Chapter Three: Love Letter
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While I’d spent the early summer simultaneously loving New York and making knee-jerk decisions to move to Austin, Matty was on the other side of the world visiting his family in Australia. At this point, he was just a friend-of-a-friend. He was hardly on my radar, but I was about to be on his.
That April we'd both attended a 70’s themed birthday party for a mutual friend before he left town. I felt great that night. The difficult break-up was becoming a thing of the past and I was coming into a new, better version of myself. I danced, visited the photo booth one too many times, and laughed with friends at all our ridiculous outfits. I saw Matty, but we didn’t talk. He didn’t notice me that night.
When the photos started emerging online from the party, Matty had already boarded his flight. He was home in Australia when he started flipping through all the hilarious photo-booth shots. And that’s when he noticed me. Not at the party. Not at church before that. Not even earlier that winter when I was at his apartment for a game night.
It didn’t even make sense to him, but from that moment on, he truly saw me. He started asking people back in New York about me and checking out my Facebook page. While I was planning my escape, he was deciding that he should get to know me. He went so far as to show his parents a photo of me and tell them that when he came back to New York he was going to pursue me.
Neither of us will ever really understand the timing of it all. We’d both been dating other people for the majority of our overlapping times in New York, and when those relationships ended, we were healing. It really was as if we had blinders on and then, at the last second, they were lifted.
When he got back, Matty decided to arrange for a group hang-out to see what I was like. He let Dre in on his motives and asked her to bring me along. She agreed, and I was going to come (unaware of his plan), until I booked a flight to Texas to interview for a job in Austin the same weekend.
I missed the picnic. (Matty’s ex-girlfriend did not.)
As Plan A foiled, he decided to approach me that following Wednesday at a church gathering. Matty was leading a photography intensive that night and I was leading a session on watercolor painting for the creative team. We were in the same room and I was loud, obnoxious, and having a blast. I figured that I was annoying the photo guys, who were quiet and focused. I hung around for awhile after, but apparently not long enough. Turns out I wasn’t annoying him at all - he was actually trying to gather up the nerve to talk to me.
In what was to become a theme in our relationship, I foiled Plan B, as well. We missed each other again.
The next morning I found out that I got the job. I was caught in a tailspin of excitement and began making plans for the two-weeks ahead. Dre sent Matty a message and told him that she was so sorry, but I was moving to Austin. Then she called me and told me that someone had been asking about me and maybe I’d like to know. That’s a good girlfriend.
It should have ended there. He had never talked to me face-to-face. There was no reason for him to be drawn to me beyond a few photos. He could have easily looked at the signs and decided it wasn’t meant to be. And he did think about quitting. For a second.
Before he buckled in and went for it anyway.
I never felt like I was leaving anything behind when I got on the airplane to leave New York. Everything was ahead of me, even Matty. Leaving always takes a toll on your heart, but the hope of arriving is what keeps us alive. I carried everything that I held dear about that city and the people I met there; I carry it still.
It was a full week before I cried.
I moved into a studio apartment with two suitcases and a leaky air mattress. I would wake up early with a cold, wooden floor beneath me and make breakfast on paper plates. Life was very simple and small. I knew all my friends were gathering in a city far from me and I missed them (and my bed) terribly.
Matty asked if he could call me and I said yes. We talked until 3 AM the night before I started working - a habit that continued through the week. I was laying on the saggy mattress one night when he said, “I feel like I should tell you what my intentions are.”
I had been trying not to compare Matty to the relationships I’d had in the past but in that moment it become all too apparent. I’d waited four years for someone to tell me what their intentions were and Matty had waited practically four days to offer his.
Matty knew that the distance would one day grow difficult, and he felt that it wouldn't be fair to either one of us to begin something on separate pages. And so he told me that he liked me and he wanted to keep talking to me. It was sweet and it made my heart beat a million miles an hour. We liked each other, and we both knew it.
We started having Skype dates and I began furnishing the apartment. I’d set him up on the computer while I cooked dinner and unpacked books and trinkets. We shared stories about our days and flirted like crazy. He’d suddenly tell me to freeze before taking a screenshot of my blurry face and editing it like a real photo. He sent me sweet notes during work and made me lattes with hearts in the foam. I sent him videos of me dancing around the apartment and blowing kisses. I soaked up all the feelings I had once convinced myself that I could survive without. I relished the butterflies, learned to gracefully accept compliments, and best of all, watched as my efforts to make him feel cared for fell on rich soil. He welcomed any question I had and I answered his, knowing he was listening with genuine interest.
Slowly, and then very quickly, word got out that Matty and I were talking. Friends in New York started texting me about rumors they’d heard and everyone had an opinion, not all of them in our favor. It frustrated me that people felt free to share their two cents before we even had a chance to figure it out for ourselves. Some thought that Matty shouldn’t pursue me because I was off to live a new dream. Some thought that I would distract Matty from his own creative projects. Few thought to ask us what was really going on before giving their unsolicited advice. But in the midst of our frustration, we remained thankful for our friends. We knew they meant well and maybe even knew well, but we were determined to prove everyone wrong. He wouldn’t make me move back to New York and I would keep him on track with his projects, not that we had ever thought to plan differently. He happened to admire my tenacity and I found his creative talents extremely attractive.
Before we knew it, a month had gone by. We were in the routine of talking every single night until we (or more accurately, I) fell asleep. When I took two and three-hour road trips around Texas to visit my family he was on loud speaker, keeping me company the entire time. I thought it was crazy that we could talk so often and still have so much to say, until we crossed the line into new territory. I suddenly felt like there was so much that I wanted to say...but couldn’t. I was falling fast and hard. We’d be talking over Skype and I’d get caught up in looking at the tattoos on his forearm then wondering what it’d be like to hold his hand. He made me feel interesting, beautiful, talented, and wanted.
After another month of the same and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I needed to get it out - somewhere. I found an old spiral notebook and thought I’d write out everything I was feeling. Get it on paper so that it was out of my head and could be kept safe somewhere else. As I put pen to paper, I expected pages and pages to flow from my fingers about all the things I was feeling. But instead, I wrote this:
I don’t know how this is happening, but I think I’m falling in love with you.
We needed to see each other. Every time we talked I felt like a boiling pot that could blow the lid at anytime. I could see he was feeling the same. We felt totally devoted to each other, we just wanted to say it face-to-face.
He booked a flight to come see me in September, which means I panicked for all of August. I imagined what it would feel like to pick him up from the airport and immediately began planning every second of his trip to make sure he’d like Austin as much as I hoped he liked me. And what if he didn’t like me, by the way? What if our chemistry only lived within the universe of Skype? I knew that we would have a limited of time to determine that yes, this is real, and yes, we should begin walking down the terrible, no-good, very bad road that eats couples alive called long distance. I Googled “long distance tips” and read blogs about couples and their experience. I talked to friends who had tried it themselves, and I ignored the hoards of people who said they would never ever do it. I always figured I’d do anything for someone if I loved them enough.
In the end, I knew I needed to pay attention to my own gut feelings. And so I decided to dive in as if this trip was going to be the most significant moment of my dating life. I sent Matty photos of notes on Post-It’s for 30 days to countdown his visit, drawing things for him to look forward to (like Chick-fil-a and a break from city life). I planned my outfits, of course, and I yelped every single restaurant in Austin like an obsessive person. Friends of mine agreed to let Matty stay on their couch, and we decided the four of us would go out together that first night so he’d feel comfortable staying with them (and maybe also so they could get the scoop on him - and so I wouldn’t be alone if it all went south).
The morning of Matty’s arrival finally came and everything was in place. The apartment was pristine, I had my car washed and vacuumed, I chose a dress for every occasion, and it was a beautiful sunny day in Austin. He arrived around 11 AM and I thought I’d go for a run that morning to knock out the nerves (and to look extra hot, obviously). I woke up and drove straight to the trail to begin a nice 3-mile run before heading to Walgreens for a few last minute things.
For most people, running will start moving things along...if they haven’t already been moved along that day. It also has a tendency to “move things along” with a very sudden and rapid pace. As I was perusing the aisles of Walgreens looking for disposable cameras and toilet paper, it suddenly become apparent to me that the run had triggered something within me. I started breathing deeply and willed it to go away. When that didn’t work, I held my breath and willed it to go away. And then I took several broad steps to the front counter and politely asked, “Do you have a public bathroom?” to which the checker replied that no, they did not. He then asked if I was ready to check out, which I was, but I knew I was running out of time. In fact, I had no time - zero time.
I threw everything on the counter in front of him and ran to my car, pretending that what I just did was completely normal and sane.
I lived a total of 5 minutes from Walgreens but I DID NOT HAVE FIVE MINUTES. All the scenarios were running through my head : “If I poop in my car how will I cover it up? I don’t have time to clean it! I’ll be late to the airport and how will I explain myself?! It will MOST DEFINITELY smell even if I DID have time to clean it! I CANNOT SHIT IN THIS CAR - NOT TODAY.”
I slammed the door shut and waddled to the front door of my apartment when it actually occurred to me that if something happened I could just move it in the grass and say someone forgot to clean up after their dog.
Needless to say, I made it. But just barely.
It was the beginning of the day that would change my life forever - it could only get better from here.