Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Our Story

Last week marked two years since Ryan moved me out west. There were several requests for the tale of how we decided to run away together after seeing each other only one week. And so here it is finally, the whole story:

It was two weeks into 2010 and for my entire life I had existed within the 37 by 48 mile somewhat rectangular spread of Rhode Island. I was born there, raised there, and six years prior I had graduated college there. I went on day trips to New York City. I spent weekends in New Hampshire. I took road trips to Canada. I enjoyed vacations in California, Hawaii, and Aruba, but always I returned home to RI, happy to be back again.

I was living in a little apartment in a small town called Hope Valley, population 1600 or so wonderful folks. I shared this apartment with a Siamese cat named Elvis and two pet rats.

Monday through Saturday I woke up, made my lunch, and headed to Warwick where I worked at the local bank. I spent most of my social time with my sister and our friends. Tuesdays we all met like clockwork for movie nights with themes like 'Sci-Fi musicals' and 'offensive westerns'. Wednesdays I had dinner with Mom. Friday I would roll out (literally) to the roller rink and skate with my sister and pals until the place closed. Once or twice a week my friends and I went to a local pub called 'The Mews'. I never drink myself, but it was the only place open late for miles and the diet cokes were free. And I belonged to a four person music society called 'the Deadbeat Club' that made trips into Boston and New York to see live music.

 However, most nights I was painting or writing comics. Figuratively, my art degree was sitting on a shelf, but it was taken down when I came home from the bank, made myself dinner, and worked on projects from about 7 to midnight. I lived for the quiet hours when my pen and brushes would connect me to my imagination.

 My love life was an afterthought. I had a lousy habit of breaking dates before I even went on them, or drifting away after only 2-3 dates. When I did date someone longer than that, I usually ended up making fun of them behind their backs with my friends. Suffice to say—I was not a girl buying into love stories. There was a guy I'd dated off and on during 2009, but autumn ushered in the end of even the most casual dinner-and-a-movie night between us. (It was so anti-climatic my sister had come to refer to him as my 'Dining Companion'). My opinion of romance had waned sour. I'd gotten married at 25, divorced at 26, and in 2010 at the age of 28 I was pretty content with my little apartment, my cat, my friends, and my painting. No one could quite compete with (or understand) the time I enjoyed lavishing on watercolors and web comics.

 Most of my friends were living similar existences to mine in Rhode Island, but one was far away on the west coast.

 Ryan had left our town after high school. He had gone away to an art college in Chicago, and later transferred to Seattle. We had been friends for about seven years, since we were introduced by the folks in our shared group of friends.

 When I first met him, Ryan was a gigantically tall, terrifically gangly seventeen year old in a pair of jeans he'd painted himself to look like stained glass. I was a little older, a junior in college, when Kyle and Ian brought him over to an apartment I was sharing off campus with Amy. I took one look at the skinny boy's pants and dropped to the floor to examine his painted knees closer. “These are fantastic!” I remember saying. “You did them yourself?”

 I looked up into the shyest green eyes, looking away through thick lashes over beat red cheeks. 
He nodded humbly as I stood up, and I said, “They're really great. Better than anyone in my classes is doing.”

 And they really were. Here was this shy, sweet, spidery kid out-drawing anyone else I knew. His work only got better. When he went away to college each sketch he shared from hundreds of miles away was better than the last.

 The magic of the Internet nurtured our friendship over the years. We were both funny, both artists. We bonded over humor and our drawings and paintings. I encouraged his work, and he encouraged mine. He even became a fan of my comic 'The Quote Book,' joking, “Finally, I can see what's happening in Rhode Island without having to talk to anyone!”

 Ryan came back every summer, somehow taller, and then broader. His boyish tangle of arms and legs filled out into a good looking young man. My first year out of college we spent a fourth of July playing cards with friends, in a sea of picnic blankets filled with folks waiting to see the town's fireworks. Twenty-something Ryan was fearless, loud, and wild with long black hair and a broad grin. When I complained that strangers kept stumbling into our card game, Ryan took a friend's whiffle ball bat and stood in the breached gap. He crossed his arms, and stood expressionless as the first stranger nearly walked into his 6'3” frame. He tossed the harmless bat up and down once or twice, and soon people were walking 20-30 feet out of their way to avoid us entirely.

 “What a hero!” I laughed to him at the time. He flashed that grin and came back, spending the rest of the night hollering the lyrics to 'Nights in White Satin' with Doug. It was a fun, very silly evening.

 While I worked at a bank and I couldn't find illustrating work in RI, Ryan landed a job on a creative team working with video games right out of art school. We talked online about his art job and my freelance paintings and comics now and then, but mostly we sent each other jokes.

 “I see you're no longer my friend on Farmville,” Ryan wrote to me one day. “Well, whatever I did to slight you, I hope it stings forever.”

What Ryan and I looked like when we met back in 2002. Approximately.

Doug and Ryan at a party in the mid 2000s.

Elvis and I, starting our morning watching squirrels.

Ryan took up body building his last year of college.

My sister and I, roller skating.

One night I came home, fed Elvis, made dinner, and checked my messages. The day before I posted a painting of a penguin in space with a laser gun. That evening Ryan had written to me to ask if he could buy it.

 I confessed the real painting was very small, only two by three inches or so. However, if he'd like, I'd be happy to paint him a larger version. He was coming to RI for a visit and we decided I would give him the painting then. We exchanged numbers, and he promised to send me drunk texts all the time. A promise he kept within 72 hours.

 Ryan phoned me a day or two after he came into town, but I was singing in the bathtub to my cat (like any single girl) and I missed the call. The DING of the voicemail interrupted my Elton John serenade (“EL-EL-EL-ELVIS AND THE JETS”). When I checked the message, Ryan's voice was calm and deep.

 “Hello Georgia, this is Ryan. You may remember me from the Facebooks. I just got into town and I was wondering if you would like to hang out still. Okay then.”

 On the other end of the line, a town over, Ryan had hung up and was frowning at the phone. He felt he had given his nervousness away by forgetting to say goodbye. He'd used his best and most serious 'phone voice' and then possibly blown his cool at the last minute.

The next day we spoke on the phone, and his 'phone voice' was back in cool swing.
“How much do I owe you for the painting?” He asked (coolly).
“Oh, Ryan. C'mon. We're friends, it's a gift.” I said.

Ryan had counted on this. In fact, we had already established that it was a gift in an email. Now that I had said it again, he said a line he would later confess to rehearsing over and over earlier in the day. “Well, how about I take you to dinner then? A free dinner for a free painting? That seems fair, right?”

“Sure,” I replied, a little surprised. Wait—what? “That sounds lovely.”

He continued to play it cool. In fact, he played it so cool I didn't suspect it was a date.

We planned to get together the next day. I hung up and returned to the Tuesday movie night happening in the other room, where my sister and Kyle both asked me, “Are you and Ryan going on a date?” And I replied, “I don't think so. I'm pretty sure we're just getting together as friends.”

I'll admit, secretly I hoped they were right. Handsome, hilarious, and talented are a strong combination, and I definitely had a crush on my good friend Ryan who lived in Seattle. I had even confessed so much to Doug at the beach the August before.
We had been talking about relationships in general and I had been waxing cynical. “There's no one you like?” He asked.

“I don't know. I wish I could meet someone funny and creative, you know?” I said. “I keep meeting guys who either get intimidated that I have a personality and can't keep up, or get bummed out if I need to spend a day painting. Actually,” I said, thinking better of it, “I kinda wish Ryan Faillace would come back to Rhode Island.”
Doug smiled, “Really? Ryan?”

 “Yeah,” I shrugged. “I mean, he's so funny, you know? He's always working on projects and drawings. Plus, he's pretty cute. Don't tell him, though!”

 “I won't,” Doug promised.

 “She thinks you're really funny.” Doug told Ryan while I was having my movie night. “And she thinks you're cute, too.”

“Really?” Ryan asked. He was treading carefully. He had already asked me out, however Doug and I dated years before and Ryan didn't want to piss him off. He had begun the conversation by asking if Doug knew of any cool, funny, creative girls he could fix him up with. Ryan didn't expect that Doug would try and fix him up with his sister (Doug's sister is very cool, funny, and creative) and the conversation took a ten minute detour. They were hanging out playing video games. Ryan waited a round or two and then added, “Like, I wish I could find an actual artist... A girl who was into comics or something... Have you ever liked a girl like that?”
Ryan gritted his teeth as a few more names came up, and then Doug finally said, “What about Georgia?”

 “Georgia Dunn?” Ryan asked, having asked me to dinner earlier.

 “Sure,” Doug said. “She thinks you're really funny. And she thinks you're cute too.”

 “Really?” Ryan would tell me later this news hit him as a pleasant shock. It lent him a burst of confidence, but made him anxious too.

 The next day at the bank Kyle and I discussed my impending dinner further in emails.
“What if it is a date?” Kyle asked.
“I think I'm going to go with it if it is.”

 This delighted Kyle, who, being friends with both of us already, suspected we'd be good together. We talked about the obvious downside, that Ryan lived in Seattle, and I said, “You know what? I'm not going to let that bother me.”

 Yeah! I mean, if I knew anything from television and movies with Natalie Portman (I hate that movie) people had short lived, ultimately doomed romances all the time. Heck, everyone around me in college was doing that, while I martyred myself to 10-20 date rules and first-base-after-a-month schedules. Where had it gotten me? So, I was possibly going on a date with a handsome, awesome guy who would be returning to the other side of the country in a few days—so what!

 “Live a little!” The tiny devil Georgia on my shoulder said.
“No seriously, what she said.” The tiny angel Georgia on the other shoulder groaned, “For God's sake: Live a little!

 Okay, we were all in agreement. Go me! Bridget Jones, eat your heart out. I was a grown woman, I lived alone with a cat—I DESERVED THIS.

 On the other hand, maybe we really were just hanging out as friends. Sure, we laughed a lot, we had shared a few flirtatious quips here and there, but maybe we really were just going to hang out as two buddies eating some grub.

 I hadn't seen Ryan in person in about two years. When he got into the car, at 6:30pm on Wednesday, I seriously hoped it was a date. His long hair had been shorn off, and now in his mid-twenties he was clean shaven, professional, and gorgeous. The shy boy and the wild college guy had merged into a confident, steady voiced man who had taken up body building in recent years. We drove into Connecticut and he had me laughing the whole time. He was not at all flirty. He was teasing and funny, and I began to decide we were just hanging out as friends after all.

 Ryan would later tell me he did all he could not to openly stare at me. The blush I'd caught when he was 17 had never quite left, he'd had a crush on me for years. He still carried a business card of mine with a painted little badger I'd given him that long ago fourth of July. While he cracked jokes and spoke at ease, he was also trying to determine whether or not we were on a date or hanging out as friends.

“Where were you thinking of taking me?” I asked.
“I was thinking the Steak Loft. How does that strike you?”

 Immediately I put a point in the 'date' column. The Steak Loft in Mystic, CT is super nice. I mean, it's got 'steak' right in the name. It was not a chill-with-your-friends type place. The waitress obviously thought it was a date too, because she sat us near the fireplace.

 All through dinner we talked and joked nonstop. We had spent time at parties and holidays with one another before, but we had never had an opportunity to just hang out one on one. Ryan and I found that, left to each other, we got along even better than we had in a crowd. Even though I had always been a huge fan of his sense of humor, sitting across from him I found I could not believe just how hilarious Ryan really was. And yet he was terribly sweet, and very kind. His sense of humor was never mean spirited. He didn't shy away from compliments so genuine they again did not feel like flirting, but only the warm words of an old friend. The conversation wove its way through silly to serious and back as we caught up on our lives over the past couple of years.

 I saw his steak restaurant and raised him a steak dinner, by actually ordering something expensive off the menu. Always on the first date I was a burger and fries kinda girl, but that night I was trying to send a signal. “HEY,” It said. “I'M ORDERING STEAK. I OWE YOU, RIGHT?”

 I hoped so, man did I hope so. It was so hard to tell though, our conversation was just so comfortable.

 “I've been thinking of getting a tattoo.” He said.
“Oh? What of?” I asked.
He turned and gestured across his shoulder blades, “I want a picture on my back of me slam dunking on the Pope. And the Pope is just standing there with a word bubble saying 'No Way'! Or me wrestling a giant squid. Something real sick.” His face was serious, but his eyes were bright and playful.

 There were no awkward silences, no tense pauses. We were just getting on like a house on fire, sharing, nodding, smiling. Was he just naturally charming? Could he not help it? Was he just so attractive and wonderful that everyone always assumed they were on a date with him?

The Space Penguin Painting.

The badger on the card Ryan had saved.

“I wish Rhode Island had anything open after 10.” I said when we walked out to my car. “I'd say we should go there.”
“I'm staying with my aunt while I'm in RI.” He said, “Or I'd invite you back to my place to watch a movie.”

 Was this a clue? If it was, I was going to take it. “I have a ton of movies back at my apartment. We could watch a movie at my place, if you'd like!”

 Suddenly I was furious at myself for disliking dating. All those nights I spent painting and singing Broadway showtunes with my sister. Was 'watch a movie at my place' what it sounded like? Was there any chance I was going to have to actually watch a movie? My God, what if I was reading this all wrong and we were seriously going to just eat popcorn and watch movies? What if I read it right, but then we both read each other wrong, and we sat there all night watching movies and burning with adolescent frustration? What was a night cap? Didn't tv shows always have people saying, “Would you like to come in for a nightcap?” Good gravy, I thought, I don't drink coffee or beer. If I hand him a Kool Aid night cap is he going to ask to go home?

 “We should get some sodas.” I said, just to be safe.

 And so we stopped at a grocery store first and picked out two pops. Jones sodas—Root Beer and Green Apple. I had never had them before, but Ryan said they were big in Seattle (so fancy!) and really good.

 It was around then that Ryan confessed with a smile, “I'm trying my best to really impress you.” And I returned his smile with a big, goofy grin of my own. He told me later that was when he was finally almost certain we were on a date.

 However, 45 minutes into Death Race 2000, we were still just watching a movie.

 Our conversational ease from dinner had tightened into rigidly sitting side by side, shoulders and hips touching, trying to be totally cool, blundering pretty hard. We both love Death Race 2000. We had each seen it dozens of times, so it's not like we needed to be interested in the movie, but still there we were, pretending. Making little comments and jokes, each completely engrossed in our own terror that maybe this was not a date.

 Elvis apparently had enough, and in an uncharacteristically friendly gesture, jumped into our laps. We began to pet him and talk about how great cats are, golly gee, when finally Ryan's hand grazed over mine. I traced my fingertips over his knuckles, and he looked at me and smiled.

 Ryan leaned forward and kissed me then, and we kept interrupting the kiss to grin. We each professed between kisses, “Oh, thank God, this is a date!” “I was so worried it wasn't” “You were? I was too!”

 Our first date lasted three days. I reminded myself over and over again that Ryan lived in Seattle, to keep it cool, to remember he was going home that weekend. I didn't know at the time Ryan was reminding himself the same, and failing just as miserably. We found countless similarities in our opinions and beliefs. We laughed more than we ever had—which already you know was something—our new closeness making us even more comfortable.

 Wednesday night we stayed up talking until 3-4 in the morning. My sides were aching from giggles, and Ryan held me close for hours, playing with my hair and kissing my forehead. I had Thursday off, and so sometime close to dawn I said: “It's pretty late, you should just stay over,” as Ryan said in unison, “It's so late. Do you mind if I just stay over?”

 I woke up the next day to find Elvis curled up asleep on Ryan's chest. My cat gently rose and fell with his breath as my handsome young friend slept soundly. With the whole day ahead of me, and a wonderful night behind me, I knew I did not want to part just yet.

 Much of our conversation the night before had centered around our friends and the people we'd grown up with. Ryan had lost touch with many, but I was still quite close with them. When he woke up, smiling sleepily and stretching his arms to wrap around me, I asked if he would like to visit our friends at their jobs. He agreed eagerly, and suggested lunch too.

 We got into my car and set off through the wintery back roads of Southern Rhode Island. Some of our friends reacted with surprise, not expecting Ryan to be in RI and certainly not expecting to see us hanging out together so chummy. When we walked into Kyle's bank however, he looked up from the counter with a wide grin, understanding I'm entirely sure.

 At lunch we ordered burgers and discussed cartoons, Muppets, serial killers, and old movie stars. The burgers disappeared and we were picking at french fries when Ryan asked me,“Why did you never leave RI? It has to be hard to find work in art here.”

 He knew some of the answer already. My last year of college I got sick with a benign tumor. It was the biggest reason I worked at the bank—health benefits. It took two years for doctors to figure it out, and just as they did I took over caring for my sister while she went to high school.

 As I explained the reasons myself, they felt like excuses. The tumor was gone now, my sister had graduated. He may have sensed my thoughts and said, “You're very talented you know. You could easily find work in art if you ever left Rhode Island.”

 “I send stuff to publishing companies sometimes,” I said. Then I admitted, “I like Rhode Island. It is really hard to make money in art if you're not painting beaches and sailboats, but it's beautiful and my family and friends are here.” It was my turn,“Do you think you would ever come back?” We both knew what we were talking about, really.

 Ryan was pulling his napkin into strips. “Probably not anytime soon,” He said. His face was thoughtful. “My career is just starting. I could have a great job in my field in Seattle or I could work in a grocery store in Rhode Island. No one in this state is hiring a video game artist.”

 “Are there video game companies in Boston? Or New York?”

“Small ones, mostly people working for themselves. They're outsourcing the work I would do to companies like mine.” He explained. “I looked into it after college, believe me. The best game companies are in Washington and Texas.”

 We were both quiet for a few heavy moments, and then we changed the subject to something lighter. Lunch stretched into dinner, and dinner turned into another night of closeness and conversation. Friday I had to work, but as I dropped Ryan off at two in the morning, I promised to come to a Street Fighter tournament he was running at Doug's that night.

A comic that later appeared in 'The Quote Book' from that day.

All day at work I cashed checks and opened accounts in a dream. Ryan was all I could think of, and I had already begun to fear that I had not played it cool. I had not played it cool at all, and I was totally going to be saddened to see him go home.

That night at the tournament he ran the brackets and directed game play, casting smiles at me all the time and returning to my side as often as the action allowed him. More than it allowed him, really. He was called back to the action by players more than once, leaving me with a squeeze of my hand and mouthing, 'Be right back!' He would tell me weeks later, “All I wanted was to bail on the whole thing and just spend time with you.” (Anyone who has seen my husband run a tournament will know just how smitten he really was).

“Is there something going on with you and Ryan?” Doug asked me during a moment when it was just he and I in the kitchen.

I couldn't help but smile. “We've been hanging out together. A lot.”

All these dating euphemisms I was learning.

He returned the smile. “Yeah?”
“I told him to ask you out.” He said. “You two would be great together!”

Ryan had filled me in on the story during Thursday's lunch. “You really don't mind?” I asked.

Doug beamed and put his hand on my shoulder. “Georgia,” He said warmly, “He's the best guy you've been with since me.”

Coming from Doug, that's quite the compliment and I thanked him with a wry smile.

On the way home Ryan and I held hands in the car.
I smiled. “I really liked tonight. It's probably what it would be like if we lived in the same place and we could actually date.”

“Yeah....” Ryan said quietly. “I thought I could be cool about this, but I really like you.”
“I really like you too.” I said. “I've been thinking the same thing. A couple of days ago, I just kinda hoped we would get to spend some time together. I figured it would be easy enough to remember you live in Seattle.”

He said, “It's terrible. I think we'd be pretty great together if it weren't for the 3000 miles between us.”

I had to agree.

Imagine speaking to someone about things you could never really talk to people about. Not anything melodramatic; just your interests. Not everyone spends all their free time thinking up characters and settings to draw. Or writing jokes and plot lines for comics and stories. Whatever you love to do most, imagine speaking with someone who was an authority on it themselves. No explaining the process, no excusing the obsession, just enjoying a free discussion about what you love most with someone who loves it just as much. Here I was conversing with someone who was all about my interests. And it wasn't only art talk or comics, he shared my thoughts when it came to people, to politics, to life. Imagine finding someone like you, and that they state your own thoughts so clearly that your innermost perceptions are confirmed, renewed.

That was the level of connection I was experiencing speaking to Ryan during those days. It was like meeting a male version of myself, who I saw to be an improvement on my own self. And I love me very truly, it was one reason I had grown to relish life on my own and ownership of my hours without having to answer to anyone. I knew very certainly that were Ryan living in Rhode Island, he would never get all needy if I spent a whole day painting. He would understand that internal tug to work on something (and most likely be honing his own projects). And he would never resent me being gregarious at a party; he would be at my side being even more funny.

I went to the bank on Saturday with plans to pick Ryan up when I got out of work, but he called me around noon to say, “Do you think you give me a couple more hours? Could we get together a little later than we planned this afternoon?”

Here it is, I thought. It's cooling down.

“Because,” Ryan went on, “And if this freaks you out tell me: I want to spend the rest of the time I'm in Rhode Island with you. If you're okay with that, I just need an hour or so extra to pack and say my goodbyes to my family. Oh God, is that weird? Is this too much? If it is, tell me.”

I couldn't stop smiling. “No, it's wonderful. I would really like that.”
“You would have to drive me to the airport.”

“That seems worth it,” I said. “You would have to go to my friend Tim's birthday party. I really can't miss it, he's one of my best friends. But I would love to bring you.”

“I would like that,” He said. “It will be like last night. We can pretend we could actually be a couple again.”

Photos from Tim's birthday at the Mews,
Ryan and I.

Kyle and Ryan.

Preston and Kaela

It was a great night for awful faces!

And so that afternoon I picked up Ryan from his aunt's house, and we spent the rest of his trip together. He came out to Tim's birthday, and the Mews had never seemed more lively. The night grew late and drinking friends drifted to the pool tables, leaving Ryan and I sitting together in a booth. We talked about music. Neil Young played overhead. The conversation grew sweet and serious again.

“It's going to be really hard going home.” He confessed. “I can't believe how close to you I feel after only a few days.”

I nodded and we kissed. “I wish Seattle wasn't so far away.”
“The irony is Rhode Island could fit inside Washington so many times....” He smiled.

We both painfully agreed that a long distance relationship would be difficult. We imagined we would spend most of our time frustrated, saving up for plane tickets, living on hold for weekend trips. Long distance relationships never work, we said.

 The next day I dropped Ryan off at the airport. We were quiet on the drive, and we kissed good bye without many words exchanged. He hugged me a few moments, and then he took his suitcase, walked into the airport, and he was gone.

 I drove back home, a thirty five minute drive. I realized pulling into my driveway I had made the trip back without any music or radio. I walked into my apartment, looked around, and then laid down on the couch. The silence was heavy.

 The sensation was as though someone had somehow let all of the color run out of the world. How could it be that of all the people to deeply connect with, it had to be someone who lived in Seattle?
Only days before I had been completely content in my life. My little apartment had been my haven, my fortress of solitude with matching curtains. I lived fifteen miles from the hospital where I was born. Everyone I knew was here, but for a few days I had experienced having another half. A true other half. And now the afternoon light was slipping away into grays and shadows and the place felt empty. Elvis sensed my mood and settled down beside me. We watched a wall together.

  It was then I admitted to myself I had fallen in love with Ryan, and had fallen hard. In that moment it was a stinging sensation. He was on a plane, on a runway, ready to fly 3000 miles west, and he was probably looking forward to getting home.

 The DING of a text message went off beside me, and I opened my phone.
“I miss you so much.” Ryan had typed. “It's pretty unbearable, actually.”

 With a fleeting grin of relief, I wrote back to him, “I miss you too. I'm surprised just how hard this is.” We texted until the plane was about to take off. Then we texted once he landed. And late into the night.

 Our talks hadn't ended, they just became print.

 I came home from work the next day and we spoke on instant messenger until one or two in the morning. We talked on the phone during my lunch break. His voice and laugh were a sad comfort. He sounded like the voicemail he had left only last week, telling me he was in town for a few days. Every few minutes one of us would get quiet and sigh. We were glad we were so close now. We were lucky to have discovered we got along so well, we told each other.

 “I've never felt like this.” I confided in my sister. “We both said a long distance relationship would be stupid—And it would be. They never work. But, I have never connected with someone like this. I'm not going to be able to just go out with some loser I meet at the Mews. Now that I know Ryan is this perfect for me, I feel like I would rather be alone than date someone else. I feel like I understand why I never worked out with anyone else. It's like if you lived in Seattle, I couldn't just have a different sister. You're my perfect sister. I can't imagine I would just find another.... Whatever it is he is to me. He is my perfect 'something'.”

 “Have you told him this?” She asked. My sister is much braver than I when it comes to expressing feelings. Remember, on the first page when I wasn't buying into love stories?

 “I couldn't,” I said. “We've agreed that we can't do this long distance. He's missing me too, but what if he doesn't feel this strongly? Like, I'm pretty sure I love him Gracie, and that's insane. That doesn't happen. Maybe in movies, but not in real life. This is like a struck-by-lightening he's-the-one feeling. If I tell him that, it will freak him out.”

 My sister cocked her head to the side, and asked, “What would scare you more? Confessing how you feel now... Or finding out in twenty years that he felt the same too way but never told you?”

 Gracie is a master of horror. I sat down and wrote out my feelings to Ryan. I sent it before I could chicken out, and while I avoided using the word 'love', I was honest that I felt our connection had been very rare.
Ryan wrote back immediately. He felt the same way, and had been struggling with whether or not to tell me. He told me later I would have received a similar message shortly.

 “Every relationship I've been in has started out with me kind of hyping myself up on a girl.” Ryan said. “Really trying to get to that feeling that they make movies and write books about. When I met you, I realized how disingenuous I had always been during that stage of the relationship. Because with you that feeling happened automatically, I didn't have to romanticize anything in my mind. There's something very real about this. More real than I thought it could be, between anyone!”

 We told each other how we felt, each affirming neither of us had ever experienced anything like this. We didn't really know of anyone who had in real life, we struggled to think of examples. I had a customer at the bank, a sweet little old man in his 90s, who showed me a photo of a pretty girl taken in the 1940s every time he came to my desk. He often described how he met her, his wife. How he had proposed to her on their first date, how they had been married that week, and how happy they had been for thirty years until she'd left him to be with a better man. (Here he would always pause to look at the ceiling and the listener would realize with a broken heart he meant Jesus). His eyes still misted over when he spoke of her—every time. He was the only person I could think of who had told me a story similar to this. My manager at the bank had also often told me, “It sounds corny, but when you know, you know. I knew the night I met my husband that he was the man I was going to marry. When you meet 'the one', you know.”

 But that was all crazy bullshit, right? Like, that didn't still happen in 2010! It couldn't! What a frightening world if it did, millions of people settling for some jerk they met in college or something when all the time they could just hold out for true love. Was that what this was? It was like Ryan and I had stumbled across something as rare as a unicorn and we were shushing at each other from the bushes: “Don't shoot it, IT'S A UNICORN.” This wasn't the Princess Bride. Heck, even Wesley and Buttercup didn't know they loved each other right away! Then again, Ryan and I had been friends for years....

 To be so certain after such a short time was wild, but it was real. It was a crazy, rare, storybook, movie ending kind of love—even though we still did not use the word love.

 “This is ridiculous,” He said sometime after midnight. “Would you come live with me?”
“Yes,” I said. “I don't know if you're serious or not, but yes.”
“I am serious.” He said. “I'm sorry it took so long for me to offer.”

 It was five days after our first date.

Over the next 1 1/2 months, we exchanged photographs daily.


Ryan sent this with the caption,
"Even brushing my teeth is intolerable without you."

Scowling because it was early and cold.

Showing Ryan my bank outfit.

"Your girlfriend is wearing Star Wars pajamas at
a 24 hour Sci-Fi movie marathon. Deal with it!"


"Preston says hi."

"Oh my God, they found me. I don't know how but they found me!"

Elvis was not as enthused.

We still believed a long distance relationship would be difficult, so the best solution was to bridge the gap. It made the most sense that I should be the one to move, I knew it even before he asked. Ryan had a good job in his field, I was working at a bank. I could work at a bank anywhere, only Ryan insisted that when I came west all my efforts should be focused on illustrating. (Silly as it seems while I considered moving across the country, I was hesitant to take that plunge and leave banking entirely—but that adventure would come later after traveling across the country had emboldened me).

 I said yes and never wavered. We began to put a plan together right away. I did love my home, but I knew that if I ignored what Ryan and I had, if I chose security over love, it would change me for the worse. In finding Ryan, I rediscovered some small, happy inner self I assumed had grown up and drifted away on the whims of life's disappointments. That little girl who had really, honestly believed in good things was still in there. I wasn't entirely that jaded crab making snarky comments about happy endings. That little girl had stowed away somehow. I had the choice to save her or finally kill her off.

 It took a month and a half to tie up my life in Rhode Island. In the meantime, any suspicions we had over the awfulness of enduring a long distance relationship were confirmed. Living 3,000 miles apart was rough. However, mercifully, the future was now and thanks to cellphones we could speak to, write to, and see each other at any moment. We sent a multitude of texts and pictures during the day. Ryan equated his phone to a modern day locket, where the picture inside could change from moment to moment.

 Our sleeping schedules went to hell. We weren't just dealing with distance, we were dealing with cross country time warps and more than once during this time I went to bed at five am after 7-9 hour phone calls only to wake up with a rasped snarl when the alarm went off for work at seven am.

 One night around four in the morning Ryan apologized, “I'm sorry to have kept you up again.”
“Don't be,” I said. “There's a Dr. Seuss quote about this. How when you find someone you're crazy about, you can't sleep because reality is finally better than in your dreams.”

 “Wow,” Ryan said. “That sounds perfect. I'm going to look it up.” He searched for it, and said, “Found it: 'You know you're in love when you can't sleep because reality is finally better than your dreams'. You nailed it.”

 “That's it,” I smiled.

 “Dr. Seuss knew what he was talking about,” Ryan agreed. “Before you go to bed, there's something I want to tell you, but I feel kinda silly. There's a word I've been avoiding, a feeling I've been feeling... I don't want to say it here, tonight. I want to wait until I see you again. But I just wanted you to know that... I'm feeling that way.”

“I know exactly...” I promised. “And I feel exactly—The only thing that has kept me from saying it is I want to wait until I see you again, too.”

 “I'm so relieved.” Ryan sighed.

 “I can't get over how wonderful everything is now because of you,” I told him.

 Ryan returned for a brief visit during that time. We both expressed a fear that seeing one another again somehow the spell would be broken. That perhaps we had both just been seized by some kind of insane lust madness, and now we would find it weird to interact again. It was absolutely the opposite. He walked up to me at the airport and we collided into a 2-3 minute kiss. We were that couple. Everyone walking around us hated us, except for a pair of teenage girls who I'm pretty sure exploded in delight. He stayed for a long weekend, and we just hung out, made food, watched movies, and rage-snuggled. It was then he told me he loved me, looking up at me during a kiss the first day of our visit and simply whispering, “Hey... I love you.”

 In March I gave my two weeks notice to the bank. It was a turbulent month of ups and downs. One moment I was worried my Mom would hate me forever, the next moment I was at the laundry mat with Amy, texting Ryan: “I never realized how many towels I have. Looks like I'm bringing ten thousand towels!”
He texted back, “Yay! We will have exactly ten thousand and two towels!”

 The last week of March Ryan flew into Rhode Island to move me out west. Our supportive friends helped us load up the Uhaul trailer hitched to my car, and went out to dinner with us one last time. Ryan and I spent the night curled up together in a sleeping bag on my empty living room floor because we had packed the bed.

 “Let's never be apart again,” Ryan sleepily yawned. “That was terrible.”
“It's a deal.” I agreed as we drifted off to sleep. A sleeping bag on a floor was never cozier.
After weeks of spending our nights on the phone until dawn, we slept in and left Rhode Island that afternoon with Elvis and my rats.

 Ryan and I spent our third date driving six days across the country.

 Looking back, we fully admit that it was crazy. Most of my family was furious, a lot of people called us insane, and almost no one understood it. It didn't matter. We did. We were in love, head over heels actually truly in real love. It's corny, it's a cliché, but when you know—you really do know. That's true, there's no other way to explain it.

 We literally crossed mountains to be together. People say they don't get it, people say they couldn't do it—but they could. You could, if you fell in love with the right person. Or if your dream was big enough, like Ryan's was when he left for the west in the first place. It scares me to think how many people just accept their surroundings. So many people ignore their gifts and talents, settle for the work and the partners that are available only because that's what's hanging around the scrap of land they were born on. People told me, “You'll meet someone here. He lives too far away.” And that's what it would have been, someone. Not the one.

 It wasn't easy. I didn't count on the fall out from angry friends or worried family. I never realized how many people write someone off once they move away. I didn't anticipate resentment or jealousy. I sure as heck didn't know that 'Dining Companion' of 2009 had been stalking my email for months. When he read the messages between Ryan and I he went full-tilt-Vanilla-Sky crazy.

 However, I learned who my real friends were very quickly. I might have less, but the gain of quality was worth the loss of quantity. And heck, I still talk to Gracie, Amy, Preston, and Tim almost daily. Other close friends and I pick up right where we left off during visits. My family came to love Ryan, and I love his family as my own. Now instead of one awesome, beautiful sister I have two! The people who were nasty to me when I chose to be with Ryan have moved on to resenting new happy people, and will continue to resent happy folks I imagine. And funny story: 'Dining Companion' is not allowed to contact us.

 Adjusting to life out west took a little while, but many of you know that part of the story. I've been fortunate to find some success in selling my illustrations, and even more fortunate to make some fantastic friends. They can never take the place of my East coast pals, but then again my East coast friends can never take their place. I'm lucky enough to know wonderful, interesting individuals coast to coast.

 And life together is better than Ryan and I even hoped for. People will tell you fighting is normal, people will tell you it's natural to have doubts or jitters. That's bullshit, don't buy into it. Those people are justifying their poor choices by convincing you it's normal. Like how I thought there was no money in art, and now art pays our bills. (And many of our west coast friends are working in creative fields). Of course Ryan and I have had the occasional difference of opinion, but we've never had what I would call a 'fight'. We've never gone to bed angry, we've never let a disagreement get in the way of what we drove across the country for. I would have been the first to tell you that kind of relationship didn't exist—because I had never experienced one.

 Moving west to be with Ryan was the biggest risk I ever took and the easiest choice I ever made. Anyone who knows my husband and I can attest to our deep friendship and joy in each other's presence. We spent our first month and a half living 3000 miles apart. Now we're fairly inseparable.

 The secret to our happiness is simple: We like one another. We're not only in love, we're not only attracted to each other, but most simply we adore one another. We love speaking to each other (he just interrupted this paragraph with an instant message, actually, ha!). We love to make each other laugh, we still keep each other up until two or three in the morning joking and giggling. I like who my husband is. I share his dreams, and he shares mine. When I came west he was my biggest supporter to start selling my illustrations. He encourages me every day. He believes in me, and I believe in him. I'm incredibly proud of my husband, I'm proud of his career, I'm proud of his art, I'm proud of the person that he is.

A photo of my 'packing anxiety' as I readied for the big move.

Ryan and Kyle loading up the Uhaul, with Nelson's feet poking out.

Tim jamming everything (including Nelson) into place.

Ryan in my empty apartment. "We did it!"

In Montana during our cross-country drive.

One of our first nights together in Washington.

At the beach together that summer.

At the Zombie Walk in Freemont.

Adjusting to the Northwest Climate.

Driving home from a trip to Las Vegas in August 2010.

Autumn 2010.

Our first Christmas.

The night we got engaged, March 17, 2011.

Back in RI for Preston and Kaela's wedding, May 20, 2011

Our wedding, August 20, 2011.

Wedded bliss!

All kinds of happiness!

Our friends in Washington!

Our Christmas card, 2011.

First married Christmas!

A very special Christmas present Ryan surprised me with. :)

And now Elvis has two friends, Puck and Lupin!

Tiny Tim!

Our Power Ranger friends in Washington!

(A few more photos, added January 13, 2015). 

Ryan holding our son the day he was born.

Our son, Luke Charles.

Christmas 2013

Many folks from our Northwest Family. 

At the end of January 2010, 3000 miles apart Ryan and I were talking and he told me, “I spent today fantasizing about you.”
“Oh?” I asked.

“Yeah,” He said. “All day I've been dreaming about hanging out. Just you and I. And you can't open a jar. So I open it for you.”
“And then?” I asked.
 “That's it.” He said, “I want to open every jar for you. And hand you things from the shelves you can't reach. I want that to be my life's purpose, to be your hero every day.”

 Who could refuse an offer like that?


  1. I love this story! Thank you for creating it with me! I love you!

    1. I also *like*! You are the very best, Ryan. I love you too! :)

  2. Thank you both for being.

  3. Ahhh, I really love this! You did an excellent job putting it together, and I love the addition of the pictures. :] Thank you to you and Ryan for proving all of those absurd, crazy love stories can really happen. <3 I love you both!

    1. We love you too! And thank you again a thousand times for proof reading this for me! I'm lucky to have such a grammatically gifted sister!

  4. You guys are fabulous, and you're writing as entertaining as always. Thanks for sharing your story Georgia, we need more like it for this day and age. :)

  5. Your love story took my breath away and the joy in my heart dances knowing of your happiness.
    Georgia you are my hero - thank you. And Ryan much love to you too.
    Reality is lovely!!!!!

    1. Yay! I am so glad you got to see this and finally hear the whole story. Big hugs to you!!!!

  6. Totally made for each other :) And I couldn't be happier to finally read how you both met. I remember being so surprised when I saw on facebook that you were moving because I'd always known you as a true Rhode Islander! Sometimes we don't realize how one person can change your whole life within few hours. You and Ryan were meant to be together which is why everything fell into place so easily. Easily, I say because you both realized you wanted to be together and enjoyed each others company on the first date itself. That is true love :)

    Those who were against your relationship/moving were never truly your well-wishers so no point in wasting time on them. I've always believed that one gets to know who the true friends really are in a time of crises or in a time when life changing decisions are taken. It's better to have a quality of friends who will be by you for the rest of your life than have a large quantity of friends who were never really friends.

    I pray that you both always remain happy, healthy, together and always in love. You've made me believe that love stories like yours actually do exist :)

    1. Thank you, Anam! I whole heartedly agree that crises/life changing decisions reveal who a person's friends are. I feel very lucky for the folks I have in my life now, and as for the ones I lost through choosing Ryan--well, they probably would have just ditched me over something else anyway.

  7. Oh my goodness, this was SO amazing! I read every word and loved each and every bit of it.

    You two are too adorable for words.
    This story is epic and you are a totally rad couple!!

    Thank you for sharing.

    PS: You really should write a book, you know. ;)

    1. Thank you so much, Jinxi! I'm glad you loved it! And double thank you for the kind words about my writing, I hope to pair my illustrations and writing together one day. :)

  8. I was over the moon to see so many comments here, thank you all so much! I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this story, and I'm glad I finally told it all. At first I worried it was a little long for a blog entry, but I underestimated how many folks I know with a real love of reading!

    A lot of the feedback I've received here and on Twitter thanked me for sharing a real love story. One of my aunts emailed me to call it "A modern old fashioned love story" which I adored. That's one of the biggest reasons I wanted to share this with people, I feel very blessed and lucky to have experienced this. Before I did, I would not have believed it was possible--and so now I feel extra obliged to let people know love is definitely out there if you're ready to open your heart and let it in. And trust it, trust in love and let it take you where you're meant to be.

    Adventure is out there too, adventures still happen!

  9. Oh. My. God.

    God. Damn.

    (More elaborate comments to come via telephonic conversation.)

  10. This is the greatest thing I have EVER read. Ever.

  11. Thank you Jaime!! That's the best review I could ask for :D

  12. Wow. This is beautiful. I wish you both many happy and successful years together.

  13. this was so lovely to read, thank you for sharing :)

  14. And to think, following a little web comic about three news cats and their capers has led me to believing in love & happiness once again.... Thank you.


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