Some Kind of Wonderful: When You Know, You Know
“So, you are going to marry him.” It was said as a statement not a question and I leaned forward to make sure that I had heard correctly. From the backseat of the black sedan I watched the National Monuments as they flew by my window and thought about how to respond. “We’ve only been dating for a few months. You can’t possibly know if you’re going to marry someone after only dating a few months . . . ”
I thought about the night we met at a birthday party in Washington DC. I was running late. Trying to navigate the unfamiliar DC street grid I had become lost so many times that at one point that I even considered turning back and driving home to Baltimore. Thankfully, my GPS finally announced that I had arrived at my destination in DuPont Circle. I looked at the clock on my beloved Subaru Wagon dashboard and realized the party had started hours ago. By this point in the evening I knew the party would be in full swing. Quickly, I swapped my flats for my highest heels and threw on another coat of glossy red lipstick before heading towards the buzz of music and laughter coming from down the block. Wearing my favorite sleeveless black cocktail dress the March air was cool against my skin and I remember wishing I had worn a jacket. As I walked, sounds of the party grew louder and louder until I reached the address listed on the invitation. I felt the door vibrating from the music and realized no one was going to hear my knocking so instead I just pushed it wide open. The door wasn’t even cracked several inches before I realized every single inch of floor space was covered with people. People unapologetically yelling lyrics offbeat to the music. People laughing and exchanging knowing glances. People exchanging stories in tight knit circles with their best friends, or a strangers who had become best friends after several glasses of wine. In other words, it looked like a really great party! And as I stood there at the foyer scanning the room for what felt like a lifetime, I realized I didn’t recognize one person. Not one. And soon that didn’t matter. "Hi I’m Will.” The guy standing in front of me was wearing dark denim jeans and a green leather moto jacket with his hand formally extended. My first thought was, it must take a strong personality to pull off a green leather jacket (it does) and my second thought was, I hope this guy knows the way to the bar. I’m not a shy person but walking into a party full of unfamiliar faces usually requires a game plan and a cocktail. He must have been reading my mind. “Can I get you something from the bar?” And that was it. I never did get to meet most of those unfamiliar faces at the party because after that I don’t think we talked to anyone else. It was just us. Or maybe it felt like just us. We stayed up all night sitting on the rooftop deck sharing our stories and a bottle of wine. By the time I heard birds chirping I was wearing the green leather moto jacket. The night was one of those really rare nights you realize something special is happening, but you’re careful not to let yourself acknowledge it out of fear the magic might end. One of those nights you sometimes have when you are young and unencumbered and still unguarded with your heart, but not one you often have when you’re well into your thirties. Even still, I slipped out of the party without exchanging numbers and thought we’d probably never cross paths again. In my mind, Will was the quintessential bachelor from Washington DC. A tried and true Washington politico who watched Meet The Press every week religiously and considered books like The Almanac of American Politics (yes friends, it’s a real thing) required reading. And I was a Charm City girl. Aside from my daughter, Baltimore City was the greatest love in my life. My entire personal life and professional career was based on Baltimore, and while I recognize this sounds sophomoric, dating someone so firmly rooted in Washington, DC felt like dating a player from the opposing team. We were living very different lives 36 miles apart.
And so I was really surprised when not even a day later, my phone vibrated with a familiar buzz indicating I had a new message. I felt my face flush and my heart jump as I looked down at the familiar face on the screen. It was a message from Will. Not only had Will found me (thank you, social media) but he wanted to take me on a date. I played it casual with my response. “Sure, maybe sometime . . . if you’re ever in Baltimore . . . let’s leave the lines of communication open.” Reading it back now I laugh because I clearly was not as cool as I thought I was. Anyway, anyone who knows my fiancé knows that he’s incredibly persistent when he wants something. And he wanted this date. So a few days later my phone buzzed again, and this time with an offer I couldn’t turn down. “K, rumor has it you're an Orioles fan?” Anyone who knows me knows there is nowhere else I’d rather be than at Camden Yards with a cool Boh in hand cheering on the boys of summer. I said yes. Even still, and I don’t think Will knows this, I almost didn’t show. Walking up to the stadium I paused to collect my thoughts. Sitting on one of our famous “Greatest City in America” benches I began to think about the last couple of years. I had finally reached a place in my life where I felt really happy and whole and content on my own. I had a great life. While it was true that Will and I had an undeniable connection the first night we met, I was not looking for a serious relationship, and somewhere in my head and in my heart I knew this was going to be a serious relationship (little did I know just how serious, or maybe I did). I started walking and making a mental list of all the scenarios in which it would be perfectly acceptable to end the first date early. At the top of my list were things like disrespecting his mother, followed by disrespecting the Oriole Bird. When I finally reached the gate at Eutaw Street I saw Will standing by Babe Ruth clearly engrossed in a heated work call. I remember watching him with his voice raised and arms waving, clearly making a point to whoever was on the other end of the phone. I remember thinking, “Ok, so this guy is intense. Was that on my list?” But then he saw me and he flashed me a big smile and before I realized it he was off the phone making his way through the sea of orange (he was wearing a purple, but I gave him a pass since that’s our other favorite team color). He embraced me in big hug, and I swear I’ll never forget this as long as I live, his hug felt like home. I knew I had made the right choice.
Soon we were taking the Marc train between the two cities every week. I remember Will taking me to see the famous monuments: Jefferson, Lincoln, National Mall. And I took him to see some of my favorite Baltimore monuments: Camden, Natty, and Domino. I loved how he spoke about his beliefs with such intense conviction and passion. I loved how he spoke about his parents with such deep love and admiration. I loved how he listened to me when I spoke. Every time we were together was like the first night we met. No matter where we were, or who we were with, he listened to me so intently like I was the only person in the room. Like it was always just the two of us. The more he listened, the more I spoke, and I soon realized I was sharing things that I had never shared with anyone. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I knew Will had quickly become the only person I wanted to share everything with. Friends and colleagues began commenting that they had never seen me so happy. Truthfully, I don’t think I had ever seen myself so happy. Even still, marriage was not happening. Anyone who has made it through an incredibly painful divorce knows you usually fall into two categories once you recover from the emotional fallout. There are those who are optimistic lovers of love, who believe in union of marriage, and believe the right person is still out there only a match.com date away. And then there are those who say never in a million years, even if by force or threat of torture will they EVER get married again (note, these are the people you do not want to sit next to at a wedding). You can probably already guess, I fell into the latter category. Looking back now I see it was just fear. Fear of risking it all only to screw it up again. Fear of hurting people I loved. Fear of never really being able to fully show up for another person. Or worse, fear of really showing up and getting hurt. And so I’ll never forget the night we finally did talk about marriage. Sitting across from each other at a restaurant overlooking Penn Station, the train station we had both become so familiar with on our many trips to see each other. With soft lighting and smooth music it was the perfect place for romantic dinner conversation. “I just need you to know that I’m never getting married again.” I remember saying it with a lump in my throat and then sitting studying his face and waiting for a response. And waiting. Waiting for him to tell me that I was wrong or worse that I was crazy. Waiting for him get up from the table and run out of the restaurant and run out on the relationship. Instead, he just smiled and nodded. He didn’t try to talk me out of my feelings, or tell me that I was wrong or crazy. Possibly because he knew that I was only saying it because I was scared. Possibly because he knew that we were in fact getting married one day. Whatever the reason, he just let me be where I was without asking me to be anywhere else. And I don’t think he could have possibly known it at the time, but that was the greatest gift he could have ever given me. And one of the reasons why I love him so much.
And that all changed the day I was invited to a birthday party in Washington, DC. I was running late. Trying to navigate the unfamiliar DC grid I had gotten lost several times. This time I decided to pull over the black station wagon and call an uber. I would need a professional in order to make it to this party on time. I waited and I watched the clock on the dashboard; it was 12:45 and the party started at 1pm. Did I mention the party was on a boat that was leaving at 1pm! When the car finally arrived I jumped in the back seat and immediately began yelling out directions, “Go Straight! Turn here! Can you go any faster I’m really in a hurry!” My driver let out an audible sigh. I was immediately embarrassed when I realized my tone which was entirely out of character. “I’m sorry.” I meekly said from the back seat. No response from the front so I tried again. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m nervous.” His face softened to indicate that he had accepted my apology and finally a response. “Why are you nervous.” I thought about all the things reasons why I was nervous. I was nervous that I wasn’t going to make the party on time. I was nervous that as a result I would end up swimming in the Potomac in my new white dress. But really, I knew the real reason why I was nervous. And for a moment I thought about all the things I could say to end this potentially awkward conversation, but before I knew it the truth was spilling out of my mouth. “Well, I’m dating this guy and I’m nervous because I’m going to meet all of his friends for the first time at this party. And it’s important because, well I really want his friends to like me.” He took all of this in and he thought about it for a moment. “So, this boy. He’s a nice boy?” I let out a small laugh at the formality and diction of his tone. “Yes, he’s such a nice boy.” I said with a smirk. “He makes you really happy. I can tell by the way you smile when you talk about him.” As he spoke I thought about how the last couple of months had been some of the happiest of my life. I loved Will. I loved who he was, and who I was when I was with him. “Yes, he makes me so happy. We’re so happy when we are together.” And then he said it. He said the one thing no one else in my life dare say, “So you are going to marry him.” It was said as a statement not a question and I leaned forward to make sure that I had heard correctly. From the backseat of the black sedan I watched the National Monuments as they flew by my window and thought about how to respond. “We’ve only been dating for a few months. You can’t possibly know if you’re going to marry someone after only dating a few months.” He smiled and nodded like he knew that was going to be my response and had a fantastic story prepared to counter. Sure enough, he did. “Let me tell you a story . . . When I was a young man, I went with this girl. I went with her for four years. And at the end of the four years she said to me, ‘You have to marry me we’ve been going together for four years.’” I was now completely wrapped up in his story, and I yelled back over the loud sounds of the road and the open window asking him what he did next. “I broke up with her. It wasn't right becasue I wasn't in love.” Okay that was not the response I was expecting. And now I really needed to know how this story ended. “And then I met her. I met my wife.” He said. “And I fell madly in love. I proposed to her after we had been dating for two months. We were married after we had been dating for eight months. We have been married happily for more than 32 years.” I’m not sure when, but at some point I started getting emotional listening to this beautiful story about love, and I could feel myself holding back the tears welling in my eyes. I knew we were very close to the Georgetown Waterfront which was our destination but I wasn’t sure I was ready to get out of this car. Just then he looked up at me in the rear view mirror, and smiled and said softly, “Because really when you know, you just know . . . and I can tell that you know.” As soon as he said those words everything went quiet for a moment. I no longer heard the loud noises of road or the sounds from outside the car. It felt like everything in the world went total silent as I thought about what he just said. And then tears began to fall slow and steady. It had taken a total stranger for me to see what was right in front of me. He was right. I knew. I think I had known from the first night we met. I was crazy in love. I knew I wanted my 32 years and then some. We arrived just in time as the boat was leaving the dock. I remember he drove the car right up on the promenade full of people to help me get to the boat faster. I don’t think words could have expressed my gratitude but I remember hugging him and thanking him for sharing his beautiful story, and thanking him for being so kind. And now I was running. I was sprinting across the pier trying to find Will. Finally, in a crowd of hundreds of unfamiliar faces I found my one familiar face. As soon as I did, I threw my arms around him and gave him a big kiss. “Woah why the big smile?” I remember him asking me. “Oh nothing, it’s just this conversation I just had about love. I'll tell you later.” And in that moment I knew that when I said I’ll tell you later, I didn't mean I’ll tell you later this week or later this month. Two years later I’m telling this story for the first time. As we plan our wedding and plan our future together. Because when you know, you just know . . .