Becky and I are celebrating sixteen years of marriage this week, twenty-one years together. So, since I’m already doing a lot of reminiscing, how about I answer the question women ask me more than any other: How’d you and Becky meet?
The first answer I always give is Hooters. But the real answer is Chili’s. But first, church.
I was nineteen, spending the year after high school working while taking some basics at the local junior college. Becky was 23, just graduated college with some sort of business degree, and was taking the year off to decide what she wanted to do next: graduate school or take a job in France. Her dad was our new pastor, moved to Tyler my senior year of high school, so Becky came to town after graduation, worked as a church secretary and took a French class at a local university to keep the language fresh just in case.
All of my friends either had the money or the grades to go off to school, so it was just me in town that first Fall after graduation. And a good-looking guy who was Mr. Everything in high school a couple grades ahead of me, kind enough to let me tag along with him. Well, he and Becky were kind of seeing each other and if they hadn’t been I don’t know that Becky and I would have ever crossed paths.
One Sunday night after church he said a group was going to Chili’s and asked if I wanted to come. I didn’t really know anybody at the long table of “singles” so I mostly just ate chips and cheese and watched the pastor’s oldest daughter at the other end. She was always smiling that perfect orange-slice shaped smile, her big green eyes wide with genuine interest one second and then tiny slits during a fit of laughter the next.
After dinner Mr. Everything said everyone was going over to Becky’s house to watch a movie – “You should come.” Oh, yes, I will.
When I got there and it was just the three of us I should have backed out, should have been uncomfortable being the third wheel, but not that night. We watched some movie I can’t even remember now and at some point Mr. Everything fell asleep on the couch. The credits rolled. Becky and I talked, laughed. Hours later, I came home in the middle of the night, still living with my parents then.
The next day I told mom I’d met the kind of person I wanted to marry. “Why not marry this person?” she asked. And my reasons made since: I was her youngest sister’s age, two months shy of a four year difference. I was a boy who just graduated from high school and she was a woman who just graduated from college. I’d probably be in the same town my whole life and she’d probably be a businesswoman in France before long. And she had Mr. Everything. She’d never choose me over him. A woman like Becky would never like me like that.
A while later – months maybe? – Becky’s French class was having a get-together. She’d asked Mr. Everything to be her date but he had other plans so she wondered if I’d come along as a friend. Mr. Everything understood. She picked me up in her giant Thunderbird. I wore my best suit and she wore this white top with ruffles and a long skirt and heels. And I know I’d seen her dressed up at church many times but this was different and the words came out before I could consider whether they were appropriate and what they might do to our friendship and what Mr. Everything might do to me if he found out I’d said them. “You’re beautiful.”
We weathered the dinner together, everyone but the dates speaking in French. And then we went to Taco Bell for some real food. A herd of rednecks about her age came in and one of them made an inappropriate comment to Becky.
“I’m just going to pretend I’m your girlfriend, ok?” And I said, “Ok” and she wrapped her arms around my stick arm and leaned hr body against me with her head on my shoulder. After chicken soft tacos we took this picture…
…and stayed up talking until morning.
“If you could be anything – money and people’s opinions don’t matter at all – what would you be?” I asked.
“A mom,” she said.
And I knew France wasn’t in her future then.
Not long after that, Mr. Everything and Becky got into a fight. I don’t know what about. But I know she was pretty upset. They argued outside her parents’ house while I stayed inside amusing myself at the upright piano – still the persistent third wheel. And when she came inside Mr. Everything didn’t come with her and she didn’t say much except that we wouldn’t be seeing him again. I put my arm around her and said “I’m sorry.” I said I should go home and let her be alone. But she said she wanted me to stay. After the longest silence spent rubbing her shoulders while she sat with her eyes closed she said, “I know what you’re trying to do.”
She only smirked back as if amused by the game I was playing. But I wasn’t playing. There was certainly something I wanted to do, but I wouldn’t dare try. I was trying – for a year – only to be a friend, to just be near her every day. I never thought more was a possibility or else I would have tried sooner. But she thinks I’m trying and she’s not telling me to stop trying or to go home so maybe…
And she kissed me. And I kissed her back. And it was the best kiss. And it was the last kiss I ever wanted to know. Twenty-one years ago.