This week, Kelly wants to know. So I'm reposting this, because really. A love story needs to be told again and again. So from 2008 (or rather, beginning in 1985)…
Our love story is very long and complicated. There are many twists and turns along the path that led to me become the other half of SmallWorld. It is much easier to say, “We met in college,” which is entirely true.
But more precisely, I spotted Randy. I was a sophomore, and my friend Brenda and I returned from summer break a few days early, during freshmen weekend. I believe that we came specifically because our boyfriends had to be back early to start basketball practice and we wanted to see them, but we absolutely, in spite of our boyfriends, engaged in much previewing of freshman boys.
And in he walked. Brenda and I were in the cafeteria, facing the doors so that we could see everyone who came in. So in walks Randy, with that bounce in his step. He was wearing black Reboks with paisley shoe strings and striped shorts. He was very tan and had gorgeous long brown hair. And earrings. “Who IS that guy?” I asked. (I don’t know who I asked, but someone.) “That’s Greg Small’s brother,” I was told. (Background information: Randy’s older brother Greg had graduated from this same college a couple of years beforehand but lived nearby in an apartment.)
So, yeah. I kept my eye on him. But I had this boyfriend that I was crazy about, and that was all very complicated. So Randy and I became good friends. We hung out. His best friends were my best friends. But I had this boyfriend…
FAST FORWARD. So over Christmas break that year, this boyfriend quit school and dumped me. That was very sad. But heartaches mend quickly at 19. Back at college in January, Randy and I exclaimed our jubilation that we were both relationship-free. We held hands for the first time at the Italian Village. He sent me flowers for my 20th birthday. We kissed in the lobby of my dorm. For Valentine’s Day, we cooked spaghetti together. And it was all very, very nice.
The first seven months were pure bliss. We were madly in love. I’m pretty sure I’d never been happier in my life, nor felt more completely myself with anyone. And then— kerplunk, kerplooey—it all fell apart. I don't even remember the circumstances, but we broke up and it was devastating. And then, at Perkins late studying one night, we got back together again. We sang, “Reunited” while walking around the swimming pool outside Perkins. (Why was there a swimming pool outside Perkins, anyway?) And then at Christmas, we broke up again. And then…yeah. That happened a lot. A whole, whole lot. We were “on a break” more often than not, and that was horrible beyond description. And since I don’t like to dwell on that year of on-and-off…
FAST FORWARD. So after a year of on-again/off-again, I said, “Enough.” I remember wondering who in the world I was and knowing that I had to release Randy in order to reclaim myself. Oh, that was a very good thing. And it was very hard. Randy started dating my best friend’s roommate. Did I mention that we went to a very small college? That everyone knows everyone’s business? That you can’t help but run into your ex-boyfriend and his silly new girlfriend everywhere? Oh, and that my best friend and her roommate-who-was-now-dating-my-future-husband lived right below me, and that my window looked out on the parking lots, and that every time that roommate and my ex-boyfriend/future husband walked out to his car, I was watching? Yeah, that was stinky.
But I had my own new boyfriend pretty soon, and he was fun. We laughed a lot, and he liked to quiz me every now and then: “Are you still in love with Slim?” (His name for Randy.) “No, no, of course not,” I’d reply.
Yep, he was fun, the boy I would never have married. And my girlfriends! Oh, we had the most amazing times together. We lived in constant angst, but a delightful kind of angst. We painted poetry on my dorm-room walls and made mixed tapes. We went to hear bands and danced the night away as often as possible. We didn’t care about our sort-of boyfriends, because we knew they were temporary. We were so, so free.
What I really gained after breaking up with Randy was myself. I was healing. I was gaining perspective. I remembered who I was. And somewhere in there, I really did let Randy go. I remember understanding that I would never love anyone as completely as I had loved him. But I knew I could move on with my future. I would marry someone who treated me well. I would love him. But the great passion of my life happened by age 21.
There was a poem by Gary Snyder that burned into my heart. Like the poet, I would live; I would endure. But I would live remembering:
After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.
Now ten years and more have
Gone by: I've always known
where you were--
I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.
Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.
We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.
I feel ancient, as though I had
Lived many lives.
(Excerpted from “Four Poems for Robin”)
And so I graduated from college in May 1988. Randy was there, and that weekend there was a graduation party at a friend’s house. We all brought white t-shirts to autograph for each other. And what Randy wrote on mine clearly meant to communicate to me that he was missing me. (Did I mention that he and his silly girlfriend had broken up a few months beforehand?)
But still, I had this fun, uncomplicated boyfriend. Who went away on a trip for two weeks after I graduated.
So one evening my girlfriends and I were watching the classic horror flick from my childhood, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. (Hmmm. Perhaps I should write a post someday about all the scary movies I saw when I was a child.) This particular movie scared me just as much at 22 as it did at age seven, so we decided to go check out the local music scene instead. I can’t remember who was playing, but it was warm night in June, and some of us were sitting outside in the parking lot, leaning on cars. And then it was just Randy and me.
And that was it. Nearly three years after we'd first met, and eight months after our final break-up—the big one—there was that sublime moment of realizing that this—this moment—begins our life. There should have been symphonies and fireworks lighting up that June sky. It was a moment I can still see so clearly: the young girl and boy in their t-shirts and shorts, sitting on the hood of an old car on a warm East Tennessee night. He quotes a song to her. They know: this is forever. They kiss. Friends peer at them from inside the building, pointing and whispering: “OH MY GOODNESS! Randy and Sarah are back together!” All is right with the universe. This is the way it was always meant to be, but sometimes we have to do things the hard way.
June 4th we met for breakfast in the park. We had jelly donuts and Five Alive. I wrote my uncomplicated boyfriend a letter and broke up with him. As it turns out, he was always right about Slim.
In September we said, “Hey! We could get married!”
In March, we did.
And we still have spaghetti every Valentine’s Day.
And my picture? I can't seem to find the classic one of the groomsmen kneeling down in a plaintive fashion while I'm standing with arms akimbo, and so I'll have to humiliate Randy instead. One can only wonder why these kinds of photos are taken. Randy and my entourage of bridesmaids and flower girls. How can this possibly be explained?