Once upon a time five years and about a month ago today, an overworked and underslept college student peered over her nearly finished dinner at a face that would change her life.
This wasn’t the first time she had noticed this face, oh no. She had had her eye on it for some months at the all-too-brief moments every few weeks that it crossed her path in the dining hall. To get more yogurt from the salad bar. To carefully place a dinner tray on the return belt to the kitchen. To sit in the corner and linger over a book while the yammering masses roiled and seethed nearby, talking about everything and nothing at once.
Oh, if only they could read alone together, she would muse from an adjacent corner as she buried herself in her own coursepack.
But this time was different. This time, the swarming bodies protecting the kind eyes; soft, full lips; strong features of this face—not to mention the thick, shiny hair and tall, broad frame attached to it—from her wandering gaze were not faceless underclassmen but her very own freshman roommate-plus-mutual-friends.
Your chance has come! her brain cried, urging her forward with wings of fire.
Oh, I don’t know…
Yeah, what the hell. She sauntered over to the table and worked her charms. No, that’s not right. Made an ass of herself. No, that’s not it either. She just opened her mouth and persuaded some words to come out. But she got his name. A few witty Facebook messages, a couple of dinner dates under the pretext of “not having any friends in our house,” and a well-timed extracurricular formal took care of the rest.
A month later, they were at her favorite thinking spot atop Cabot dining hall, looking at the stars. Metaphorically speaking.
Three months after that, they had both dropped the 爱-bomb.
Within five months, they had moved in with each other.
Within a year, they were figuring into each other’s long-term plans.
Five years later, they still hadn’t strangled each other. And the rest is history.
What if, at that critical moment, she hadn’t done it? What if she had searched her mindspace for an excuse and found a less-than-full stomach, a semi-uncomfortable bladder, a brain running at sub-par capacity? What if she had justified her delay by, as we are all too often wont to do, tending to these less meaningful but more immediate concerns and putting off her grand plan of attack until “tomorrow”? And what if that tomorrow had never come?
Maybe in a tapestry of parallel timelines this question has been accorded an infinite number of answers. But the only timeline relevant to this girl is the one she’s in—the one in which we are all presumably party to her precarious footfalls along the valley of one fate alone.
What if she had carried her tired excuses past the door to her current future, never to see it close forever? Would she have stepped along all the varied roads she has traversed within and without herself, had as many opportunities to scout away the dark spaces occluding her internal map of the universe and her role in it? Would she have met someone else at once so infinitely patient, caring, similarly contemptuous of society’s superficial concerns, well-suited to her colorful collection of neuroses, and motivated to understand her frenetic musings? Not likely. With whom she could carry on a deep conversation in three shared languages, practice a sparring set, play a round of Ultimate Frisbee or two of badminton, and enjoy a few hours of Zelda, all in the same day? The odds are dwindling by the letter.
Tomorrow will mark five years since she first linked arms and matched destinies with this person, the day that she agreed to be his “girlfriend and female accomplice.” With the perfect visual clarity of hindsight, it’s easy to see why the silly prides and social embarrassments that brought on her initial hesitation were not worth the time and energy that they seemed at the time to demand.
So go make an ass of yourself. Life is too finite in every direction not to feel out all the possibilities.