About this time two years ago, I met my Dallas. Now, I was aware of his existence before that, but we hadn’t spoken.
It was fall 2011. Maybe a couple of weeks into the school year, so sometime in early September? I can’t remember for sure. I was walking down a crowded hallway with a fellow grad student, listening to him complain about this Southern kid in the seminar class he’d just gotten out of, who seemed to know everything. He was telling me all about how this guy was making the rest of the class look stupid, then he trailed off and inclined his head at a guy up ahead of us and hissed “that’s him!”. I looked up just in time to see a fairly short dude in a purple and gray striped hoodie disappear around the corner by the department office.
A couple weeks later, on a Thursday night (the first Thursday of October, just like tonight!), I went to a Phi Alpha Theta meeting, where my friend Katie introduced the Southern guy, who was still wearing that striped hoodie (that was how I recognized him first, actually, since I hadn’t seen his face the other time) as her friend Dallas, a new PhD student. It was game night, and as a bunch of us were sitting on the floor in a circle playing Apples to Apples, I learned a little more about him. He was from Georgia, got his bachelor’s degree in Alabama, and was studying Romania, the Holocaust, and forced labor, all things that seemed infinitely more depressing than my focus areas of environmental history, modern China, and green politics (which can all be pretty depressing, depending on where you fall on those issues).
After the meeting, I hurried home to get some books and was heading back out to the library to work on a paper when I heard somebody come shuffling up the sidewalk. The footsteps stopped, and Dallas said “oh, I didn’t know you lived here!”. I must have given him a weird look, because he said something along the lines of “uh…it was nice to meet you, have a good night” and scuttled up the sidewalk. It turned out he lived four doors down from me. His truck was the really nice one that I’d been walking past for several weeks in the ridiculously tiny parking lot right down the sidewalk from my front door, the truck that stuck out like a sore thumb because it had clearly never seen a Michigan winter. We ran into each other quite a bit after that around the history department and at Phi Alpha Theta meetings.
We started dating about a month later, on November 3, 2011. It’s kind of funny, actually: we were out with some other grad students, I bought him a drink and he got offended because he felt like I was emasculating him (seriously, one drink, which might’ve been $3.50), but he must not have been too mad, because later he gave me his number. Then he realized we were both walking home to the same building, and gallantly escorted me out the door on his arm like we were royalty or something. Once I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and almost took me down with him, he settled for holding my hand instead. He asked me to stop for a second in front of the Alumni House, and he asked for permission to kiss me. (Which was not as awkward as that last sentence makes it sound.)
We’ve had our highs and lows. It hasn’t always been easy–in fact, right now is hard! I haven’t seen my fiance in three months. For all of this talk about Germany being such a great, civilized, technologically-advanced place, we’ve had considerable difficulty talking over Facebook/Skype/FaceTime since he’s been there–either he doesn’t have internet access or the connection is poor. There have been times we’ve both made things harder than they needed to be. But we’re…us. I don’t know how else to describe it. His mom has an idea that he went to a little state university with a little history graduate program a thousand miles away from home, where he didn’t know anybody and it legitimately got cold in the winter (which he hates), because he and I were meant to be. I don’t know what I believe.
What I do know is that I had been in a pretty dark place in my life for at least a year before Dallas and I met. I was essentially doing it wrong in every aspect of my life. There are still a lot of mornings where, in that space between asleep and awake, I think this has all been one amazingly detailed dream, and that when I get out of bed, it’ll be early November 2011 all over again. It’s crazy to think about how much my life has changed in the seven hundred (exactly) days since we started dating and how much happier I am.