Two years ago, upon this very date, I knew beyond even a shadow of a doubt that I was in love with Kristin.
I had finished my second Black Friday at Farm and Fleet, and the curious delight which I had usually taken in accomplishing banal work-related tasks (I looked at them as a sort of Dilbert reinterpretation of Hercules’ Twelve Labours- I told you I was weird!) was extinguished. I guess I had always hoped that I would function as F&F’s own Jim from the Office- the dude you want to crack jokes with (taking the job seriously certainly wasn’t an option!), pulling harmless pranks and dreaming out loud and providing some kind of approachably cool buffer to all the nonsense that any given job carries with it anymore. The job description sounded appealing, and the role fit comfortably well for a while (I’m the most optimistic cynic I know!), but the facade was eroding by this time that year.
I liked Kristin a ton at that time (mostly because she’s incredible, but I digress)- that was never in doubt; only the future of any sort of relationship with her was. We had been friends for years at this point and only very recently then had I summoned the courage to tell her how I truly felt about her (and had for some time!). She made it so much simpler with her gentleness and her receptiveness to all I had to say- she became a real haven for me that year as so much else was crumbling around me spiritually and emotionally. As I approached one of the lowest points I ever have, Kristin made me look forward to each day again. The apartment she shared with her sister Anna became a home away from home I could retreat to after work and seek refuge in until absolutely ludicrous hours of the evening when I would finally throw in the proverbial towel from fatigue and just have to return to my own apartment and crash before work the next day. I wasn’t very fond of my apartment- it served as a signal reminder of how alone I had really become (or made myself, rather, in the wake of various upheavals and bad personal responses I gave to them), so I sought Kristin’s company at every opportunity and my feelings for her grew by the day.
But Thanksgiving had come and gone and being with Kristin was still a far-off dream to which I clung, but with less and less hope it seemed (I guess she became the Pam to my Jim, in a way). Black Friday came and went, a long, sad day with nothing to look forward to at its ending*. I knew Sarah and Ben’s wedding was that Saturday and knowing that I worked that day just kind of got me deeper into my funk. But a call that afternoon from Kristin asking if I would be coming to their reception after work introduced a new variable into the equation. I just remember very vividly, as clearly as if it were just a couple of hours ago, pondering if I should make the drive up there; it feels so odd saying that now, given how badly I wanted to see Kristin, but somehow then it was a very legitimate concern of mine. I remember pacing and fretting until I finally called my mom, and I told her, “I’ve got to see Kristin. Should I go to Milwaukee?” All she said was, “Go. Drive safe.” I feel like I can’t communicate how desperate I truly felt- it was as though if I didn’t go to Milwaukee to see her that night, my hope of ever being with her would disintegrate forever, and yet I imagined going and nothing coming of it, and then being a Mopey Marvin** for the rest of my life. Writing even this doesn’t convey the depth of the heartache that was rending me sinew from sinew. It was nothing short of gut-churning existential angst, an aching to be loved by this girl.
And so, after finishing work and briefly calling my mom, I undertook the journey to Milwaukee solo in my awesome, burgundy Pontiac Bonneville. After an arduous hour and a half journey I arrived at the reception hall and began looking for a parking spot. Having found one behind the reception hall, I turned the car off and sat there a moment, considering one last time if I should go in or not (how ridiculous am I??) before I got my act a little together and made my way to the front doors. No sooner had I reached the door, Kristin came outside holding Josiah (who was far smaller back then!) and I felt settle over me the feeling that I was supposed to be there at that exact time to see her. She was in her bridesmaid’s dress, her hair curled… I don’t think I’ve ever seen her more beautiful. I could only marvel at her for a few moments before it occurred to me that I should attempt some sort of communication.
I walked in with her and we spent the evening drying candlewax on our hands, drinking far, far too much Coke (I was pretty wired the rest of the night, which isn’t necessarily the best for distraught young men) and requesting bad 80s songs from the DJ, all the while trying not to give away what turmoil I felt that we weren’t together (wedding receptions might fan the flames of such turmoil for individuals such as myself- hindsight is 20/20, eh?). I wanted to kill the guy she was paired with for the wedding party’s entrance (as a matter of fact, remembering that just now kind of reignites that murderous desire). We hopped from table to table, talking to awkward people and cool ones alike, mocking others’ bizarre dance moves out on the floor, and reflecting on the Sarah Heesen that once was and the Sarah Zellmer that now is. We absconded briefly to pick something up from Sarah’s apartment, and along the way cranked “My Heart Will Go On,” and for the first time in my life I sang full-voiced to the melodramatic Celine Dion classic, belting it at the top of my lungs with Kristin. I looked at Kristin as I rendered (horribly!) the line, “You’re here/There’s nothing I fear” and we laughed hysterically. And I knew in that very moment that I would only ever love her the rest of my life.
And so, after wrapping up the festivities and dropping off wedding presents at the Zellmer home, I saw the Heesens off to their hotel and began the labyrinthine journey back to Janesville, blasting plenty of emo tunes*** and sobbing out pathetic off-key squeaks of emotional devastation and patheticness.**** So pathetic, in fact, that I got lost somewhere around Lake Geneva, thus amplifying the overall tone of distress that was already present. At long last, I found civilization in the form of the Wal-Mart in Beloit and FTL jumped via I-90 back home, catching a precious couple hours of sleep before opening that Sunday morning. It was a very memorable 12 hours, hours I’m likely to never forget, hours which I cherish despite the sadness I felt then, because it was that night that understanding washed over me like the tide: I loved Kristin, and I was always meant to love her, and nothing would ever change that.
God worked everything together for good, just as He promised He would right from the start, and it is through the lens of grace that I can look back at that year and that night and recognize how God used both that year’s ills and Kristin to draw me to Christ; how can I not rejoice that the Sovereign God of the Universe knows my pain and my unrest and brings incredible blessing in and through it? that what I thought then was insignificant, inconsequential emotional duress wasn’t for nought? that God redeems the disquiet and the misery of fallen human beings for His glory? It teaches me also to not take for granted my and Kristin’s marriage, knowing that there were days once in which I would’ve given anything to just see her- I cannot take such a privilege lightly now.
The last two years have been great, and things are only getting to get greater. So Ben and Sarah- congratulations! And Kristin- I love you, and always have.
*At what point did I
first cross the emo line in this post?? Bwahahahaha!
**I don’t actually know what a Mopey Marvin is, but I’m willing to bet it’s really emo.
***Especially “Forever Got Shorter” by Braid. Man, that song used to just devastate me!*****
****I know that’s not actually a word, yes.
*****Okay, it still kinda can.