Ed and I were married almost two years ago. During his homily at out wedding the priest said, “You’re young, but you’re not that young.”
The line got a laugh, but it punctuated the point he was making about our maturity and the depth of our commitment to each other. On our wedding day, we were just two months shy of the tenth anniversary of the day we met.
We met in July of 2003. I had just finished library school in May, and had been in Spain and Portugal for over two months.
I didn’t go to graduation. I turned in my last assignment and then boarded a flight to Madrid later that same day. Graduation was something like three weeks after that last assignment was due, and my sister and I hadn’t wanted to delay our trip that long. She, I, and our father walked a medieval pilgrimage route from the French border to Santiago. We went to visit my Aunt Mary outside Lisbon at the end of the trip.
One of my former roommates, Rosa, was from Spain, and we had kept in touch by email. She said that I should come visit her after the hike was over, so I had bought a return ticket with a date a few weeks later than my father and sister. But then I guess she changed her mind, or something happened in her life that she didn’t want to share, because as the trip drew nearer, she stopped responding to my email.
I had figured I would just stay with my Aunt Mary until it was time to go home. My Aunt Mary–God rest her soul–was not an easy person to get along with. I took her on a trip to the north of Portugal. We had to change trains in Porto. The train was scheduled to leave from a platform on the lower level of the station. She did not like the platform from which our train would leave and decided to go back upstairs. When I refused to leave, she took off without me.
“We’re going to miss our train!” I said, chasing her up the escalator.
She ignored me. I continued to argue as she walked down the platform.
“I’ll ask these nice men”, she said signaling to two uniformed train employees. She spoke to them in Portuguese. I held out our tickets.
One of them answered her, and she turned to me, and said in English, “He says we can wait up here.”
“No!” said the second employee in English. “You have to go back downstairs.”
They escorted us back downstairs and we managed to board the train. I could fill pages about my Aunt Mary–I could fill pages about the things that happened on the trip. Heck, I could fill pages about the things that she did that day–but I won’t.
I could not stay with Mary until it was time to go home. My father had cagily told her that my ticket home from Madrid was earlier than it was–he said, “Trust me, you can always tell her that you changed it to stay longer. But I don’t think you will.”
Aunt Mary had moved to Lisbon when I was five. Before I stayed with her for those few weeks, I did not know her very well. The day before the date my father had told her I was to fly back to the U.S., I went to Madrid.
My sister had bought my ticket with frequent flyer miles and had given it to me as a graduation gift. There was no way I could change the ticket. I had ten days to kill in Madrid.
Not such a bad fate, but I was about out of money. I camped out in a youth hostel. At not quite 28, I was by far the oldest person in the facility. I was also still keeping the peregrino schedule–up before dawn, in bed before dark. Not only was I the only person in the hostel keeping those hours, I may have been the only person doing so in the happening nightlife capital of Madrid.
Mary was a night owl and a late sleeper, and getting up super early had allowed me a few hours peace every day. I knew in Madrid I should try to stay up later and get up later, but my body just wasn’t willing to make the switch.
I took walks. I went back to the Prado. I found a used bookstore that had a few English books and I sat in parks and cafes and read. It was pleasant in many ways, but I was broke, lonely and ready to go home.
When we planned the trip, I had expected that I would have a job lined up before we left. That didn’t happen. I had been offered a position, but didn’t take it right away, and then someone transferred into it. I spent more time on the walk than I would have liked hunting for internet access and phones so I could let principals know that even though I might be in a rural part of Spain without access to email or a transatlantic phone for a few days, I was still very interested in coming to their schools. I did a preliminary phone interview with one school from my Aunt Mary’s house in Lisbon, and another from a phone booth in a small town in the north of Portugal while she and I were traveling together.
Unexpectedly, before I left Portugal, I was offered the job for which I interviewed in the phone booth. It was in the school district in the town where I had gone to library school. The lease on the apartment I had lived in before the trip had a lease that expired at the end of the month. My roommates had other plans. I called the leasing office to see if I could extend the lease, and they said it already been rented.
Finding a place to live for the upcoming academic year can be difficult in a college town in the spring. In July, panic sets in. Because of my financial situation, I needed a place that came with housemates. The first place I called, a man answered the phone. He had such a creepy vibe that I didn’t want to go see the room, much less move in with him.
The young woman who answered the phone at the second place seemed friendly enough, but when I went to look at the place, I discovered she and her housemates to be serious marijuana proponents. To move in, I’d have to be cool. I wasn’t.
Next I looked at room in a subdivided house in a great neighborhood. For $450, I’d have one bedroom with a lock on the door, and I’d share a bathroom with strangers I would not have the opportunity to meet before signing the lease. No kitchen access.
$450 may not seem like much to you, but I thought it was outrageous. I had paid $304 for my room in the previous apartment, and there I was allowed to use the kitchen. But I was running out of options.
I looked at one more place. The guy who had answered the phone seemed nice, and the house was in a great location. It was in serious disrepair I realized as Christopher gave me the tour, but it had great bones. I could live there for a year. My room would be $330, and that included use of the kitchen.
We went into the kitchen and he pulled a pie out of the oven. I said I was interested. He told me the deposit was $300.
Another housemate burst into the back door, sweating profusely from a long run. Christopher introduced him as Ed. Ed nodded and got some water.
In my head, I realized I had two problems with laying down that deposit right then and there. One, I had left my checkbook at my parents’ house. Two, I only had $290 in the bank.
I mentioned the first issue only. I said I would mail him a check within a day, and would they hold the place for me?
Christopher started to agree, but Ed cut him off.
“Absolutely not!” he said, slamming down his water bottle.
“Can I give you cash?” I asked.
“Sure,” they said in unison.
I could only withdraw $275 dollars from the ATM. I had to borrow the other $25 from my about-to-be-former roommate.
Ed and Christopher will acknowledge that they didn’t have many potential candidates coming to look at the room, but Ed maintains, and Christopher now agrees with him, that making me pony up the cash was the right thing to do.
Almost ten years later, Ed and I would be married in that same town where I had left my checkbook. Christopher would be the best man.
I gave Ed’s parents a picture frame engraved with a sentimental saying. Ed’s mother said, “That is so sweet.” She paused and looked at me hard. “You do know what you are getting into, don’t you?”
I may not have known what I was getting into when Ed burst through that door, but I had a pretty good idea when I walked down the aisle. When we met, we were young. When we married, we were not that young.