I met my husband when I was 18. He was 24, and it wasn't love at first sight, but there was intrigue. The first time we crossed paths was in Atlanta, where we both were attending a Catholic conference for young adults. Friends of mine from my travel-abroad program were meeting there, and I jumped at the chance to explore a new city for the weekend. That Saturday night everyone was meeting at a bar, and I bumped into him. I discovered that he went to college with the same girls I studied with in Rome.
We met again a few months later; this time in Mexico at the end of a week-long mission trip preceding Easter-- La Semana Santa [Holy Week]. About 100 young adults from our group gathered there to build schools, host events for the families, and celebrate preparatory Easter traditions with the people of the respective villages outside of Guadalajara. I distinctly remember seeing him speak Spanish with such authenticity and charisma, that I was kind of taken aback, since he is not a native speaker. On the very last day of the mission, we exchanged a quick hello. He told me he had just moved to the New York area where I was also living. I mentioned our previous encounter in Atlanta, and he didn't remember it; he said he met a lot of people that night.
At the airport the next morning, I noticed him, sitting across the room at the departure gate across from mine. We exchanged glances, but didn't speak. My pride was still a little bruised that he didn't remember our exchange in Atlanta. That comment crept inside of me and stayed there, like a feral cat; coming out once in a while only to feed. I think it was a funny way to get me to think of him often, and wonder about him, and wonder if he'd ever remember me.
That summer, I was living at home while studying at the nearest campus of the Connecticut State University, my mom mentioned she was having a few priests for family dinner. This was a normal occurrence in my parent's house, so I thought nothing of it. About ten minutes before their arrival, my mom hinted a "young man" my Dad knew would be joining too; she said he was new to the area and probably needed a good Italian meal. My eye roll could have been heard across the room. I was in a period of my life after a particularly difficult relationship where I had sworn off dating, and most especially, I had sworn off getting set up by my parents.
When I think of that dinner now, it glows, golden in my memory. I remember him coming into the kitchen with a gigantic smile, greeting everyone and relating his lifelong devotion to Italian bread. The shop in his hometown was once visited by Jack Nicholson, who claimed it was the best Italian bread he had ever tasted, and an autographed photo of him hangs proudly over the cash register to this day.
He was taller than I remembered. He was more muscular than I remembered, and well-dressed too. I was feeling inner tension over my initial attraction, wanting to reject it to spite my parents, but we laughed so hard that night. Everyone did. The priests were funny and their stories were funnier. They were also intent on having this "young man" sit across the table from me, but made it known with such discretion that I had to look down at my lap and try not to blush while they rearranged everyone's places. There were a few moments during the dinner that I could see a depth in him I had not seen before, and the intrigue grew.
To this day, my mom laughs about the fact that I got up from the table and offered to make coffee for everyone-- not something that usually dawned on me when we hosted a big crowd because I was usually too involved in conversation to notice dinner was over. I think I subconsciously needed a few moments to robotically measure scoops of coffee while gathering my thoughts, and store up all of the glances he and I exchanged over the course of that dinner.
We exchanged numbers after everyone had gone and had our first date a few nights later. Everyone says, "when you know, you know" and I knew.