It all started with an innocent conversation in the newsroom about four years ago.
Somehow, someway, my fellow copy editors and I got to talking about this female intern that last worked at the newspaper some time ago. And, for some reason, my interest was piqued.
So much so, I decided to do some Facebook stalking. Don’t judge me, you’ve done it, too.
I saw some pictures and read some posts, and the more I learned, the more I liked.
After a while, I decided to friend her. Almost immediately, of course, I beat myself up, “Wait a minute, she has no clue who I am. This is kinda stalker-ish. And a great first impression, by the way.”
As I would learn later, I was right.
So, to mitigate any weirdness, I messaged her.
“I hope this isn’t too incredibly creepy, but I wanted to introduce myself,” my opening line read.
It must have worked because it took off from there.
Messaging turned to texting. Texting turned to phone calls. And phone calls turned to a date.
Ah, that first date. It’s almost never fun. But it’s a necessary evil.
And everyone has their horror stories.
In fact, I had a date based off a sad, rather pathetic and whiny Valentine’s Day column years ago.
The two of us exchanged emails, texts and even a phone call or two.
Eventually, we went out on a “date.” I use quotation marks because it really wasn’t. It was more of a group get-together, with two of her friends.
When I was dating, group get-togethers always were my biggest pet peeve, though I understood the reasoning behind it all. Presumably, it’s supposed to take care of all those awkward moments and silences that can creep up.
The problem is, it can turn into a time of getting to know a person’s friends more than the one you actually want to know.
Besides, it’s always been my contention if a potential relationship can’t survive that initial time together as a couple, it wasn’t meant to be anyway.
It’s kind of like a baby bird being pushed from the nest. If it flies, great. If not, well, that’s that.
As it turned out, there wasn’t much chemistry — even in the group setting — and it has served me well as an interesting anecdote and cautionary tale.
But this first date, four years ago Dec. 16, was nothing like that. Nothing at all.
In fact, it was the best first date. Ever. For me, anyway.
Megan and I decided on a central location between our respective hometowns of Keokuk and Burlington. And we settled on the little drafty Fort Diner down by the Mississippi riverfront in Fort Madison.
I arrived first, and she pulled up in her shiny red coupe minutes later.
She got out of her car, and she was gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful.
I’m not going to say it was love at first sight — because I don’t believe in such things –but it was close.
We made our way inside the tiny restaurant, ordered our food and got to talking.
We’re both in the journalism business, so we talked shop. But there was something else there. We connected deeper than our shared careers.
And that became increasingly clear as hours passed and we were still conversing.
Neither one of us wanted our time together to end, so we decided to catch a movie, but the nearest theater with anything to watch was at Westland Mall in West Burlington, about 20 minutes away, so we got into my car and off we went to see “The Hobbit.”
We arrived, bought our tickets, but we needed to kill some time before our film started. There wasn’t much else to do, so we walked around and continued to talk.
As if there was more to say after the hours we’d already spent.
But, the thing is, there were no awkward pauses. We continued on. And on. And on.
How could that possibly happen? It’s a first date. Things aren’t supposed to go this well.
Soon enough, it was time to head toward the theater.
We found our seats and settled in. As the lights dimmed and the movie started, I was trying to be smooth, but, honestly, I was having a hard time even working up the nerve to hold her hand.
She wanted me to, as I found out later. Her arm was on my arm rest, after all.
About three hours later, the movie ended, and I had to drive her back to Fort Madison, but when we got back into the car, I decided to go for it and kiss her.
It was a risk, but a calculated one. After all, things had gone so well up to this point.
I leaned in, and it was amazing. I was hooked. There was no denying it.
I dropped her off after that 10-hour date — yeah, 10 hours — and floated back to my apartment.
We’ve been together ever since, and every year, we make it back to that old diner and reminisce about how we felt, what we were thinking. We even catch a movie in that same theater.
But after the movie ends, instead of driving back to Fort Madison, we head home. Together. As a married couple.
And it all started with a conversation.