Some people’s relationship is love-at-first-sight. My relationship with Garrett…wasn’t.
I remember the very first time I met Garrett. It somehow seems dangerously telling about our relationship.
It was freshman year of college, and we lived on the same floor of a dorm, though we hadn’t met.
The entire dorm floor was playing Assassin—a game where you were randomly assigned another dorm mate to “kill” by throwing a balled up sock at them. If you “killed” them, you took their name and moved forward until someone had “killed” everyone.
The only “safe” zones were your own room and the bathroom. Otherwise, the entire campus was a war zone. And you never knew who was after you.
My next-door neighbor—and friend—Max came up to me and asked me if I knew his target. Garrett Lech. The name sounded vaguely familiar. I had a lot of friends on the swim team and recognized him as a member of the swim team, even though we hadn’t met yet.
“I’ll get information about him by the end of the day,” I promised Max. And I headed to class.
Some time during the day, I saw him in the street. Overly friendly and playing dumb, I introduced myself and commented on our mutual friends. We talked the entire way to class. We talked about our schedules that day and our plans for the rest of the week. And, just before we parted ways for class, I mentioned that we should hang out sometime and told him I’d stop by his room.
“Which room are you?”
I texted Max immediately with his room number, class schedule, and plans for the week. Easy prey.
I remember thinking—not only is he overly trusting and naïve—but he’s quiet. And dorky. And preppy. I remember he was wearing a black peacoat and Dolce and Gabbana glasses.
I, on the other hand, was loud and boisterous and hardly ever in class but always at a party (I was a communications major after all). And Garrett thought all the worst things about all of that, too.
So that was my first interaction. And we probably didn’t talk again for months. He never went out to parties. I hardly saw him with our mutual friends. We lived completely different lives.
It wasn’t until my horribly schedule second semester gave me limited time to eat lunch. So I usually ate at 3pm, after everyone else had. I remember once going back to the dorm, desperately hoping that someone—anyone—hadn’t eaten yet.
And out of nowhere, I heard Garrett’s voice, “I haven’t eaten. I just got out of class.”
So we had lunch. And I remember looking around for an escape as Garrett lamented on about how Wal-Mart is ruining small-town America for the entire hour of our lunch.
“Uh huh,” I nodded—barely politely. As I was ready to exit the conversation.
And you would have thought that was the entire end of our experience together. But, in the seeming romantic comedy that was about to ensue, it wasn’t.
Months later, we were planning living arrangements for our sophomore year. And, though I didn’t really care who I lived with, a lot of people did. Some friends told me they refused to live with a friend who didn’t drink alcohol, and I had to pick them or him. Which made it really easy to pick him.
So just the two of us combined with some swim team friends. And, to fill out a five-person suite, they invited Garrett.
There I was—living with the preppy, small-town guy with a vendetta against Wal-Mart. It was a fine year. And, by the end of it, we became close friends.
But I couldn’t be tied down. I was in Italy or San Francisco or some other place next. He contemplated transferring away to be closer to his girlfriend.
And, again, I would have assumed we’d never see each other again. But somehow we did.
I remember when I lived in San Francisco that Garrett was the only person who’d religiously call me every week. Every Sunday, when I was doing laundry, he’d call to ask me how life was going across the country.
We didn’t see each other often, and probably wouldn’t have been close had he not called. But he did.
After college ended, I was living with strangers in a different part of the city. And my older sister’s friend Rachel had just moved to the city. So I decided to find a place with her since she really didn’t know anyone yet. And, somehow, Garrett was also looking for a new place. So he reached out, and we decided to all find a place together.
Shortly after moving in, Rachel met her now-husband. And she stayed at his place at least half the week. Garrett and I got closer as we got really involved in self-work.
He was looking for a residency outside of Boston. I was probably going to leave eventually, but I was falling deeper in love with the city.
Shockingly, Garrett placed in Boston for his residency. It wasn’t his first choice. And he would have left the day after I got sick—changing both of our lives.
And then I got sick. I was vomiting blood daily. And Garrett was the only one around—and a medical professional. So he took care of me.
I’d be start inside most nights with horrible pain and unable to eat anything. And he’d rent movies. And stay with me. And talk to me. And maybe rub my back.
It was a summer of self-work. And spirituality for me. I was determined to heal all of myself. Sharing my shame and vulnerability. And Garrett listened. He cared. He reciprocated and shared himself.
After a little bit, I knew something was happening. That our relationship was changing. That I was falling in love. And eventually we had the courage to share that with each other.
And, well, the rest is history now.
But it wasn’t love-at-first-sight. It was anything but. It was long and unexpected and surprising. It started with me being manipulative and devilish and him being kind and naïve.
I suppose, in a lot of ways, it’s the most fitting story for us.
Crazy the way life works sometimes. The miracle of it all.