It's September 11th, ten years ago, and we had just had our first date the weekend before, a date to play tennis at nearby courts, in which you were over an hour late to pick me up. Oh, we are so far then from where we are now – married, a mortgage, a daughter, and another on the way. It’s late summer in the Sacramento valley, and I’m just a restless senior in college who is not quite ready to graduate, not quite ready to grow up, not quite ready to settle down, and then you ask me out for dinner, and then another date, and finally it’s like everything clicks.
After that, there’s a line straight down the middle of my life: a before and an after. Part A and part B. Without you, without you, without you – then with you.
Dinner was burned, and then it got cold. The baby is crying; I’m grumpy, exhausted and hungry. I curse under my breath, grumbling and complaining about how inconsiderate he is. Mad that he is late, mad that I don’t know when he will be home. Mad that I ruined dinner, mad that the baby will be in bed late again.
In this moment I hear myself, and I sound like an angry sitcom woman berating her hapless husband and I think how did I get like this? How did I get so old and obvious? I take a deep breath and think back to you on our tennis date, the way you made me laugh, the way your hazel-brown eyes glistening in the sun, the hope and the promise. I think of a time when you weren’t the idiot who forgot to tell me you were going to work late, but to when you were still the future, all unknown, shiny and new.
I have never been able to describe, accurately, how it felt to meet you. I vaguely remember our first meetings, the BBQ, Sunday football at the apartment, sitting next to you in our marketing class. This is frustrating for me; I make a living working with words. But here is the thing: I just knew. I didn’t want to commit, I swore to myself up and down that I didn’t want to get involved. And yet, I found myself saying yes to every single date.
My roommate asked why I kept going out with you, why I kept saying yes. Why did I curl my hair before every date? Why did I wear a skirt to my Tuesday/Thursday classes, if I didn’t care to impress you? “I don’t know”, I replied, “but something about him captures me. Something about him keeps me coming back.”
Not love at first sight, a feeling at first sight.
Twelve days after that first tennis date, two passenger planes crashed into the Twin towers in New York City. The world stopped. Chaos ensued. Classes were cancelled, track practice was abandoned, my roommates and I glued to the TV. He called, nervously, to see if I was alright. Awkward silence crackled along the phone line. There was nothing to say, the world was shocked.
While I could never forget about this national tragedy, we will never forget; it was swallowed up by the memory of meeting you.
This is just a quiet observation about the passage of time. The media, NYC, and the world remembers today, we reflect on all that was lost, we remember all the heroes who responded to those attacks that day. A decade has passed since our nation has gained new strength and new hope. For me, this is a date: September 11th that I carry with me in the compartment that contains all of our other dates, all those other notches marking the steady accumulation of time.