Today is the anniversary of the night James and I met – so I thought it would be a perfect time to tell you all the story! I debated for quite some time about whether or not I should share this… but then I figured:
- It’s funny. (I think…)
- It’s PG rated (even though it may not sound like it to the ultra-conservatives out there… and by that I mean *ahem*… mom, dad, or family members who feel weird reading about James and I kissing… you may not want to read this. I’m just saying. I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I don’t want anybody complaining about it to me after I’ve already warned them! haha)
- I want to have it written down somewhere to read when my own memory fades.
- People need to know that you don’t always meet your intended at the coffee social after Sunday mass.
(I should clarify that according to James, we met prior to March 31, 2007. Technically, we first met on my 25th birthday – September 15, 2006 – but I don’t remember it, so I’ll leave that tidbit for another time.)
I suppose I should preface this story a bit… I had been dating a guy for 3 years (off & on) and after being broken up with for what felt like the 1 millionth time in early February 2007, I finally decided that I just couldn’t keep up with the on-again-off-again drama, and for the first time in 3 years – I didn’t take him back when he had a change of heart a few weeks post break-up. This new found freedom/bitterness/confidence (whatever you want to call it) resulted in what James likes to refer to as my “player days.” (haha!) So when my friend Jess told me that there was a guy she worked with that she wanted me to meet at her birthday party – I listened to her, but I didn’t take it all too seriously. I was, after all, fresh out a long term relationship and most definitely not looking for another boyfriend at the moment (especially since the ex-boyfriend drama was still ongoing at that point… but more on that later).
So, Saturday comes along and I have two friends joining me for the night who also plan to crash at my place – one coming from Wisconsin, Missy, and one coming from the suburbs, Jake. (I suppose this is where I should note that Jake was a very good friend of mine, who also happened to be an ex-boyfriend. We were high school/college sweethearts and dated for nearly 5 years. This detail is unimportant to me, but apparently is important to any new guy who came into the picture (James) so I figure I should note it – you know, just so you guys have all the background information. haha)
Anyway – Missy and I got all dolled up and ready for a night out in the city, met up with Jake and we all headed over to the Belair Lounge for Jess’s 25th birthday party extravaganza. We arrived a pinch late – so the place was already pretty packed when we arrived. (Picture a small, divey, hotel bar about the size of your living room.)
Immediately upon walking in the door – I felt eyes on me. I glanced over to my right and made eye contact with a guy sitting across the room by himself at the end of the bar. For some reason, I actually really remember this moment well. My stomach dropped a bit and I had to catch my breath – because I quickly put two and two together… 1.) Jess told me that this James guy she wanted me to meet was black and bald. 2.) The guy looking at me was the only black guy in the room. And he was bald. 3.) I quickly realized that not only had Jess told ME about HIM… but based on him noting me immediately upon walking in the door – it seemed that Jess had also told HIM about ME. Dammit Jess, I thought to myself. (Also – I’d never been ‘set up’ before… and even if this wasn’t a blind date – I was suddenly incredibly uncomfortable/nervous about the situation.)
I did what anyone would do given the situation – and I immediately grabbed a drink with my friends and went about my business at a comfortable 20 foot distance from James. haha
Throughout the next 15-20 minutes James and I made eye contact with each other across the room while we both mingled with other people. I remember telling my friends that I was feeling super awkward because Jess had wanted me to meet a guy at this party and that he was sitting directly across the room from me, in view, and was repeatedly making eye contact with me. (James of course claims I was the one looking at him… but whatever! haha)
Finally we caught each other’s eyes and James did the whole “come hither” gesture… at which point I looked around the room, thinking he was talking to somebody else… and then realized he was gesturing at me. I remember being somewhat appalled because he didn’t make the effort to come to me and introduce himself. Instead, he was telling me to come to him, right then and there, while I was in the middle of a conversation with friends. How rude!
For some reason, I ignored my initial irritation with the situation and walked my butt over to the bar where he was sitting. I honestly don’t remember much about the conversation except that it was terribly awkward. Terribly. Awkward. In a matter of minutes James managed to announce to me that he was recently divorced and had just moved to Chicago from Charlotte, NC less than a year prior. Then he proceeded to ask me how old I was. At which point I answered, “25.” And he said, “Good, because I don’t date anyone younger than 25. It’s a rule I have.” (Excuse me… WHAT?! Who said we are/will be dating?!) Turned out that he was a very mature, “almost 29.” (Fancy.) The remainder of the conversation felt more like 25 questions than an actual conversation. I think I was so nervous/taken aback by the whole thing that I was not my normal self. Instead, I was pretty reserved and quiet, as anyone would be who was being interrogated, I think! haha When I walked away from that conversation I thought he was an arrogant prick, and he thought I was a stuck up snob. (How sweet.) 🙂
I of course reported back to my friends to tell them as much and we went on about our night. James and I avoided each other (while also keeping an eye on each other) in this tiny bar full of people we both knew. I saw him being incredibly outgoing and playful with his friends and realized that even though he was a jerk, he was pretty cute. It irritated me that I could tell me didn’t like me. Not because I wanted him to like me – but more so because I could tell he didn’t even think I was a funny or sweet or a nice person! (Honestly, for some reason it really irked me when people judged me upon first glance, because especially back then I could be quiet/shy initially – so I got the “snob” or “stuck up” card pulled on me a lot, even though anyone who knows me well would never think that.)
Somehow I got it in my head that I wanted to make this guy see that I WAS a fun person and that I was someone he would want to be friends with or maybe even have a crush on. (haha) Plus, it’s always fun to play games like that when you’re single and out with friends, isn’t it? Anyway – apparently James continued to think I was a brat until some point in the night when he claims I touched him on his elbow and said something to him. (What I said, or whether or not this elbow touch actually occurred is up for argument, but James is adament that it happened – because apparently for him, this was a turning point with me. Something about that moment made him realize maybe I wasn’t as big of a brat as he initially thought.)
We went about our nights, floating in and out of each other’s circles… making eye contact… laughing… occasionally talking (although I do remember still thinking that he was a little too bold and confident for my liking)…flirting… pretending we didn’t know the other one was in the room… hanging out with our friends… (you get the idea).
Then at some point we got to actually talking. About what, I’m not sure. But I do recall trying to convince him I was a fabulous person. (haha) Why?! I’m not sure. But I remember somewhere in this conversation it came up that Jake was my ex-boyfriend… and not just any ex-boyfriend, but my first real, long-term boyfriend. And James ate it up. I think he actually went up to Jake and quizzed him about me. What kind of person was I? etc… etc… while I chatted with a friend of James’s to get the scoop on him.
Then, as we were all chatting, someone suggested we take a group picture together for Jess’s birthday. Naturally, we all happily agreed. We grouped together for the picture, and then right as the shutter snapped – this happened:
(Can we talk about being BOLD for a minute here?! The man put his arms around me and kissed my neck when we were supposed to be taking a picture! Of course, I’m not one to ruin a perfectly good picture – so I smiled through it. I’m going to pretend that I don’t look completely giddy in this photo, dammit. And this picture lives on in infamy – as the only one of us together – from the night we met.)
But it doesn’t end there. Oh no. James worked at a bar a few blocks away and as the night slowed down at Belair Lounge, he suggested that my friends and I go with him to this other bar where we could close out the night. We had nowhere else to go – so we figured why not? Immediately upon arriving James snatched me by the hand and led me around the entire bar, introducing me to anyone and everyone he knew, including his brother, Rich, who was tending bar there that night. (Again, I was wondering why this guy was parading me around as if we were an item, when we clearly weren’t. We had JUST met, after all.)
Anyway – it turns out that I ran into quite a few of my own friends at that very same bar and ended up having a great time with everybody until they yelled, Last Call for alcohol!
As they screamed at people to get out of the bar, James came up and told me to grab Missy and Jake and meet him in the middle bar (the bar is divided into a front, middle and back bar – all in a row, separated by doors – and apparently the middle bar is where employees go to continue the party after the place is shutting down). We were told to be quiet and not do anything stupid as we sat at the bar with only a few other people in the room. We were offered beer, and naturally, we accepted (see below). Missy, Jake and I joked that this was some sort of mafia hang out and that we were all about to killed at any moment. Honestly, it was kind of creepy and quiet and there were an awful lot of orders and rules being given for a bar that was just bumping with music and people! haha
At some point I got up and went out the doors in the back of the room to use the bathroom in the back bar – which was empty and dark at this point. I did my thing and as I was exiting the bathroom and heading back to the middle bar, James came into the room. He snatched me by the arm and pulled me over to him as he sat on a bar stool at the empty bar. I believe we chatted for a second, but most importantly, we kissed. Our first kiss… in the back of a nasty dive bar at approximately 4am. I know… romantic. haha! But seriously, somehow it was. It was one of those kisses that just feels right from the very start. There was no awkwardness. We just clicked. And at that moment, I remember thinking… Not only do I want this guy to like me, but I think I like him… or… at least I like kissing him. (haha) In the middle of this moment another employee came in and yelled at us to get out of the back bar. Moment ruined. haha! We went back to the middle bar to find Jake and Missy visibly worried about where I had disappeared to. They were apparently very certain while I was gone that they were going to be killed by the mafia since neither of them knew where we were or were very familiar with Chicago at all! (Sorry guys! haha)
We realized we should probably head on home – given that the sun was about to rise in an hour or so and we had all worked up a good appetite at this point. For some crazy reason as we left the bar, I asked James if he wanted to come back to my place with the three of us. I suppose I figured it was safe because I wasn’t going home alone… and I viewed it as one big sleepover with friends. To be fair (don’t judge!) – I told James that nothing was going to happen. That I was just inviting him to have more time together, not because he was going to “get any,” as I apparently stated. (This all makes me shudder. haha. But according to James, he was very impressed by my forwardness and my morals – I later found out! haha) So we all went back to my apartment where Jake and I cooked a gourmet breakfast meal complete with pancakes and eggs for all of us to eat before we went to bed somewhere around 6am. (There was lots of ridiculous conversation in there that I’m not even going to get into – because I don’t remember most of it and, well, it was completely ridiculous – as most conversations in the wee hours of the morning are.) James and I retired to my room, where I wore my normal old pajama pants and t-shirt and he slept fully clothed. I kid you not. I’m not editing this to make it internet appropriate. This is actually how it went down. haha Of course there was a bit more kissing, but that is it buck-o! Good old PG early relationship kisses and butterflies in our stomachs.
We had probably gotten about 2 hours of sleep when my phone started to ring (it was somewhere around 9am at this point). I felt a twinge of pain in my stomach when I quickly realized who would be calling at 9am (because he had also called and texted over the course of the night before, hoping to meet up with us)… my ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend who still held out hope that I’d change my mind and take him back. The ex-boyfriend I still cared for deeply and didn’t want to hurt – but good lord, why was he calling me at 9am on a Sunday morning?! I silenced the phone and rolled over, glancing at James sleeping soundly next to me, hoping he wouldn’t wake up. What on earth had happened last night?! I thought to myself.
Then I heard it… the buzzer to our front door was going off. Oh.My.Goodness. He was calling me because he was downstairs! At my front door! I laid in bed, trying to think of what on earth I could do to remedy this situation. It was weird enough to James that one ex-boyfriend had slept on my couch… but now, another one was at my front door?! We lived on the 2nd floor of a 3-flat at the time – so there was one general door to the building on the 1st floor and then individual doors to the units at each level, so I figured I had some time to figure something out, since at least he was still downstairs.
Buzz. Buzz. BUZZZZZZ… The doorbell just – kept – ringing… my heart sinking into my gut as I realized I had to figure something out, and quick. Then I heard it. A knock at my ACTUAL front door. The door to OUR unit. He must have buzzed the other units and someone had let him in the front door! Oh lordy. I quickly explained the situation to James – who was now awake (an awkward conversation, to say the least) and went out to the living room where Jake and Missy were laying on the couches, completely freaked out. (haha!) They were quietly whispering back and forth about what course of action to take because my ex had apparently said through the front door that he could hear people inside and that they should let him in. Eeeek! I realized there was no turning back. I had to take this into my own hands… so I cracked the door open and told him he couldn’t come in, but that I would come out to talk to him. It was not an easy situation. This was not the first time my ex-boyfriend had appeared at my door over the course of the last month since we broke up. This was, however, the first time that I didn’t let him in. He had brought cinnamon rolls from Ann Sather’s for me and my guests. He had never showed up in the morning before… he told me he had a bad feeling in his gut. That for some reason the night before he had an extra urgency to find me, to see me, but I had not answered his calls. I can’t help but think now, in retrospect, that deep down – somehow he knew what was happening. That he knew I had met someone who would change my life that night. I don’t know for sure – I’m not him. But I do know that calling and texting that many times, and then taking a cab across town to my place at 9am and bringing cinnamon rolls says something, yes?
I was able to talk to him about what had happened. Obviously, he knew that I wasn’t letting him in my apartment for a reason. He knew that someone was in there that I didn’t want him to see. Eventually he left and took a cab back to his place across the city, but he left us the cinnamon rolls. My hungover friends were overjoyed at the gesture, of course… James, who had come out to the living room while I was outside, was not so impressed, however. I offered him a cinnamon roll, to which he replied, “No thanks, who knows – they might be poisoned!” (Very funny guy.) By now James had already grabbed his coat in preparation to leave. I offered to walk him out and he accepted. There was no goodbye kiss… just a somewhat awkward moment (I’m guessing due to what had jarred us awake that morning). Neither of us can remember what was said as he left that morning. Just a strange goodbye between two people who had not even known each other for 12 hours.
I went back upstairs and reminisced with Missy and Jake about the ridiculous night (and morning) that had just occurred – none of us ever thinking that this would be any more than a good story about a crazy night out in Chicago. None of us ever thinking that this would be the story of the night I met my husband…
Later that day, I got a text from James that said, “I usually don’t chase girls… but I think I have a crush on you.”
And so it started… 🙂