It’s official. As of today, I have spent more of my life in a relationship with Lee than without him. Seventeen years ago today, on Friday, May 13th when I was 16 years old, he picked me up from a friend’s house and took me to see The Crow at a movie theater in Tifton. It was our first date. He bought our tickets and popcorn. I put my hand on the armrest between us but he didn’t hold it. Not yet. I got a kiss on my forehead as he said good night. He made me a mix tape. He was a perfect gentleman. He still is.
I still have a mental image of the first time we met. I moved to Fitzgerald in the spring of my 10th grade year. My first class of my first day was Spanish with Mrs. Satterfield. I remember meeting my classmates. I remember the handsome boy with the longer, blond hair introducing himself. I still have the image in my head of him turning around and walking away, and I remember thinking I’d like to get to know him better.
But we didn’t start dating immediately. We went to prom together just a month or so later, but not as each others’ date. He was a grade ahead of me, and our paths didn’t often cross.
But my junior year, we both took a creative writing class. The more time I spent around him, the more time I wanted to spend. In that class, all our writing assignments were done on the school’s computers and we used our social security numbers to log in. To this day we still know each others’ social security numbers because we learned them that year, using them to log in to each others’ accounts. We read each others’ poetry and short stories, and I saw a tenderness and a depth in him that I’d not seen before.
That same creative writing class took a field trip to Atlanta, and I remember sitting in the hallway outside our hotel rooms talking with Lee. I haven’t a clue what we talked about, but we talked until the sun came up. It was still several weeks before he asked me out, but by then I think all our friends knew it was inevitable.
We dated for 7 years, 7 great years, but understandably with ups and downs and growing pains. After all, you’re not the same person at 23 that you are at 16, at least you hope not. But thankfully, through all those changes we grew together and we still believed in us. And we’re still changing and growing. And we still believe in us.
After we’d been dating some time, people used to tell me I might be making a mistake. They said being so serious with someone I’d begun dating at 16 would just keep me from experiencing other relationships and learning from other people. I remember telling them at the time, “What if I happened to be one of the lucky ones who got it right at an early age?”
And I was, and still am, one of the lucky ones.