Collaboration between N. Alysha Lewis and her husband, L.A. Lewis.
When it comes to “How We Met” stories, everyone knows that movies blow these out of proportion. Who actually has a meet-cute? No one even meets at coffee shops or bookstores anymore; it’s all online.
But this story, to the chagrin of the woman involved, is actually the stuff that movies are made of. It’s the start of something big that neither person was anticipating. It’s the closest to “love at first sight” that makes any sense.
We begin in a college town, a month or so into sophomore year.
An Unexpected Visitor
It’s as cold as can be expected for an October night in Texas – enough to warrant an oversized zip-up hoodie but not enough to make standing outside for several hours unbearable.
It’s dark at the Coliseum; the building is closed. The few security lights are lit, tracking the circumference every few feet, but my corner behind a pillar is dim at best. I like it that way.
It’d be a quiet night if it weren’t for me. In my ears, the mellow, jazzy tones of Norah Jones. I’ve been singing for maybe two and a half hours, voice growing hoarse after belting my way through the Wicked, Across the Universe, and Glee soundtracks, Christina Aguilera albums, and whatever else tickled the fancy of my lonely, stressed-out brain. I’m finally starting to feel better – as good as I can, at least, given the depression. I think, “This will be my last album. I’ll go back to my room after this.”
Mid-lyric, I turn, and I see him. At the top of the stairs, yards away from me, a guy in a dark hoodie.
The words I was singing die in my mouth. My heart pounds once, fiercely, sending hot blood and a buzzing sensation throughout my body. My thoughts are tumbling over one another: “Did he hear any of that? What does he want? Am I about to die?” I feel lightheaded, anxious.
I now know the answer: in a fight-or-flight situation, I simply freeze.
I watch as he raises his hands in a thumbs-up gesture. I don’t know what he expects me to do. I’m not even sure if he’s speaking. Norah is all I can hear; Norah is an anchor in this situation I can’t get a handle on.
He starts walking away, and I track him warily as he moves across my field of sight. Before he rounds the corner that will obscure him, he stops. He turns to me again. I watch him clap his hands once, twice, three.
The song’s final words are fading in my ears as he disappears, auspiciously predicting how the moment will end: “I’ve got to see you again.”
An Intriguing Discovery
My glasses are old, at least six years old, the prescription long past the point of effectiveness, and I have to squint to make her out in the distance. It’s nearly midnight, and she’s standing half-obscured behind one of the huge stone columns that surround the Coliseum. The only sign of life other than the two of us is a truck in the parking lot of a tennis court that’s at the bottom of a nearby hill. Now that the last echoes of her beautiful voice have faded, everything is quiet. We are alone.
I suddenly realize what that must look like. Me, a strange man squinting at her from the top of the stone staircase that leads up to the Coliseum, no indication of what I’m doing there, not moving as I let myself get lost in my own thoughts. Great job, me. Not creepy at all.
I smile, wave, and shout something stupid. “Nice pipes, lass!” Spoken in the dank, liquid accent affected by Brad Pitt’s character in Snatch. Real smooth. Not weird at all. She cocks her head, clearly unable to hear me over the music she’s listening to on her headphones. Of course. I smile widely, panicking. I can see her grin, kind of. Through the fog of myopia, I can see white teeth and raised eyebrows. Even with my broken eyes, I can see it’s a nervous grin.
So I flash her two thumbs up. She waves in a way that suggests she would like nothing more than for me to disappear. “When,” I wonder, “did I become so stupid?” There’s a cloud of moths floating around a nearby light that I’m suddenly very interested in. I walk away, trying not to make eye contact. I’m such a dingus.
By the time I round the corner, she’s singing again. It was her voice that led me up those stairs, and it’s her voice that convinces me to come back to her. We’ll talk for a bit, I’ll use my stupid Brad Pitt voice, and maybe I can make her laugh. Brighten up her night just a bit. What’s the harm? It’s not like we’ll ever see each other again.