Eszter and Gabe
How We Met
It’s funny to look back on that afternoon and think that there was anything momentous about it. At the time, it was just one of those bland high school weekends, waiting for a weekend SAT class to begin. He walked in wearing a plain blue tee-shirt and shorts, and sat across from me. He asked me something stupid, like, “do you know what time this class is over?” I did. Of course so did he, but as he admits now, “it was something to talk to the pretty girl about”.
And so, quite un-momentously, began an endless cycle of stupid questions he would ask me from across that table: “What was the homework assignment last week?”
“What answer did you get for this one?”
“Do we have class next weekend?”
I can admit I judged him a little, he never seemed to know anything. But he was nice, sort of cute, and made himself incredibly present. I don’t think there was one class that he missed, or one that he spent anywhere besides right across from me. I saw him staring at me now and again, but he was always polite and would shy away once caught.
So we spent the summer in a strange proximity, each of us somewhat curious about the other and not sure what to do about it. When the class ended, we exchanged phone numbers and parted ways in the bittersweet fashion that high school kids do when they would rather have a class to force them together. We texted sometimes, but never saw each other. We exchanged SAT scores when they came in, which is how I learned he wasn’t quite so clueless after all.
A couple of years passed, memories faded; I don’t think either of us spent much time thinking about the other. But one day, home for my first winter break of university, I went to the gym and saw him there. We talked and were really happy seeing each other again, we made plans to text each other and meet in person.
This was the second of what he would come to call our “probability bottlenecks”: events which fell into place for us randomly and perfectly. We have many, and without any one of them we may have never been a part of each others lives.
We spent New Years together, there was a party at my house. He was my New Year’s kiss and for the four remaining days of Winter Break we spent every moment together. We walked endlessly into the night, holding hands and talking, kissing under the yellow street lights. Though we would never share it until years later, we both contemplated the word ‘love’ during this time. It was an incredible and intense time; days which we both agree were among of the best of our lives.
And then, back to school. He snuck a note into my pocket when we parted, saying something sweet.
We didn’t talk much once classes started again..
Sometimes he would text me, and we would share a few details about our lives before he faded away again for an indeterminate amount of time. It seemed that there was no reason we might try again at this point, our lives had diverged again to a critical point.
Then two years later in early June he called me, asked to see me. I agreed. He came to my house and we hugged each other. I remember thinking that our last touch had been when he slipped me that note almost two years ago. So much had changed. We took a walk together.
We talked about nonsense mostly. The conversation was more of a formality, something to allow us to be near each other again. It was easy being together, I was lulled into comfortable warmth as we strolled by the water.
“I still think about you.”
I was silent as we kept walking. He had to say it again to get me out of my head:
“I know how long it’s been, but I think about you.”
And so came another of our probability bottlenecks: deciding whether to give whatever we had so long ago a real chance.
“I think about you too.”
He gently reached his hand for mine, and we walked down the beach together.
How He Asked
The rain was falling on and off that morning. Deep grey clouds hung low to the ground, stark against the trees where they met above. The fog seemed to hug the very earth, dampening even the sound of our footsteps in the moss and twigs. It was cool and fresh. Winding beneath drop-covered branches and into the white void, we walked. It was a weekday, we were alone in the silent forest. We walked like a couple in love, happily chirping some nothings to each other as we went. I still remember cold-nosed kisses under the trees, and a stillness so heavy that I could listen to his breath. He walked with one hand in his pocket, quiet, a goofy smile on his face.
He had been joking that week about proposing to me, but in a lighthearted way that might not have meant anything. We headed back towards the car, passing through an open meadow followed by some forested picnic sites. The sites were overgrown and covered in soft moss. Small trees and creeping plants reached up from the edges of the previously-maintained circle that defined the site. I turned to see something that he pointed out behind me, and when I turned back he was on his knee in the moss. He still had that smile on his face, but there were tears this time. In his hands, there was a small box.
He could hardly speak but as he looked up he managed to tell me this: “I’m not joking this time”.