how i found you

How I Found: Nancy
March 12, 2009, 6:36 pm
Filed under: my wife | Tags: , ,

I’d known Nancy for three weeks when she came to my 21st birthday party in a hotel room in Madrid. She was cute and funny and one of the few American girls in Spain who didn’t wear makeup. We stayed up talking long after our friends had all left or gone to sleep. I was staring at the wall, trying to get up the nerve to make a move, when I noticed that Nancy had fallen asleep, too. I turned off the light, assuming I’d missed my chance, but the sound of the clicking woke her up, and it was there in the complete darkness that we finally kissed. It seemed like a magical beginning, but Nancy regretted the whole thing.

“I hadn’t intended for that. I didn’t want to date you,” she says. “You were so uncertain about everything and … so willing to do what other people wanted. I just didn’t feel like I knew you at all. You seemed really nice, but I didn’t have any idea that you actually had a personality. You know? ‘Whatever you guys wanna do. Wherever you guys wanna go. What are you drinking? What should I order? Where should we go? I’ll go, too.’  There’s not much excitement in that.”

Nancy told me she didn’t want to get involved, and I didn’t put up much of a fight. I’d never believed that I could actually change a girl’s mind if she wasn’t interested in me. But something about that night in the dark with Nancy was hard to let go of. All this happened right before Valentine’s Day, so I used that as an excuse to write Nancy a letter.

“Dear Nancy,
Well, this is the third letter I’ve started to you since we left Madrid … ”

I spent the first few pages of this supposed love letter going on and on about myself, my history and my idea that you can never really know the truth about anything. I guess I was confused. I didn’t think I was in love. But when I finally got around to addressing Nancy in the letter, I found myself creating a future for us that I hadn’t consciously considered until I was writing about it.

“So the thing is, Nancy, the thing that I really want is to kiss you again,” the letter said. “I understand all of your hesitation, but I don’t have any good reasons or arguments for you other than the fact that that night with you in the dark was one of the most comfortable, wonderful ‘experiences’ (for lack of any good word) I’ve ever had with anyone. So all I can assure you of is that right now at 7:03 p.m. on Sunday the 16th of February, I want this thing, whatever it is. Of course. I’ll still be friends with you…”

“This letter was the greatest thing that anyone had ever written to me,” Nancy says. “It was like a declaration of love. It was a serenade outside my window.”

“But I think that if I had just said to you, ‘I really don’t want to let you go, and I don’t want to just be your friend,’ don’t you think we would have wound up exactly where we are, without this letter?” I ask her.

“I think you could have said those things to me, but the question is, would you have said those things to me?” she says. “And if I would have been there with you, would I really have responded appropriately? Whereas I read that letter in my room, alone, and had the chance to think about how I wanted to respond to it. I think because it was a letter, and because it was that letter, that’s why I dated you in Spain.”

Nancy kissed me again about 12 hours after I gave her that letter, and we’ve been together now for 11 years, married for almost eight. But it’s hard for me to believe that something I wrote when I was 21 could have set the course for the rest of my life. To me, love is irrational, and I don’t believe you can persuade someone to love you with a mere letter. I think they just love you or they don’t.

Nancy thinks I’m missing the point. “They either love you or they don’t, they have a crush on you or they don’t. What you are persuading them to do is to commit to it, and to do something about it. Writing me that letter didn’t make me want to kiss you. I already wanted to kiss you. It just made me kiss you.”

Rob McGinley Myers is a fiction writer and associate producer for the public radio program, Speaking of Faith. He was previously the writer and producer of The Writer’s Almanac. He lives in Minnesota.

(This piece originally aired on the public radio program, Weekend America, in February of 2008. Listen to the audio here.)




2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

it’s funny how the universe seems to throw down little bread crumbs for us to pick up and find. for me, at least, this story is one of them. thanks. simply beautiful.

Comment by jca

That comment right there–it’s why this site exists. Thank you.

Comment by Jacquie F.

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