What better love story to talk about than my own? I have been with my partner Kaleb for eleven years as of writing this. We’ve been together since we were in high school; he was a sophomore (10th grade), and I was a junior (11th grade). We had known each other for much longer than that, though, having grown up in rural Alabama and going through the same elementary, middle, and high school system.
We really didn’t grow close, though, until we took the same science course, the same band elective, and even rode the bus to school and back. We had science together first, so we would start every day together. He was quiet with hair that covered his forehead and the tops of his eyes. He was immature, for sure, but what teenage boy isn’t? I was initially pretty turned off by him because I found his friends detestable. They were loud and enjoyed being the center of attention. They naturally pulled in the other boys of the class and often were the source of all the mischief.
It wasn’t until near the end of the day when we had our band elective that I got to know Kaleb as an individual, separate from his pack of teen boys. The class was halved. Band kids, like myself, used it as a practice or free period. Non-band kids, like Kaleb, were there for their free elective credit. They were technically supposed to be learning music theory, but when half the class was left to their own devices, the others would do the same, and ultimately the band director who oversaw the class was more interested in his office computer than a bunch of rowdy teenagers, so it was essentially a social period.
I liked Kaleb. I didn’t necessarily see him as a man or someone I could spend time with beyond the time we spent throwing paper balls at each other, play-wrestling, and playing video games on whichever handheld we happened to bring with us that day. It wasn’t until a few weeks into the semester that he came with a new haircut that I realized: wow, he actually is a man. His hair had been trimmed up, and he had it styled spike up on top of his head. No longer were his features hidden under a mop of brown locks. I became hyper-aware of how attractive he was, built like a football player, and though he was younger and the same height as me at the time, I found him beyond attractive. It was that moment I knew:
I have to be with him.
So suddenly, I was throwing paper balls, but only after writing messages in them first. While we play-wrestled, I would make it a point to linger whenever our skin brushed, and when we played video games, it was no longer side-by-side but often with one of us resting in the other’s lap. I don’t know that he even noticed the change, as nothing about our relationship was all that different, and no matter how desperately I tried to steer the conversation to more intimate and romantic places, he had the innate ability to turn it back into a game. Any hint of seriousness evaporated in an instant.
Weeks and weeks went by in this manner until December. It was the last week of school, and I was now under the pressure of an impending semester change, which meant I would probably never have a class with him again as the two classes we had together were the few exceptions there were to have mixed grade levels. I was much more purposeful in my flirting, and we were now spending the entire period cuddling on the band room floor, holding hands as we sat together, and talking about relationships, but never once did it seem he was ever interested.
I have always been the pursuer of all my relationships. Whenever I saw someone I was interested in, I always made the first move and was always the first to confess my feelings or intentions. I was never afraid of rejection, even though I was and still am far from a conventional beauty. Confidence in my personality always led me forward in all my relationship pursuits and almost always worked out in my favor. However, I felt there was much more at stake in this instance, though I had no reason to feel that way. I desperately wanted Kaleb, but I desperately wanted him to like me first. I wanted that guarantee before I made the first move, yet I could never get him to cross that threshold no matter how much I prompted.
It was the last day of the semester. The teacher put on Singing In the Rain, and Kaleb and I were sitting at the back of the band room, my legs in his lap, his hand caressing my knee. I had my notebook in my lap, furiously doodling and scribbling, frustrated with the state of our non-relationship. It was then I decided I had to make a move. He wasn’t going to do it, and I couldn’t go on, not knowing how he would respond. It was a small step, but it was the step I needed to maintain at least whatever this thing we had built up was.
So, going back to our beginnings, I ripped out a page of my notebook, scribbled down my phone number, and tossed it against his head. Of course, it was only inches between the toss to his head. Even so, I pretended not to notice and went back to scribbling. Not recognizing my intent, he picked up the paper ball and immediately tossed it back, bouncing it off my nose. I remember pouting and telling him I gave him something in it but not to open it until the end of class. He thankfully acquiesced.
It was on the bus ride home that he opened the paper ball. We were sitting together, and I was doing everything I could to avoid looking at him, which really only allowed me to stare out the window while he sat next to me. I love thinking back to this moment about how innocent it all was. It was so simple back then, and little did I know this was the start to something that would define my life for years to come.
I didn’t talk to him until I got a text.
‘Thanks for your number.’
I couldn’t keep myself from hugging him, feeling accepted. Finally, the door was open, and I just needed us to step through.
The following week or two was spent texting each other incessantly. I was dropping non-stop hints, telling him how much I wanted a boyfriend to spend the holidays with, how much I wanted to cuddle and kiss, but he never took the bait. Something I still make fun of him for to this day was when he responded to one of my many attempts to flirt with:
‘My friend Adam doesn’t have a girlfriend. I can give him your number.’
This was December 27th, 2010. I had spent days and days trying to get him to make a move, but he wasn’t budging and was now trying to set me up with his friend. Only then did I realize if I didn’t make it 100% clear, then we were never going to go anywhere. So, in response to his offer to get with Adam, I texted back:
‘No. I would much rather you be my boyfriend. Do you want to be with me?’
Only seconds went by, but in my mind, it might as well have been days. Almost instantly, though, he came back with:
It was beyond the most platonic, non-romantic response to that question, but it might as well have been a poem in iambic pentameter. The very next day, he walked over to my grandmother’s house, and we spent the evening out in the yard, in the grass, cuddling. It was like nothing had changed from those days in the band room, yet everything had changed. From that night onward, we have spent over a decade together. We aren’t married in the legal sense, but what is a piece of paper at this point? He is my husband and every semblance of the term, and I don’t anticipate that changing for the remainder of our lives.
It’s a simple story. There are no grand gestures or really anything overly romantic, but it is ours, and it has led to a whole lifetime of love and affection. Romance can bloom from the most insignificant of moments, and in turn, those insignificant moments can be the most significant.