I met my fiancé the Sunday after my 32nd birthday.
It’s odd the details that stick with you. I recall that I’d spent that birthday in a ski resort in the Appalachian Mountains. I wasn’t at the resort for my birthday. No, I was there for a four-day work conference at the beginning of August, and my work at the time involved local government taxes.
In between learning about delinquent collections and how to deal with unhappy taxpayers, I had a decent birthday. My colleagues and I even went out to have a nice dinner that night in a restaurant at the top of a hill. I distinctly remember the hill because parking seemed to be at different altitude than the restaurant, and my legs were burning by the time we finally made it to the front door.
But we survived the climb, and we had a lovely view while we ate, overlooking the lush green mountains and empty ski lifts.
I felt like this birthday was marking a good point in my life. I’d hit an age where I was successful in my career, construction on my first house was a month away from completion, and I was content with being single. I had accepted myself for who I was—with all my layers of quirkiness.
Because, believe me, there is a good bit of quirkiness in my life, and as far as I can remember, there always has been.
Among other things, I’m a movie nerd, a book nerd, a sci-fi nerd, and a superhero nerd—so overall, I’d say my life could be categorized by a general theme of nerdiness. And at 32, I was fully embracing it.
That Sunday night of the conference, while my colleagues were off doing much more normal and socially acceptable things, I’d retreated to my room with my iPad and a pair of earphones. I’d signed up for the HBO Go streaming service prior to the trip to make sure that at 9:00 pm that night, I wouldn’t miss the latest episode of the most epic fantasy show on television, Game of Thrones.
Like I said, I’m a nerd.
It was a fantastic episode. There were sword fights and dragons, and I was completely immersed—with my 9-inch screen clutched tightly in my hands and the tense score resonating in my eardrums.
I remember gasping at one point and one of my co-workers asking if I was okay. I brushed off the question. They wouldn’t understand what was going on in this fantasy world of Westeros, and I was too caught up in the moment to educate them on seven years of adventures.
The following Sunday—after I’d returned to my hometown from the mountainside escape—my friend Pamela invited me to join her and her cohorts for dinner and the show. I knew Pamela was a true fan—she and I had already attended a concert together featuring the show’s composer, and from what she’d told me, it sounded like her fellow watchers were as well.
I found wine that was specially bottled with a label from the show and made my way to the address. The house was at the end of a lane, and Pamela had given me the directions. Even the best map can’t capture every detail, though. As a car travels down this lane, the road narrows and trees appear on either side. I’m certain that two vehicles can only pass each other comfortably on this stretch if one of the drivers is holding their breath. But my friend’s directions were helpful, and I made it through the twists and turns.
I found Pamela’s car and parked nearby. The main entrance was on the far side of the house, and it wasn’t visible from the lane. Walking around the property, I could clearly see what the house and the trees were hiding. In their backyard, there was a wide creek, perfectly illuminated by the summer sun’s fading light. There were piers dotting both sides of the shore, and calm waters that would welcome anyone—bird or beast.
After admiring the view, I made my way up the front steps that led to the second floor. (If memory serves, the first floor was for the dogs at that time.)
Being the nerdy introvert that I am, meeting new people has always intimidated me. But thankfully, there are good people in this world, and the individuals who lived in this house are among them. They welcomed me into their home, and I had the feeling that I would enjoy watching my favorite fantasy show with them.
Not long after Pamela and I found places at the glass-top dining room table, the last member of the viewing party arrived, and I was introduced to David. (Little did I know then that this man would be sitting beside me years later as I type these words.)
I don’t remember all of the details shared that night—or what I might’ve learned about David later—but certain memories of that first dinner are still clear to me today.
I was joining them the week after a significant episode—one that’d had me curled up in a resort bedroom, biting my lip from the tension and straining my eyes to catch every detail. I understood how momentous the episode was, and I was glad to hear I would be watching the show with a group that appreciated its importance.
David, who’d been seated at the head of the table immediately to my left, seemed quite serious about it—and not just about the last episode, but every episode.
He then told the story of what had happened during the prior week’s viewing. In the final minutes of the episode—when characters who we’d followed for years were encountering each other on a battlefield with horses and dragons, and a main character’s life was in imminent peril—one of our hosts had grabbed the remote and hit pause. In his defense, nature was apparently calling.
David was determined to never let that experience repeat itself. As I sat next to him that first night, his energy was palpable. He reenacted the entire scene—both what had occurred on the screen and off, and his frustration was evident through his sharp words and abrupt hand gestures. It was clear he was adamant on how a show should be watched. He explained how cell phones needed to be silenced, all lights needed to be off, and bladders needed to be vacated before the show started. While the show was on, bottoms needed to remain seated, and no talking would be permitted.
He wanted a fully immersive experience no matter how many of us were sitting around the television. The viewing hour was just for that—viewing, and nothing more.
While some might have found David’s harsh and insistent tone abrasive, I found him charming. I still find him charming—even if he is unwilling to watch a movie on a Saturday afternoon, because it’s the incorrect environment for watching a film. (I still have my iPad and earphones, so we make it work.)
That night, I enjoyed watching the show in the dark and quiet of the room, and then talking about everything that had occurred with a great group of people.
When the night was winding down, Pamela, David, and I made our way outside and down the flight of stairs to our cars.
David walked me to my car and looked at my center console. “I respect that,” he said.
I looked in the car and had no idea what he was talking about.
He pointed to the large bottle of hand sanitizer I keep in one of my cupholders at all times.
Layers of quirkiness—that’s as close as I can come to describing myself. Yes, I’ve had hand sanitizer readily available for most of my life—even before the pandemic made it cool to do so.
Never before had a man complimented my choice to keep sanitizer close by.
And that was when I knew I wouldn’t mind spending more time with this man.
© Virginia Gale, The Glass Is Half Shattered, and virginiagale.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.