When someone asks how I met my husband, this is what I say. He grew up just a few blocks away from where I grew up, but we didn't really meet until high school. When we had chemistry together.
I will always remember the first time I noticed Eli and began to take an interest in him. Before, I knew who he was in a vague way, one of those Heicher boys, but I didn't know which was which, who was the older and who the younger. One day in chemistry class we were taking a break from our usual lecture/lab routine to help make the decorations for the Sweetheart Dance. (At least, in my memory it was the Sweetheart Dance, but then, that doesn't seem to line up with the right dates. Oh well, we'll call it the Sweetheart Dance.) Eli was lying sprawled across one of the lab tables, talking to my friend Cecelia. He was twirling a tiny ring around his pinky finger and debating out loud whether to give it back to his current girlfriend and call it quits with her.
He was wearing an old pair of too-big farm overalls, and some band t-shirt underneath. He had long hair, dyed blonde. I remember thinking he seemed so cute, in a cute sort of way. (I was sixteen.) He seemed sort of innocently cheerful, which I thought was strange, given the grungy, vague back of the school bus type of persona that I had always attributed to him.
In any case, I just remember thinking, "Huh. He's cute. Kind of hope he does decide to return the ring..."
I really don't know how long it was after that day that I ended up on a double date with Eli, Cecelia and Ethan. It was pure circumstance. Eli had been trying to get Cecelia to go out with his brother. She finally consented, with the stipulation that it be a double, with Eli and someone else. He agreed to those terms, but argued that she had to find the someone else for him to go with. (All of these terms and negotiations, of course, being ironed out through whispered conversations and scribbled notes passed during chem class. As all important teenaged matters are.) She asked if I wanted to go and I said yes, recalling the vague stirring of interest from weeks before.
And so we went. Dinner and a movie. Fazolis and Twelve Monkeys. It was January 12, 1996, and I hadn't worn a coat. I wore huge baggy pants that drooped low enough on my hips to show off the waistband of my black Calvin Klein underwear, a black top with a blue thrifted Caterpillar workshirt thrown over it. I remember the details because I was trying so hard to come off as unintentionally sexy. God, I was SO sixteen! :)
I was cold in the theater, so Eli gave me his coat to cover up with. It was an old green coat; I can't remember it well enough to describe it, but I remember loving it. Back then, as now, I loved the old, the vintage, the thrift store finds. And he wore a pocket watch. A pocket watch! How cool was this guy? My crush on him was pretty much immediate.
When we came out of the theater into the cold, I handed Eli his coat back, and like a gentleman, he tried to refuse and get me to keep it. I said that, no, it was my problem; I was the one who didn't wear a coat and he shouldn't be the one to suffer for it. And so he took the coat back and wore it himself. I have always been impressed by that for some reason. I guess because he listened to me. I wasn't used to being listened to.
That night will go down in history not only as the night I fell in love with my husband, but also the night that I got grounded for the rest of my life. I'm actually still grounded from that night. Cecelia and I went back to the guys' house and stayed there until 2:00 a.m. playing Jenga. Oops.
When I arrived home in the wee hours of the morning my mom was waiting for me. She was not impressed.
But I was. I was love struck. But I was playing it cool.
The next night Eli called to apologize for getting me in trouble. We talked on the phone for over an hour. He was so interested in me, such an active listener. He seemed to want to know everything at once. Not just my favorite color (green), or my favorite band (Smashing Pumpkins), but more importantly, what was my favorite jelly? (apple) He was off-the-wall, funny, charming, wonderful. He was unlike any 17-yr.-old boy I knew. *sigh*
We went through our ups and downs after that weekend. Immediately there were obstacles. There were silences, arguments, and long soulful talks. But there was also love. Love like I had never known.
I will never forget how thrilling that time was. How I woke up every day in anticipation of seeing him. How he would come home late from his part-time job and throw rocks up at my bedroom window to wake me so that I would come outside and sit on my porchsteps and talk to him. How the electrical sparks would practically fly between us in the dark, wherever our bodies touched. The brush of a hand, the bumping of knees.
That is how we began.
This is not an end.
We will always have chemistry.