Only One

Love was kept from me like a secret,
And I swore that I was through
Until you.

About this time last year, my life was changing, even if I wouldn't quite know it yet. The best thing that was ever going to happen to me was about to happen, and I was blissfully unaware.

Let me set the stage a bit.

We met in the campus coffee house on a night I didn't want to go to campus. At the time, it was the school I graduated from a few years back and going there made me feel old and everyone else feel young and it all felt a little creepy. But I had nothing else to do on a Friday night, so I went.

A friend and I were supposed to meet some people and they were perpetually late all in one night, which I mean like they kept telling us "five more minutes" and they kept missing it and it was getting old fast. We weren't even supposed to meet these people in the coffee shop, but we went there because of that habitual lateness I just mentioned.

Down in the coffee shop, I didn't want to get anything because I'm old so nighttime caffeine does weird things to my sleep and I'm cheap so I didn't want to spend the money. I went along, again, because of the "nothing else to do" clause that governed an awful lot of my life.

There she was, face lit up like the inappropriate-to-the-ambience-of-a-coffee-shop lighting this place we were in employs. I swear my heart nearly leapt from my chest when she uttered those now infamous words to me for the first time. "Hello," she said like it wasn't anything. Like a girl that looked like this and smiled like that and with eyes like those just said "hello" to me all the time. I looked behind me to make sure I hadn't stepped in the way of someone else's greeting.

No, those kind eyes that squish into small slits when she smiles were pointed right at me, and I, a deer staring down headlights like I have a prayer in this showdown, was trapped in her sweet gaze.

Turns out, she knew the friend I went down for coffee with. Turns out, I had heard of her before. I had even been shown a picture, though it could never compare to her in living, breathing person. She was captivating and from that moment, really, that first hello, I was her willing captive.

Those friends, the late ones, finally arrived, much to my indifference. We were waiting for them, but that was before there was a her. I didn't know that there would be a her. This option hadn't been presented to me before. But I played it cool. Even managed to beat one of those latecomers  in a game of ping-pong, watching ever so carefully to make sure she was watching.

Then those late arrivals, those blasted late arrivals, decided they wanted to go somewhere else. I don't know if I ever knew where, but they wanted to leave. She was here though. Couldn't they see that? She wasn't somewhere else. Right here. With us already. What else was there to go look for?

Ever attempting to be a good sport, I went with them to what ended up being just outside the building we were in, standing on the sidewalk talking, like we couldn't have done that where we just were. Where she was. And we talked and talked about things that didn't matter much to me. Couldn't tell you much of it except some girl from Ohio, who apparently thinks liking one place means you have to hate another, tried to pick a fight about me being from Michigan. Eh, who cares.

Then, as we stood there, it was her again. Moving past us, saying hello, but moving past as if I wouldn't follow her to the ends of everything if she would just ask. These people around me kept talking, but as I watched her go, all I could think about was her going. Her going when she should be staying. Or if she couldn't stay, I should go too.

With not much explanation and a swell of courage, I left after her, calling her name loudly so I wouldn't be the person following some girl he barely knew through a dark campus at night. She turned and waited. When I finally caught up to her, less out of breath than I would be now if I had to chase her, I offered to take her books. To help her carry them home.

And just like that, she refused.

Am I remembering that correctly? This girl, carrying so many books that she was more paper than person, refused help. Yeah, that's her. That's always been her.

I pried some from her hands and carried a few anyway. We talked the whole way back and she seemed to laugh at the things I said. I hope they were supposed to be funny. I have that effect sometimes, even when I'm not trying.

We got to her door and she had me reach into her backpack to find her keys. I didn't find them. I still probably couldn't, if I'm being totally honest. We found them together though and eventually, she was in the door and I was outside, alone, on the opposite side of campus from the people I knew.

I began the hike back, which seemed a lot longer than the walk with her had. Then my phone lit up with a notification. She had added me to a popular internet social network. That quick. Like it wasn't anything. I would've fretted for days over whether I should or not if she hadn't taken that step first.

The next few weeks were a time of trying to convince her to see me again. She wasn't having it and nothing I could think to say was changing her mind. Somehow, what eventually got her was an invitation to a wedding.

"Okay, but we're only going as friends," she told me, as if I had anything other than unconfessed hope that it would ever be anything more. "Of course," I agreed. Anything to be nearer to her, even for just a sunny Saturday afternoon.

After a year of something significantly more than friends, I can confidently say that I have never been more sure of anything than I am of her.

I love you.