mature thing. I asked my cousin Elizabeth to ask Nate’s friend Adam if he liked me. This process usually takes awhile, but when it was confirmed, I was ecstatic.
It was puppy love all summer. We’d hold hands on walks through our town’s cemetery, to awkwardly stop, extremely shy of one another. I don’t think we even kissed until a few months later. And then there was the time we declared our “love” for one another.
“I, um, you know, feel really good around you. It’s, like, really this feeling, of you know? You know?” I feel that this rambling speech went on for a few minutes.
Throughout the years, we have argued, laughed, split up, gotten back together – the gamut. At times, we should have never gotten back together, but we did. We were horrible for one another, and then we’d be each other’s greatest advocate.
Last fall when we took that big leap and moved to New York, it said a lot to our determination to make this work. And it has. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but we try really hard. And the benefits have been worth it all. He’s my best friend.
So were we ready for the next step? Maybe. We talked it through many times, and I always thought he would propose on one of our many trips to Central Park. I kind of suspected something was going to happen soon.
So on Friday, when I took off my coat after coming home from work, his asking, “How was your day?” followed by my, “OK”, didn’t seem extraordinary. “Do you want it to be better?” Confused, I spun around and there he was on one knee with a diamond ring in a box. It definitely wasn’t what I had expected (which is good, because it’s nice to be surprised).
It didn’t take me long to let out ‘Yes” after he popped the question. And while I was flooded with emotion, a reel of our past – the good and the bad – started to play out in my head.
I never thought I’d end up with the stubborn little boy who didn’t want to play tag with me, but I did. And I’m glad.