I am not the same person I was fifteen years ago. I have my wife to thank for most of that.
Fifteen years ago, I was a smoker, just making it through my classes at West Virginia State University. At the time, there were smoking lounges all over campus, almost one in each building. I spent a lot of time in the Hill Hall lounge because it was the Science building and most of my classes were there.
You read that right. I was a Science major when I started college, Pre-Veterinarian. When I figured out I couldn’t pass Chemistry, I thought That’s probably important so I changed to English Education. I was also a regular attendee to the Music Department since I marched in the band.
Every Tuesday and Thursday I sauntered into Hill Hall and to the lounge to have my pre-Biology class cigarette. For maybe a week, I noticed a cute brunette sitting alone at the small cluster of couches near the entrance to Hill Hall. Her caramel-colored eyes captivated me on my to class. She was always alone. I think there was one day I thought about plopping down on the couch next to her so she wouldn’t be alone. But I didn’t.
One morning, as I was relaxing in the smoking lounge with some friends, she stepped in behind another girl who was a regular. Obviously not a smoker, the brunette stayed by the door, probably planning an early escape. My back was to her, so I had to crane my neck to see her. I muse have looked like an arrogant jerk as I took a puff from my cigarette, rolled my neck back, and said, “Hello.”
She waved, but it was one of those awkward I don’t know you but I’m being polite waves. I continued my madness. “So, why do you always sit out there by yourself?” This time, she stood up straight and peered at me. I knew that look, and I would continue to recognize it for the rest of my life. She put one hand on her hip and smirked.
“Because I like to.” She glanced at her friend, who got the hint and snubbed out her cigarette. The brunette pulled the door open and they both left without a goodbye.
I figured that was it. I would never see her again. But the next day, I saw her walking down the hall in Davis Fine Arts building where the music classes were held. Again, she was waiting for a friend. I happened to know the friend she was with. They stepped into the lounge area at the front of the building. Her expression must have mirrored what I was feeling, surprise mixed with confusion… and a little bit of joy.
I invited her to sit on the couch next to me, and she did.
“I’m sorry about how I behaved yesterday. I’m Jason.”
She smiled. “Jennifer. And it’s okay.”
After just a few minutes of chatting with mutual friends, many of them left for class, including her friend, and we stayed. In a fit of courage, I poked her in the side and she squeaked. It was (and still is) one of the cutest sounds I have ever heard, and I told her that. I played the poke off as an accident and apologized until about thirty seconds later when I did it again.
Unfortunately, I knew the fun had to end soon because of my upcoming class. “Well,” I said, “I guess I should get to class.” She smiled and nodded. “Really, though,” I said, “I could afford to miss this class.” Her mood changed when I said this and she stared. “Or… I could just go to class.” She nodded.
“I could take you,” she said. How could I say No? She drove me up campus. When she stopped the car, I sat and looked at her until it felt awkward. I was so worried about saying or doing something stupid. Finally, “Well… thank you.” Was that all? Really? I can do better than that, right? “Um… I really enjoyed spending some time with you. Do you think I could call you?”
She said yes.
I used to believe in coincidences, but now I know that when God intends for a relationship to last forever, he can make incredible things happen. Jennifer didn’t have any classes the day I asked her out. She was only there to work on a project with a friend. Fifteen years later, I see that same lovely brunette every morning. We got married almost three years after that day. Her eyes still captivate me as if I am seeing them for the first time. I quit smoking because she gave me hope that I could. My grades went up because she made me feel smart and capable. And as the years passed, she would show me the best she had to offer and encourage me to give the best I had to offer.
I look forward to so many more years with her.