This is love

Sitting at a high table in a local Panera — a cafe I’d visited a thousand times, with a thousand people — my palms were as slick as a water slide. I’d just finished reading The Help and, contrary to my usual modis operandi, had forgotten to bring a book for the wait.

I was always early for dates.

We met online, exchanging a few clever emails before agreeing to meet for coffee. I’ve saved every one. Reading them now, I have to laugh — we were really honest with each other. Everything we shared in those moments, those first tiny glimpses into what our lives together would be like, were true. Photography. Cooking. Family. In just a few notes, we shared so much.

I texted to tell him I was waiting, though I didn’t want to make him nervous. I was a little anxious, yes, but only because he was my third date in a week. The first two, though pleasant, didn’t compel me to call or email them again. I let them fizzle out.

But him — I liked him already. I had a good feeling. My hopes, despite all logic, were high.

And he met them.

I can see him walking into Panera, pushing his long curly hair out of his eyes. He offered a giant smile and I thought, yes. That smile stopped me dead. I tied myself to it, like an anchor; I immediately wanted to hold his hand or touch his shoulder. Waiting in line for coffee, I might have.

We sat outside although it was chilly, eager to take in an unexpectedly glorious weekend. I talked about my job, my hobbies; he shared many of his. He was wearing a red T-shirt and green shorts, an incongruous combination. I immediately liked that he hadn’t fussed with his appearance, hadn’t worried that I would judge it — or him. On the other hand, I’d selected my outfit carefully: jeans; a blue top cinched together at the waist with a black bow belt. Flats, because I didn’t know how tall he would be. Hair down and loose.

The wind eventually whipped so hard, my eyes were filled with tears. We had to head inside — then, in a moment of boldness, I suggested we get dinner. We slipped next door to a Mexican place and ate, talking more about school and friends. We laughed often. We had so much in common. He listened to everything I said, nodding at just the right moments and sharing his own stories. He was wearing his nervous face — a look I know so well now, but one I hadn’t discovered then.

Now, I know the contours of his face. I can close my eyes and conjure his eyes, lips, teeth. I look for him in every crowd; hear his voice sometimes before I see him. I hold on to him. I feel so lucky that love found me.

We met a year ago today. I love you, Spencer; thanks for feeling like home to me.

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