I know that I've mentioned that I met Eric during my freshman year of college. We fell in love in the fall, and by December we were inseparable. I don't think I've ever mentioned, though, that he actually asked me to marry him that year - for the first time. One morning, while I was getting ready for class and Eric was lounging in the bed, he said, in what seemed an offhand way, "Would you marry me?"
I thought he was saying it in a hypothetical way, as in, If you were to wed, would you consider choosing me? So I grinned and replied, "Sure!"
"No," he said, "would you marry me?"
I looked at him...and time stopped. We were so young, and he was the first man I'd ever loved. I was barely eighteen. I said yes. He smiled.
He didn't propose again for another two years.
The picture at the top of the entry was taken after Christmas vacation my freshman year. I had just returned from break, and Eric and I were mad for each other. I, in fact, had been in New Orleans with the marching band for the Sugar Bowl, watching the Mountaineers get thrashed by the Florida Gators. Before I came back to college, though, I got a phone call at home:
"This is West Virginia University Housing and Residence Life. There's been a bit of an accident with Carrie's room."
Turns out that the weight of the ice and snow on the roof of the building had caused the ceiling of my dorm room to collapse. Specifically, it collapsed over my bed. I'm just relieved that it decided to collapse over break, and not while I was asleep in that bed.
I came back early to try to restore order to my living quarters. What choice did I have? The ceiling had been fixed (I think it was made out of styrofoam), but everything in the room was in shambles; furniture was strewn everywhere, my clothes were in piles, and all of my possessions were on the floor. It looked as though a whirlwind had swept through my room, scattering things in wild gales. I felt like crying when I saw it.
Eric came to the rescue. He stayed with me for hours, helping me put my life back into some semblance of order. We took even longer than was required, since every item we found necessitated that I tell him the story of where I got it and why. We got the sillies sometime after midnight, and we took pictures of ourselves with the timer on my camera. We laughed until I finally did cry.
I knew that I'd be with him forever. It seemed the natural future for us. How could we end up any other way?
Now he's sitting on the sofa, playing with our son (who's busily filling his diaper, by the sound of things). My ear aches with what could be an infection, and the warm garlic oil didn't help, but I can't help but smile - inwardly - at the difference seven years can make. He still makes me so happy, but it's a quieter kind of happiness now. We still have moments where we laugh until I cry, but there are even more moments of calm, simple peace between us. We're comfortable.
But I envy that young couple. I wish I could go back and relive some of those moments of discovery - those sparkly days of fresh, young love. Can a person run out of stories to share?
Maybe the real test of a relationship lies when the "Once I..." stories are depleted, leaving room only for the "Once we..." ones. Here we go...
This entry is a piece for On Display. The topic this month was to choose a photo and write about it.
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