How We Met: Our dating relationship started and ended on a motorcycle. The end was on May, our wedding day. We hopped on a motorcycle and rode off (well, as far as we could get before we ran out of gas) as husband and wife for the first time. The beginning was three years ago today: September 26th. On the Thursday before our first date, I’d spent the entire night at the Girl Talk concert. In the process of dancing (and, okay, elbowing) my way to the front row, I had been happily drenched with water bottles and tangled in toilet paper that had blown in ribbons by a leaf blower. Finally home and ready to collapse on my bed, I noticed a plain white envelope propped on the keyboard of my computer. My name was written on the outside in blue ink, but I couldn’t tell who it was from or where it had come from. I tore it open with a gulp. Inside was a card that read, “Would you like to go to dinner on Monday night at 5:30?” It was signed Thomas. I stared at it for a moment then let out a single, sustained scream until my roommate rushed in to see what was wrong. I showed her the note. She raised one eyebrow and pointed to the wall of advisory sticky notes we kept on our bathroom wall. Most of them were practical bits of wisdom like, ‘Always relay a compliment but never an insult’ and ‘Expect to have your cigarette lit.’ But down at the very bottom, I had written ‘The first date is free.’ It was our policy to give courageous boys one chance. I knew what I had to do.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like Thomas. Actually, I adored him. I’d met him through friends during my sophomore year. With him, those first months of fall semester had been filled with endless adventure: skipped classes, road trips, late nights and live music. My freshman year had left me exhausted from spending time in the wrong places and with the wrong people. Sophomore year felt like a fresh start. I had a group of three close friends and I finally felt like I had things figured out. The four of us would cut class early every Friday afternoon, meet in the parking lot, and crowd into the car bound for Columbus or Atlanta or Birmingham. Traveling across state lines with them gave me the most peculiar feeling of having become the person I wanted to be. Those wild weeks of early fall fit so perfectly with what I wanted to next three years to look like. I didn’t want to risk losing them (or him) by taking a chance on dating Thomas. I don’t think I fully believed that things could get better than that. Three years and two wedding rings later, I’m so glad I was wrong. Fortunately, I wasn’t able to let my hesitation get the best of me: I had to yield my personal feelings to the authority of the Post-It Note. So, I said yes to September 26th.
At 5:33 on the Monday of the date, I was still waiting on Thomas. I tapped my foot in the courtyard. In the window above me, my roommate Victoria scanned the horizon with her binoculars from our second-story window. I heard her pounding on the window behind me before I even heard the purr of the engine. When I looked out at the street, I saw Thomas pulling up on a motorcycle. I heard muffled screaming from the building behind me. I didn’t know where Thomas had gotten his hands on a motorcycle. I didn’t even know he could even operate one. But I did know that Thomas was prone to extravagant gestures when he really wanted something. I could tell he was relishing my confusion as he strutted up to me with an enormous grin on his face. I tried not to let mine show. Handing me a pink helmet, he helped me onto the back of the bike and revved the engine for effect. It stalled out. He started it up again with a bashful look back at me and we rode off. As we shot across a two-lane road that ran parallel to a stretch of farmland, I wrapped my arms tighter around him, leaned forward and whispered, “You know you need a license for this, right?” He laughed it off and never gave me an answer.
Thomas slowed the bike down and turned to our surprise destination: a park situated in the middle of rolling pastures. Leading me a along a path, he settled at the base of a tree overlooking a field where people were walking their dogs. He pulled out a quilt, picnic dinner, and a dozen misshapen cookies he’d made himself and we sat down to eat. I had always enjoyed being around Thomas. Usually first dates put a stranglehold on my nerves but with him, conversation was easy and enjoyable. We lounged there in the grass, nibbling our cookies and telling each other stories. There was an ease between us that felt strange on a first date. My previous boyfriends and crushes had been only that. I’d never experienced friendship blossoming into romance before. All my past relationships had been either short-lived or painfully dragged out. I knew that something wasn’t working, but I didn’t know what. Sitting there with Thomas in the park, amazed at how natural it felt to be on a date with my best friend, I thought I might have figured it out. A couple bites into our sandwiches, a dog came bounding up to us. Delighted, and hoping to demonstrate the chemistry I had with children and small animals, I opened by arms to let it adore me. Instead, it swallowed my sandwich in one gulp and sprinted away. It was the best first date I’d ever been on. And the last.
how they asked: It started with a series of lies.
Elaborate ones. Thomas wasn’t comfortable resting in vague excuses and dodged questions. Instead, he crafted a string of startlingly realistic fake Facebook messages, pre-recorded sound bytes of him practicing piano, and fabricated text messages. I had no reason to doubt that he was in Texas, but if I did, he had stores of evidence just waiting to be deployed.
So, when I was waiting for Rebekah to pick me up for dinner, I didn’t have the slightest clue that anyone other than her would be picking me up. I was leaning against a pavilion in the overflowing parking lot, hoping that none of the drunkards and youths that frequented that area made eye contact with me, when a car slowed down right in front of me. I readied myself to mean mug the driver. My scowl transformed into wide-eyed surprise when the window rolled down, revealing Thomas. Thomas, who had been in Texas when I’d talked to him twenty minutes earlier on the phone. I blinked hard. He was dressed in a black suit and skinny tie, holding a bouquet. There was a long scratch on the side of his nose.
“Do you need a ride?” Thomas asked.
I paused for a moment, rendered immobile by surprise and disbelief.
“Yes,” I said and got in the car.
I climbed into the passenger’s seat and continued to stare at him, speechless. I put a cautious hand to his cheek, sure he would disappear the moment I touched him. He didn’t. He grinned at me. I asked what happened to his nose and he said, simply: “Bar fight.” I blinked a couple more times.
Finally, I took his face in my hands and said, “Look, Thomas, I’m so happy you’re here. But I’ve had this dream a lot, and I’m not entirely convinced that this is actually you.” I looked at him very seriously. “So, I need you to prove it. Tell me something that only Thomas would know.”
Without missing a beat, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an orange-and-blue blindfold. “You remember this old friend?” he asked.
I did. It was the same blindfold that he’d used on our third date, when he’d led me down a flight of stairs, into his car, down some roads, and into an chartered airplane that he had arranged to fly us to Gulf Shores for the day.
“Yes,” I said.
“And you remember what to do with it?” he asked.
“Oh, I remember,” I said, and he stopped the car to tie it over my eyes.
And we drove. He offered me a cup of coffee and shot the breeze, as cool and calm as could be. Meanwhile, I was still dizzy with disbelief and restless with curiosity. Eyes closed tight under the blindfold, I relished the feeling of his warm hand in mine after so many weeks of only seeing it through a computer screen. I sat back and listened to him talk, waiting for the rest of the adventure to unfold.
He stopped the car and helped me out. Being led in a blindfold, even by someone you claim to trust with your life, is one of life’s most humbling experiences. I compared it to a giant version of the game we play on dates where one person closes their eyes and has to hunt for their drink using only their face. I stopped abruptly every few steps, sure that he was planning on letting me topple over a curb so that I could get some scrapes to match his mysterious injury. I tried to shake off the suspicion but I still limited myself to 3-5 steps at a time, so the journey took a while. He coaxed me on until we reached two iron-wrought spiral staircases. We climbed the first one, reached a landing, then climbed a second one until we reached level ground. He lead me down a path and then gently put his hands on my shoulders to turn me around. He reached up and untied the blindfold.
I gasped. The first thing I saw were thousands of lights. We were on a rooftop in Opelika that was blanketed in beautiful, flickering white candles. The treetops that brushed against the roof were covered with twinkling lights. A small fire gave off warmth and a gentle red glow. The effect was breathtaking. The rooftop was overlooking town square, with its beautiful fountain and lanterns, and in the distance I could see the steeple of the church where Thomas and I first met. He took my hands and gave an incredible speech that I loved too much to try to recreate here.
Then, he got down on one knee and said, “Lane Scott Jones: will you marry me?”
They say in moments of high emotion and adrenaline, time moves more slowly. You notice a tremendous amount of sensory information in a matter of seconds. In the few moments between him asking and me giving an answer, I somehow took in the dreamy glow of the rooftop, the golden glimmer shining out from the little black box, the look on his face, and the overwhelming sensation of feeling like everything was exactly how it was always supposed to be – how my heart had always yearned for it to be. My first thought was, “Of course. Of course it’s Thomas; it’s always been Thomas.” My first word was, “Yes.” My second word was “Yes.” In my pure jubilation, I ignored the ring completely and met him on the ground with a kiss. He lifted me into an embrace and we stayed there for a long time.
Finally, he asked, “Do you want to see the ring?” I stepped back and squealed my answer. He slid it onto my ring finger and I marveled at it and what it meant. I looked up at the boy I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
“Would you care to join me for dinner?” he asked, grinning. Behind him was a table for two, draped in his mother’s white tablecloth, and a bottle of wine waiting to be opened. Thomas’s best friend and our waiter for the night appeared at the top of the spiral staircase carrying a basket of bread. We hugged him and celebrated. He spent the evening running from MaFia’s back kitchen and up onto the roof carrying our beautiful entrees, drinks, and desserts. Thomas and I enjoyed a lovely, romantic dinner out on the rooftop. We called our parents. We danced next to the fire to our favorite songs. We talked about the adventures we would have together. He finally revealed that the battle wound on his face had happened during the day’s set-up when he lost a wrestling match with a piece of lattice at Lowe’s. At one point, I had him show me exactly where we had been standing when he proposed because even during dinner, I still couldn’t quite believe it had all happened.
Sitting on a couch in the incredible apartment below, after dinner but before we met all our friends to celebrate, Thomas and I reveled in the glow of everything that had happened. Thomas looked at me. I looked at the ring. It was perfect: thin gold band and teardrop shaped diamond with a point so sharp it could double as a weapon (a requirement that I ask of all my jewelry).
Gazing at me with a tenderness I had never seen before, he said, “Lane, I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”