I booked my flight in November 2015 for May 15 to July 19, 2016. Yes, I booked a two-month trip to stay with the girlfriend (and the girlfriend’s family) that I’d never met in person. And I couldn’t have been more excited. The day I booked the flight I made an elementary-style paper chain countdown and draped the 100+ links over the bedroom of my apartment.
As I finished my third year of college, the chain receded further up and across the wall, shrinking as my excitement grew. When the school year wrapped up, I headed home for a solid two weeks before I left again.
I didn’t think I was very nervous about meeting her. I was scared about navigating the airport (for the second time in my life, the first time by myself), not about meeting Jas. But when the plane began its descent, nausea bloomed in my stomach. Teeth clenched, eyes shut, heart pounding kind of nausea. It lasted the two-hour long wait to have my passport checked at border control.
After claiming my luggage, having nothing to declare for customs, and walking through the shoot that opened out into my future, I immediately panicked. A crowd waited behind barriers, waving, yelling, standing with signs. I couldn’t find Jas. Maybe I won’t recognize her. Maybe she left. Maybe she was never coming. All absolutely irrational thoughts, but anxiety knows how to capture my doubt and consume it like fuel. I quickly towed my luggage out of the way, sliding out my phone and finding Jas’ number on my recent calls. I didn’t get to dial before I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I can’t quite remember our first words to each other. She may have said my name. Oh my god, might have slipped off my tongue. My arms flew out to hold her, and an infinity existed between the moment my hands brushed the tops of her shoulders, and the moment we finally closed all the space that separated us, all 4,000 miles of it. My heart pounded in every part of my body and stopped altogether when I finally exhaled. I sighed into her, touching her hair and breathing her in. The smell of her perfume is a scent cataloged in my brain, reviving this moment anytime I pass someone wearing it, even two years later.
When we parted, my eyes drank her in. She was taller than me, barely, but I’d always thought I would be taller. (Although I’m not sure why; 5’3” isn’t exactly the height that often makes you the tallest person in the room.) Dimples punctuated both sides of her smile, just like I’ve seen a hundred times before—I longed to brush my thumb across them. In that brief moment of truly seeing each other for the first time, my whole life changed.
The first full day there I adjusted to jet lag by lying in bed with Jas, half-asleep, arms folded over each other, noses touching. I spent literal years at this point daydreaming about kissing this girl, and now here she was, her lips almost touching mine. I felt her breath tickle my smile. Yet, it took another day for me to finally kiss her.
We were laying in her bed, giggling as I tickled her. I leaned down and kissed the dimple on her cheek. The smile on her face pushed her eyes into squinty slivers. When our gazes locked, I knew we were done waiting.
We talked about how we thought all this might happen. When our first kiss would be. What it might be like. When we’d have sex for the first time. How long we’d wait–or wouldn’t wait. We made guesses, but we never made plans. And maybe that’s why everything happened at the right time.
I leaned down to kiss her. She carried so much energy in her lips, and I felt every atom in my body electrify. There had been so much time to make up for–so much buildup, countless daydreams, endless imaginations, infinite possibilities, but now we were both unraveling.
For the next thirty mornings, we woke up the same way—comfortably aware of each other. In all the time we’d known each other we’ve been wondering what life might be like together, so the next two months we set out to find that answer.
Read on to Part 6!