Ten years ago today, I was angry. I went out drinking with friends because that's what we did nearly every night back then, and I went out that particular night ready to tell the world to go to hell. I came home with my husband.
But that's getting way ahead of the story.
Mike and I don't remember when we first met. The best man at our wedding brought up this fact during his toast to us. I suppose it looks romantic, as if we always were there, just waiting to be found. Really, there's a much simpler explanation. We both were journalism majors and dedicated staff members of our college paper. If we weren't in class -- and sometimes when we should have been in class -- we were in that moldy dungeon of a newsroom. And when we weren't there, we were in a dark, possibly moldy bar drinking heavily. It's no wonder we don't remember meeting.
But meeting was inevitable. The disaster of a boyfriend I had my freshman year lived with some of Mike's best friends; I had to have been in his dorm room way before I ever stepped foot inside the newsroom. In the newsroom, Mike became friends with the guy who would eventually be our best man. That guy, whom he shared an apartment with for two years, was good friends with Michelle, who of course was my best friend and roommate. Another one of Mike's roommates had lived in my dorm my freshman year. And because Michelle and I lived in a sorority house -- great location, cheap rent, but pesky no alcohol rule -- we spent a lot (A LOT) of time with Mike and the guys from his apartment.
And that's really where our story starts. The first time I remember Mike as anything other than the goofy sports writer with the backward hat, we were in his apartment. It was the summer before my junior, his senior year, and he was throwing a party while we put out the special summer edition of the newspaper. He was editor of the paper that year. His hat was on backward as usual, but we were talking about music and I liked the way his eyes sparkled and crinkled at the corners when he laughed. I liked the way he focused on our conversation in the middle of craziness.
When school started that fall, though, I was hooking up with a photographer at the paper and Mike started dating one of our sorority sisters. We were friends. There were eight of us: Mike and the four other guys in his house, me, Michelle and our roommate. We were sarcastic and smart-alecky and generally considered ourselves superior, despite the fact that we regularly drank ourselves sick. It's just the way it was. We played euchre at the guys' apartment. We went on ghost hunts and drunken expeditions up large hills. We dragged the boys to sorority date parties. Those of us who worked at the paper (i.e. most of us) skipped class to cover Sept. 11. We spent hours every day in the newsroom lounge, waiting on interviews and doing homework. I loved watching Mike work with a reporter. He focused so intently on what the reporter was saying, asking just the right questions to lead the reporter to just the right answer, just the right words.
So, fall quarter ended and we all went home for the long break over Thanksgiving and Christmas. We came back to school in 2002 to cold and drama. I had turned 21 over break, which meant I finally could go with the rest of the group to the bars. I found myself wrangling seats next to Mike because he always made me laugh. My sorority sister had dumped Mike for her ex-boyfriend. The photographer had gotten sick of me; I was sick of hooking up. Michelle and I were fighting with our roommate because we disapproved of her boyfriend. And I was pretty sure I liked Mike.
On Feb. 7, 2002, I was pissed off because of something our roommate had done. It doesn't matter what now; it barely mattered then. I still have my journal from that year, and I read it trying to fix the timeline for this post and blushed over the ridiculousness of it all. Suffice to say: Michelle and I went out with the guys that night to get away from our roommate, and I was in a fuck-it-all sort of mood. I had been flirting with Mike for weeks, but that particular night, I gave up caring if other people noticed or if he would reject me. I threw myself at him. Literally. If someone so much as glanced at me as they passed our table, I'd push up against his arm as if we were in a crowd. He got the point -- as did our friends. They all decided to leave (I've never been more grateful to Michelle than when she elbowed the last one out the door, raising her eyebrows at me) and once they left, Mike asked me out. He confessed he had been wanting to ask me out -- had checked out my butt as we walked to parties, had thought I was the funniest, smartest girl he knew -- but couldn't get me alone.
And then we drunkenly stumbled home; he kissed me goodnight at my house's back door. It was and is the best kiss I've ever received. I went weak in the knees, literally, and I know what that word means.
My mom and dad met Mike after spring break when they dropped my car off at school. Mike and I had not said I love you. We weren't sure what was going to happen after he graduated. But Mom told Dad on the way home that they had just met their future son-in-law. She said we just looked right together, comfortable. That's still true. Sometimes it's a bad thing. A decade into this, surrounded by kids and animals and work, Mike and I both are guilty of taking the other for granted, of lashing out at each other because each trusts the other will take it. But Mike still is my best friend. We still appreciate each others' work. We still talk about music and politics and journalism and books and general goofiness, though usually now it's over Gatorade and water instead of cheap draft beers.
And whenever he gets cranky about my short temper, I can look at him and say, "You knew exactly what you were getting."