Prologue: I love reading love stories, and I am always super curious to learn about how couples meet. Since this week we celebrate Valentine's Day, I thought I'd commemorate our 11th V-day together by sharing our love story with the Internet. Isaiah and I met at a bar, but the story of us doesn't begin the day we met. It begins by painting a picture of the state of my heart when we met. And to paint that picture, this story begins many years before we met. Please also note, this is the story of us according to me. The state of Isaiah's heart is not my story to tell, so I only briefly mention it. Today I will share part 1, and very soon I will share part 2!
I didn't date much in high school or college -- and that was not by choice. I wanted a relationship so badly, but I often faced the dilemma of unrequited love. What seemed (at the time, of course) like my one shot at love happened when I was studying abroad in Florence for a semester my second year at NYU (spring 2001).
At first, I was not really attracted to Antonio, but I was intrigued. At the end of two short months together, however, I was in love. We were in love. One of our last days together, he told me his parents had another house outside of Naples. He said we could live there and be together and be happy, but I had already made up my mind. I could not stay in Italy. How could I build a life with a man when every conversation required the use of my English-Italian pocket dictionary? Besides, I had a degree to pursue and a life back in New York. Instead of feeling like I had everything to gain if I stayed with him, I felt like I had everything to lose. The thought of giving everything up for a man I hardly knew frightened me. Still, up to that point in my life, I had never known pain like what I felt as I watched him leave my apartment our last night together. We stayed in touch for a couple of years. I even went to visit him in Milan while on a European train trip with my best friend Katy. Although this reunion flooded us with feelings for each other, we both knew we were meant to go our separate ways.
When I graduated from college, I moved back home to San Diego and spent the next two years going out dancing A LOT and kissing a bunch of frogs in search of Prince Charming. In reality, I was searching for that feeling I had with Antonio. I wanted to be adored like that by a man again, and I was coming up empty. The end of 2005 was a serious blow for me, and I had sworn off men for the foreseeable future. By January 2006, though, I was haunted by the thought that maybe Antonio really was my only shot at love, so I secretly began scheming how to get back to il bel paese and find him. That's when I posted an ad on Craigslist offering my services as a nanny for a family traveling to Italy in the summer.
Meanwhile, a couple of ladies from work (at least ten years older than me) asked me to take them out dancing. At this point my dance partner had moved to San Francisco for law school, so I hadn't been out dancing in half a year or so. I wasn't really in the mood to go out with my co-workers, but I agreed to take them to a place where I knew the bouncer, The Air Conditioned Lounge. That night, I relunctantly met up with them at the bar and lost them within the first 20 minutes. I was left on the dance floor alone, but that's never stopped me from having a good time. I was solo dancing to Thriller, imitating the moves from the music video, when Isaiah walked across the tiny dance floor. I remember making eye contact with him and thinking he was so cute! Eventually he made his way over to me, and we started dancing and talking, so much talking! Who talks that much on the dance floor? I certainly never had, but I felt it in my bones that this guy was different. At the end of the night he walked me to my car and got my phone number. I was so giddy!
Exactly three days later Isaiah called, and I invited him to meet up with me at a Trevor Davis concert at Lestat's. The next night, he took me out to a sushi dinner for our first official date. For the next three months, we were inseparable. We had so much fun together, he made me laugh, and I was crazy about him. I knew I was falling for him, but I wasn't totally sure how he felt about me. When the topic came up one night, I was crushed because I discovered we were not on the same page. My feelings for him were evidently stronger than his for me. He still wanted to be with me, he said, but I feared every day we were together I'd be wondering, Does he love me now? Fortunately, I loved myself enough to know I couldn't torture myself like that, so at that moment I broke it off. Was I really here again -- with a man who wanted to be with me but I found myself saying goodbye? I fell asleep in his arms for what I thought might be the last time, dried-up tears clinging to my face, and so that pain I once felt so long ago set in again, only worse. This time I was saying goodbye to a man with whom I could most certainly see myself building a life.
The next day was my birthday. (No, really.) We had plans with my dad for dinner, but I couldn't bring myself to tell him what had happened, so I asked Isaiah to come anyway and pretend that nothing was wrong and then we could go for a walk afterward and talk. During our walk I learned more about the girl before me. I learned that it had been love at first sight. I learned just how badly she had broken his heart and then I came along and brightened up his life but he didn't feel for me what he had felt for her. He was expecting his heart to burst like fireworks, but it just wasn't happening. I knew a thing or two about that. This love I felt for Isaiah was nothing like what I felt with Antonio. It was different, but for me it was a good kind of different. It felt like "grown-up" love, the kind of love between a man and a woman that becomes the love between a husband and wife.
I got an emotional call from Isaiah the next morning. Are we doing the right thing? he asked. I assured him that it was definitely the right thing. We needed time and space. Deep down I knew this was not how our story would end. Despite the heartache, I still believed in us.