My all-knowing mother was emphatic that the reason why I was given the opportunity to do my student teaching in my hometown one year ago was because I was going to find my future husband. I was equally emphatic that any man worth knowing did not exist in the White Mountains, and that the last thing I wanted was to marry a gun-toting backwoodsman. I had other ideas. Something about tweed jackets, glasses, and British accents.
At the end of my time student teaching in May, one of my students approached me about meeting his cousin. The thought of some unknown-to-me cousin who lived who-knew-where out in the boonies and who probably wore Wranglers and shot animals was utterly unappealing. I was grateful at the time to have the excuse of being in a relationship with someone else. That excuse however, did not last long. In July, I had moved to the Valley for my first teaching job and Rick (the cousin) had added me on Facebook, and although I very rarely accept requests from people I don't know, for some reason unbeknownst to be then, I accepted Rick's.
For a couple days, Rick and I began sending messages back and forth through Facebook. He cut to the chase and asked if I was single. I had been out of my rather rotten relationship for about a week, so I had to answer yes. Rick asked for my phone number. We talked on the phone for about an hour, and he asked me out for a date the next day. I was caught off guard by his straightforwardness, and I also was not frightened to say yes.
The next evening, Rick showed up on my front step in a plaid shirt and Wranglers with a massive belt buckle. I was decked out in my classic polka dots and pointed ballet flats. We were an odd-looking pair, and as my father would comment on later, "There have never been two people more different from each other."
My first impression of Rick (besides his inability to make small talk) was that he was genuinely kind. This struck me as oh-so-very-important for many reasons, but most importantly because I had recently been through a stretch of men who were not very kind. These men had been short with waiters or waitresses, had been impatient in traffic, and had made me feel small and insignificant. Rick was the complete opposite. He gave our waitress at the Olive Garden a more than generous tip, although she had been only an okay waitress, he was charitable to those those in his family and community. And with me . . . he made me feel as though I was this beautiful, witty, in-need-of-spoiling creature. It was the first time I felt as though I was a woman on a date with a man, not a girl on a tight pre-prom date with a boy.
At dinner, Rick took the lead and ordered a couple of appetizers. Unfortunately, Rick was not familiar with my picky palette and chose fried calamari and stuffed mushrooms. No, thank you. When he realized that I was not having any of the appetizers, he had the waitress bring the menu back so I could pick an appetizer I wanted. While we were eating our salads, I noticed Rick push aside his black olive with a look of disgust. I reached across with my fork and snatched that olive, which led to my declaration of undying love for black olives. Then Rick asked the waitress for a small bowl of the delicacies just for me. No one had ever done that for me in my whole life. It was not by any means a grand gesture, but it was an obvious sign of who Rick was.
We left the Olive Garden and went to the movie theatre to watch the new Jurassic Park film. It was not long before Rick held out his hand to me, and I took it willingly. There was no game involving hands in popcorn bags or pinkies accidentally brushing making one second-guess whether a guy wants to hold your hand or not. He held out his hand in honest, unembarrassed affection. His confidence made me calm.
After the end of the film, Rick took me home and in my mind I was reminding myself that I had recently gotten out of a relationship and did not want to just kiss the next guy who came along, no matter how sweet he was. Don't let him kiss you, Kelly. Just don't do it. On my doorstep, Rick hugged me tightly and then he got that look in his eyes. He leaned in but did not kiss my lips, but rather my nose. I thought he had missed due to the somewhat extensive nature of my nose. Then I realized he meant to kiss me on the nose because it was quite tender. All of this was beginning to register in my brain, but before it could sink in fully, I blurted out, "Really? That's all I get? A kiss on the nose?" I was horrified with myself, but Rick laughed and then kissed me for real.
It was all straightforward, honest, confident, calming.
Somehow just right.