People often ask married couples how they got together. Every married couple has a story. From high school football games to late night trysts in a bar, we all started somewhere, didn’t we?
For some reason, our story has come up quite a bit recently. It must be the time of year. As I type, it’s his birthday. We didn’t meet on his birthday, but, well, okay. I thought you’d never ask. I’ll tell you.
Friends of mine kept telling me we should meet. “You’ll really like him,” they’d say. “I can’t believe y’all haven’t met yet!” I remember hearing that his granddaddy died. This unknown grandfather, belonging to the nearly mythical guy who lived in the apartment behind ours. Who was he?
One night, it happened. I heard someone say, “Hey Jenny! This is Brice!” I promise y’all, there was a halo of bright light surrounding him, as he slowly came outside from their kitchen. It was probably the brightness of the fluorescent lights coupled with the dark night. His speed was probably muddled with bourbon, but let me have my moment. I’ll remember it my way.
I had a boyfriend at the time, and we were very much in love, so friends we would remain. We studied together often. Both English majors who loved to read, there was always plenty to discuss. We talked about names for our future children, though we clearly wouldn’t be having them together. I spent the night at his house, and him at mine, but we were nothing more than two close friends.
We took this biology class together, and although I studied my tail off, he didn’t. He’d do the crossword in the student newspaper, close his eyes, and go to sleep. I paid attention, took notes, purchased the notes and read the chapters. He swore upside down and sideways he’d get a B in the class. What? No way. Not possible.
I was so sure of this impossibility, I placed a bet. If he made a B in the class and could afford a plane ticket, I’d pay for an entire weekend in NYC. We shook hands. I left for the summer. Days later, I got the call: “Did you get your grades? I got a B!” Because we were waiting for a paper copy to be mailed, like with a stamp, I hadn’t seen mine yet. He bought a ticket.
Living with my dad in the city, we only had two bedrooms. I assured him that this relationship was benign, and we’d both sleep in my room. There was a sleeper sofa and a chair that folded into a twin bed. We’d each take one. And we did. We spent the whole weekend walking around the city, celebrating the fireworks on the 4th of July, talking about life and everything else. He met my friends, who marveled at his deep southern drawl.
I realized something that weekend, though I didn’t figure it out until weeks later. I didn’t want to marry my boyfriend. I wanted to marry my best friend. I came back to the south, turning down a fancy job in New York. If I was to marry this southern guy, I had to come back to the south.
I broke up with my boyfriend, but I didn’t exactly have the guts to make the first move with this best friend. Apparently he didn’t have the guts either. All it took was a 21st birthday (his) to give him the courage (beer) he needed.
That night, we were out with friends, and it was late. Someone said “who can take him home? His house is so out of the way.” As we’d done so many times before, we both went back to my place. I tucked him on the couch and started to bed. Suddenly, he was making that first move. He told me to trust him. Um, no sir. You don’t trust a man on his 21st birthday. I told him to go to sleep.
As it turns out, he is a man of his word. We talked about it the next day, and the kiss was intentional and would be repeated many times and without bourbon. We feared ruining our friendship but risked it anyway. Most everyone, including his parents, said, “It’s about time,” when we told them about our status change.
Now in our 17th year, he’s still my best friend. I never saw that report card, proving his B in biology, but if he made anything lower, I don’t wanna know. I’ll just trust him. It’s worked for me before. Cheers to that birthday all those years ago, when everything became forever.