By: Jamie Steidle
“It’s hard to forget how we met,” she said to me. “People are rooting for our story. We have to keep fighting for it, for us.” Liz and I had been fighting for a few weeks when she said this. She was right. Our fight ended that night.
In this age where meeting someone is as easy as swiping right (or is it left?) it seems inevitable that we would lose the importance of the love story. We are losing the importance of the chance meeting, the epitome of love story clichés. Part of this is the loss of serendipity.
We have lost serendipity because we don’t give ourselves the chance of random surprise discovery. These surprise discoveries are what fuel the love story.
Sometimes, when the relationship is at its worst, it’s the light of that story and its beginnings that keeps things going. You want the story to continue because you aren’t just invested in the relationship - like a moviegoer, you want to see where things truly can go. You want your own love story to live on.
My love story began serendipitously.
It was a small coffee shop with very sparse seating. The very few seats that were crammed into the place were usually occupied by people who think that buying a cup of coffee entitles them to live there. I was one of those people.
I frequented coffee shops, sitting in corners, at tables, writing and looking for work. This was the first time I went to this coffee shop after my trip back from my 6 month stay in California, where I sat in other coffee shops, in corners, at tables, writing and looking for work. Now I was back in Florida.
You see, things didn’t work out for me back in California. I had graduated college with the hope of finding something out in the deserts of SoCal, but all I found were blue skies, hikes and too much sun. But I also found memories that would help build me. When you’re away from places known, you grow in ways that are unknown.
But that day I was back in Florida and in the coffee shop with my friend, Jesus.
Jesus and I were there to work on a podcast idea we had, an idea that never seemed to unfold into anything. Something else seemed to unfold, instead. It happened after Jesus had ordered his grilled cheese sandwich.
‘Who knew,’ I would later think, ‘that a grilled cheese sandwich could have such an impact on someone’s life.'
That was when I saw her.
Liz was tall, with blonde hair that was hidden away under a black hat.
Liz had just started working at Starbucks. She had only been there a few weeks. She had graduated a year before from a university in Tennessee, where she had earned herself a degree in Clinical Psychology and a deeper sense of self.
Jesus had ordered his sandwich. It was my turn in line.
“What will you be having?” Liz asked me.
“I’ll have what he’s having,” I said.
And she smiled and said, “Thanks for making it easier. I’m new, you see.”
And she typed on the register in a slow, semi-methodical way. She looked up from the register and smiled brightly. Those eyes, they pulled me in.
I felt a strong connection. A connection I haven’t felt with anyone before. It was like a connection that only long lost friends could have. If you asked a scientist about the feeling, she’d probably relate it to something dealing with chemicals, but to me, it was more than just that - it was a fated feeling, as though we were destined to meet.
When I waited for my sandwich and latte - two things that don’t go together - I talked to her. As she filled lids, those clear plastic ones that always fit perfectly on top of your Frappuccino, she talked to me. If you were to ask me what we talked about, I can’t tell you, but what we both knew was we had left an impression on each other. I knew I was going to date her.
Days would pass. I would go into the coffee shop as one of those people: I’d sit in corners, at tables, writing and looking for work. And as I did this I would see her and talk to her.
Sometimes she would be working and she’d be busy and I could only nod in her direction. But when, by chance, our eyes would meet, we would feel that same connection.
Sometimes, she wouldn’t be there and I’d just do my work. And other times she would be there at the register and I’d talk to her. One of these times, a few days after we had met, we talked.
“I’m a writer,” I said.
“Really?” she asked, excitement in her voice. “I was reading a book that said when Stephen King first started writing he would just toss his manuscripts away. He didn’t think they were any good. His wife, she would dig them out of the trash and read them. She encouraged him to get published.”
“Sounds like I need to find a wife.” I felt proud of myself for such a witty comment.
There were other times when I would be leaving and Liz would walk in the door and we would pass and I would say “hey” and she, smiling back, would say “hey.” I remember one of those times, and I wished I had more time to say more than just “hey;” maybe I could have fit a “goodbye” in there, too, and a few clever words in between.
The day soon came when I just had to tell her how I felt. “Heys” and “goodbyes” just weren’t cutting it. So I made my way to the coffee shop, determined to see her. With all the resolve I could muster, I walked into the coffee shop sure as anything that I would get her phone number and a date… But she wasn’t there, of course!
A few days later she was there. I was going to ask her on a date. I just wanted to wait for the coffee shop to not be busy. The coffee shop was always busy. That day it was cluttered with costumers. I swore under my breath.
I sat and waited until the line would die, but it never died. It wasn’t until she was leaving that I was able to approach her.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” Liz said.
“Off of work?” I asked.
“Nope, I’m on break,” she said.
And I asked to join her.
Liz agreed and with great strides, walked briskly out of the coffee shop with me trying to follow behind her as best I could. If she kept at this pace, I was going to lose more than just my breath.
We sat under a tree. It was a tall tree in a small glade set in between the parking lot and back road. It wasn’t a private spot, but no one was around; there were only the birds, which chirped; the bees, which buzzed; and the ants, which crawled on shoes and up ankles.
To Liz and I, we were millions of miles away from everyone. We talked about our schooling, about what personality type we were and how strange it was that we were both INFPs.
Time seemed to slip away, like it always does when you are with the person you like and soon Liz looked at her phone and she bounded off with her big strides, leaving me in her wake.
“I was wondering,” I said as we walked back. “How about we get lunch sometime.”
“Hmmm,” Liz said.
I wasn’t sure if “hmmm” was a good thing or if “hmmm” was a bad thing.
“Yes,” she said after reflection.
We went on many dates. We grew to like each other more. She would come over my house and we would lay in bed and talk and dream together. We watched a few movies, had nice talks on the phone and walks at the local park.
We had some hard moments, too, like a talk in the parking lot of Tijuana Flats where Liz wasn’t sure where she wanted things to go - and we had good moments like our first kiss, where Liz said, “kiss me already!”
But it wasn’t until she stayed over one night, her laying in my arms and I holding her tightly, that she said, “I don’t know what a relationship’s supposed to be.”
“It’s like this,” I said.
These words stuck with her.
The next morning, after she had left for work, she called me.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey,” she said and paused. “I’m ready.”
I was confused. “Ready for what?” I asked.
“Ready for a relationship,” she said.
“Oh, I see,” I said excitedly. “Yes!” I blurted out.
“But I know you were the one who kept asking. So how about you ask me. Let’s make this official. The way you would have wanted it.”
“You want me to ask you out?” I asked.
“Liz,” I said, pausing for effect. “Liz, will you be my girlfriend?”
And she said “yes” after I had said “yes.” Liz would later say that she was very nervous calling. She felt very vulnerable and timid (she didn’t sound it on the phone).
All of this was over a year ago. This story of our beginnings has helped us remember who we were, who we are and has helped guide us in the dark times towards the light of what we have. We appreciate the beginnings and know we have such potential for what’s next.
There is something that modernity has lost when it comes to relationships. Too often you settle to choose a partner, like how you shop at an online retailer. Relationships shouldn’t be like that. There’s something important about the story you tell. Everyone’s story is different, but if you leave things up to what you want, you may miss out on exactly what you need.