It was 16 years ago, and we were in our early 20’s.
We were both resident advisors in the same building. It was the second semester of my senior year in college, and Valentine’s Day was a week or so out.
Our relationship was just starting. We had known one another for a while, but I had previously been involved with someone else. Throughout that roller coaster of a time in my life, James had always been a friend.
The two of us started talking more. We talked a lot. So much that I started to realize I had never connected like this with someone else.
Truthfully, I had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. My wounds were still fresh from my past relationship, but I felt hope and kindness when I was with James.
So mixed feelings or not, he asked me if I wanted to go out with him on Valentine’s for a date and I accepted.
. . .
I remember that night. He showed up at my college room door wearing dress pants, a collared shirt, a tie, and his black leather jacket. I remember him looking more formal than I had ever seen him before. He brought me a rose.
I don’t recall what dress I was wearing, but I remember my impression.
He made me feel adored.
. . .
We were in college with small bank accounts, but he wanted the two of us to go on a date. It was complete with dinner downtown and a surprise that required driving off-campus. It was a big deal when many “dates” consisted of hanging out on campus or in someone’s dorm room.
The restaurant was called, “Cucina Di Betta.” It was a nice Italian restaurant everyone was aware of at school. We sat down at a table with white linens and cloth napkins. I looked at the menu and settled on a ravioli dish that had a sauce with capers. I never had tasted them before, but that salty and savory flavor has stuck with me to this day.
We enjoyed dinner complete with a glass of wine and chocolate cake for dessert. When we were finished, James asked me if I was ready for my surprise.
He paid for the meal, and we walked to the car.
Even in our 20s, I could admire his knowledge and gentlemanly manner. He would walk closest to the road when we were walking side-by-side on the sidewalk. I never had to hold my own door and he would grab the door of a stranger to hold it open for them.
He was an old soul even then.
. . .
We started driving north, and we talked the entire time. After half an hour, we arrived at our destination.
Pulling up to the building, I didn’t immediately know where we were. I soon realized it was the Art Museum. It was beautiful all lit up at night in the darkness. I remember one side of the building slightly sloped and all the windows.
I still can see his clean-shaven face and warm smile looking over at me in the passenger seat.
Stepping out I was expecting a night looking at Van Gough and Salvador Dali. But as we approached the front entrance, I noticed multiple couples dressed up as well with tickets in hand.
The surprise was an opera.
I can’t tell you what the storyline of the opera was about. But I remember the venue clearly. We sat in what looked like a colosseum all around us in a section of the museum. I had been transported to Rome, and tall columns were surrounding me. I remember the orchestra being beautiful and looking around drinking it in.
He created a dream that night.
. . .
The date was lavish by my own college standards at the time, but what made it unforgettable was how much planning and consideration went into the occasion. It had been a long time that I had been cared for with such thoughtfulness.
He knew I enjoyed Italian food and had picked up on my interest in the theatrics. He didn’t own a car himself, but he had arranged to use his friend’s car so we could do something different.
We have enjoyed some memorable dates since then, but that night 16 years ago will always be among my favorites. Little did I know, I had found the one that would forever change February 14th for years to come.
Thanks to Dan Moore.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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