Five years ago today my life changed drastically. That old life is now unrecognizable. I was horribly hung over after passing out at 7 pm the night before on the couch of a house made empty by roommates out of state with their families. I was still drunk that morning probably. I was literally sick to my stomach. I had been eating grease while I picked up items for this big event. I was exhausted and stressed out. I was confused about the future and lonely as I looked at another Christmas alone.
I walked into a gym that was empty besides a couple tables for the worship bands to eat some dinner in one of the corners. It needed to be set up to feed 300 people the next day, but also made nice as not to continue to feel stale and cold. In my head we were throwing a party. In reality, we were providing a needed meal in a warm building were half the people didn’t care what it looked like and the other half would judge me.
There were a few people milling around, and it turns out that the small attendance made people leave. A father and couple teenagers started setting up tables with me. A single woman started helping us. After about 20 minutes the tables were set up and the family left. The single woman and I spent about 3 hours working to make the tables not stale and to add Christmas lights and brightness to the massive gym, to make it small. We also spent about 3 hours talking. How we didn’t like traveling at Christmas. How we didn’t have living fathers. How our families were far away from Portland but actually close together. Our jobs and hobbies. How we liked being in Portland now. Where we had been and where we wanted to go.
It was longer than planned so I offered to drive her home. Something I had done literally hundreds of times before as my dad made me a protector of women to an often negative extent. When I dropped her off, something was different than those times before though. There was an awkward moment.
The awkward moments continued the next day as we saw each other and chatted a little as I ran around being in charge of chaos of a community Christmas dinner that comingled housed with unhoused friends. By the end of the meal, I was wiped and had plans to sit in front of my computer and finish binge watching something I am sure. But there was another awkward moment when she wrote out and handed me her phone number and an address to come hang out with her friend’s family.
Somehow I knew I needed to go. Even though I only met her less than 24 hours before I figured I should make an appearance. So I did. I grabbed a couple 22s from my cases of beer and went to a house, that apparently generally didn’t drink, and where I barely knew one person. I awkwardly walked around saying hi and got another plate of Christmas dinner since I didn’t eat at the first. And went and planted myself near this girl that intrigued me. She played games with her friends and we made small talk about what we had planned for the week and how much time free she had.
I left after about an hour because I needed quiet not craziness and couldn’t fake it anymore. I wished her well, told her Merry Christmas and said thanks to the random family that just set up a couple without knowing it.
That night there were quite a few texts from my dark, cold, quiet basement bedroom. By the end of them, I had a real date with a real girl.
Within a week, I would start spending everyday with that single lady. Within a month we were pretty sure we weren’t going to be single long. Within 8 months we were wed and in a tiny apartment. In 2 years we were no longer drinking much or going out to eat but just sitting around with each other. In 3 years we had a child, a house and a family car.
Now it has been five years since I drank or partied like I did the day before I met the beautiful Hannah. And tomorrow it will be five years since the best Christmas ever.
And I wouldn’t switch back to that old life for anything.