The problem with love at first sight is that it’s too easy. Too outwardly simple. It leaves no room for the imperfect, unfiltered journey through which love often weaves. And yet it exists, this indecipherable, beautiful, almost magical phenomenon of how we love, whom we love, and when. As if the choice is made beyond our control. Something we fall into.
Who can say if they were looking for love that night. He was a suburban boy who’d been drinking all day in the city. She was a city girl heading out with some friends. He was her best friend’s cousin; she fit his type “five-foot brunettes who love to have a good time.” They had seen each other in passing dozens of times, usually at the bar, joking, laughing, connecting in that casual, friendly way that typically meant nothing. So what made the night of February 8, 2014 any different?
“I walked through the door at [the bar], and it’s like it was meant to be,” R recalls.
B was already seated at a table when she joined him. He looked rugged and handsome and masculine and tall. “That’s, like, a man,” she thought. “That’s someone I could see being with.” The feeling was mutual. This wasn’t just some cute girl sitting beside him. He scoffs now at the word. Cute? His eyes squint, as if it’s the lamest description he’s ever heard. “She’s beautiful.”
Somewhere during their boozy run-in, he asked her out, and she accepted. Later that night, he’d tell one of her friends, “This is the girl I’m going to marry.”
Their first date was days later, at Ulysses’ Gastropub. “Would you like to sit at the bar or grab a table?” B asked as they walked in. “When R said ‘Bar,’ I thought ‘Yes! I’m in love’.” It would be months before they’d say the L word, but just days before they’d meet again. When they did, they ate Boston Market and watched Shark Tank, until finally, R asked, “Are you going to wish me a happy Valentines’ Day?” B wasn’t sure of the appropriate protocol. Was he supposed to? Was he not? He didn’t want to come on too strong, or not strong enough, especially with someone so “tough and intimidating.” “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he finally said. There was nowhere in the world he’d rather be.
By May 1st, they were official. But that question was a bit vague until R helped answer it when they went out for her birthday dinner, bumped into one of B’s friends and tried to navigate the awkwardness of introductions.
“Is it okay…?”
“To call me your girlfriend?” she interrupted. “Yes.”
They may have entered a new stage, but R was still the tough and intimidating girl who kept him on his toes. Literally. When she went to the beach that July, B took care of her house, her cat. He even disassembled and moved her treadmill. He wanted a “thank you.” Or a call back. She wasn’t quite sure what she wanted. She had become so accustomed to independence, to going out when she wanted, staying in when she wanted, making plans for herself, by herself, that it was hard to think of life as it fit into someone else’s.
They argued when she returned from the beach. Nothing too serious, though there was an audible nastiness in B’s voice when he answered the unknown number that called his phone. It turned out to be a woman from HR, offering the first interview for the job he would eventually land, which B took as a positive sign. He let go of the tension and the couple walked to the ice cream place a few miles down the road. Somewhere between her laugh and the farm cows, everything became easy again, and that was the day, July 25, 2015, that B realized he was in, that R was it, that he could have been over any other girl, but there was no getting over her.
That’s love, as B defines it. “When you love seeing that person every single day. When you don’t look at them like your girlfriend or fiancé or wife; they’re just your best friend. The first person you want to call. The first person you want to share your news with.”
The person with whom you want to watch sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. Or jam to at Eric Church concerts. Or drink at Phillies games. Or tube down the Brandywine on lazy summer days.
The person with whom you want to spend the rest of your nights.
There are no pictures of their engagement. No hashtags, no filters. It was a moment of their own, in a wooded pavilion, beside the lake. B chugged his beer as they walked to the water and then told her to stay there as he headed back for another drink. R knew something was up when he returned and set it down. “Is this real life?” she asked as he got on one knee. He may not have had the words for all that he felt, but that was an easy enough question to answer. “Yes,” he said. “This is real life.”
It’s one R can’t wait to begin. She remembers how handsome B looked that February night at the bar, how she thought, “He’s the kind of man I’d want to stand next to for the rest of my life.”
She didn’t yet know that he’d be the kind of man who would crawl on the floor with her niece and nephew and send her flowers six months before their wedding day and write her love letters and sing her country songs. “Damn,” she wonders now. “What’s that one he always sings?” It’s a song she loves, just as she loves his voice.
She loves B’s carefree spirit, how the only thing he ever asks her to wear is a smile, how deeply he cares about his family and friends, how warm she feels in his arms.
“I appreciate him for not rushing me, for not giving up on me,” she says. “And people give up so easily.”
The guitar strums as the words pour out of her mouth, the lyrics intoxicating but muffled under the murmur of the bar. It’s the song, the one she was trying to remember just moments ago, playing, indecipherably, beautifully, almost magically, just for her.
You’re as smooth as Tennessee whiskey. You’re a sweet as strawberry wine. You’re as warm as a glass of brandy. And honey I stay stoned on your love all the time.