On Wednesday, October 28, Ryan and I will have officially been together for 25 years. We started dating our junior year of college when we were both 20 years old. I use the word "officially" because there were a nebulous few weeks prior to our first day as a couple where we were kind of just flirting with a relationship. There was an unofficial date at the beginning of October where we attended a David Bowie/Nine Inch Nails concert at Southpark Meadows before it became a mega-shopping-plex. The reason it was an unofficial date was that Ryan was dating someone else at the time.
It's not as scandalous as it sounds. They had been growing apart for a while, due in some part to the 3 hour drive between them, and Ryan often says the relationship may not have lasted much longer even if I'd not been a part of the equation.
I had met Ryan two years earlier freshman year and there was a connection from the start. He was attending the University of Texas here in Austin, and I was at Trinity University in San Antonio. We met because of common friends. He had gone to high school with my roommates, Shannon and Erica. His brother Jason was a junior at Trinity at the time, so when he visited Jason he would also see his high school pals.
If it had been up to Ryan I think we would have been dating immediately (he can correct me if I'm wrong), but my reservations stemmed from not wanting a semi-long distance relationship and my rapidly declining health. My kidneys were failing freshman year, and the situation was serious enough that by Christmas it was determined I would stay home second semester to undergo a kidney transplant (thanks, Dad!).
We saw each other twice sophomore year. The first time was around Halloween, and we were all hanging out in Shannon and Erica's dorm room. Erica was dressing up as a bee for the holiday and at some point in the evening, Ryan put on the bee hat part of the costume. There's an amazing picture somewhere that sadly I do not own. I will never forget that night, because the annoying hipster dude from down the hall came knocking on the door looking for my roommate and he visibly started when he spied the 6'5'' dude wearing a bee hat. Ryan chased him all the way down the hall. We laughed for probably 15 minutes after that. Poor hipster dude, he did not know what was happening.
Springtime rolled around and Ryan made another appearance when Trinity hosted a music festival. I was unable to attend, due to catching up on schoolwork from a stint in the hospital, so Ryan took my ticket. I spent the entire day in the library, successfully finishing my paper, and then got to join the gang that evening. At some point we all ended up at IHOP. Ryan and I sat across from each other and talked nonstop like we were the only two there.
Sometime at the beginning of junior year we began emailing each other. Email was still pretty new (look, it was 1995) and it was the first time I'd used it for correspondence. With so many of my friends doing study abroad that semester it was essential. Handwritten letters were composed, but delivery took forever. At some point, Ryan obtained my email address from Shannon and jokingly sent me a list of questions he found somewhere (example: who is your favorite Star Wars character?*) that he had filled out. I don't know if he expected a response, but I dutifully sent it back with my own answers. After that, we were emailing a LOT.
We met in person the first time that year at a party in Austin. Because we had been chatting so much online, I felt comfortable enough to call him up at his apartment and ask him why the hell he wasn't there. He came right over. We had so much fun that night. For some reason, my friend Justin (who had hitched a ride up from Trinity with me) and I decided to crash at Ryan's apartment that night. I accidentally left my glasses at his apartment the next morning.
As much as Ryan still teases me for "accidentally" leaving them there, it really was not intentional. But it turned out to be the best mistake, because that meant I had an excuse to see him again. The David Bowie concert was the next weekend, so he invited me up.
The two weeks that followed, I was in a bit of a funk. I really liked this guy, but he was still dating another girl. I kept telling myself to get over it, but it was difficult. That all turned around the day I was sitting in class talking to Shannon and she informed me Ryan and his girlfriend had broken up. I knew I was going to see him again as we were scheduled to go back to Austin for fall break, and was immediately hopeful again.
We began dating the Saturday during our break. Saying I hadn't dated a lot would be an understatement, but this felt different to me. It was very serious even from the beginning. I don't know if that was because we already knew each other fairly well, or if we just clicked. Probably a bit of both. I know I hoped from very early on for this relationship to be lasting.
Twenty-five years later I can say I was right. It was different and it was special. We've been married for over 20 years, been in the same house for 14, have had three crazy dogs and one...interesting cat. Ryan has been the best part of my life for those 25 years. We've gone through a lot, and I don't know what I would have done without him. As happy as I am now being married with years of history together, not having to worry about "oh, does he like me?", thinking back on the story of how we came to be still makes me smile.
*Mine was Salacious Crumb, but I couldn't remember the name at the time. I believe I called him Jabba the Hutt's little monkey. His was Boba Fett.