28 February 2007

A girl, a boy, a castle: part II

I left the story at the moment where I had decided to fly to Barcelona to meet my now-husband.

Once the tickets were purchased I got increasingly nervous. My instinct was to trust him, but nagging doubts persisted. What if this guy turned out to be wacko? What if I was getting myself into a sticky situation? I brought along contact information of another woman who lived in Barcelona, who I had also met at the seminar. And I also told myself that if things went really wrong, I could always check into a hotel or hostel.

The day of departure finally arrived. During the flight into Barcelona, I could barely sit still and was so nervous I was shaking. I was starting to think that all of this had been a very, very bad idea. I was not the kind of girl to just rush off and recklessly fly to another country to meet a guy. I was the kind of girl who was supposed to have met a boy at church, or to have fallen in love with a school friend. My mental love life scenarios for the future had always involved an all-American boy who was, I don't know, maybe a musician or poet, most likely an English major. And here I was flying to meet an older Spanish boy (at the time, I didn't really know what Catalan meant) who was, of all things, in political science!

At the baggage claim, I gathered my things, then headed for the bathroom to brush my teeth and make sure I looked OK. I decided I looked scared, but there was nothing to do but to walk through the arrivals portal. And there he was, right ahead of me. He looked different than I remembered him, but nothing I could pinpoint. We gave each other a nervous peck on the cheek, and I was relieved that he started out by telling me that he had run into some friends at the airport, friends from his year in Bologne at the Johns Hopkins SAIS program.

Great! Neutral territory. Let's go meet the friends.

Then the most extraordinary thing happened. I was introduced to the friends, an Italian guy who had just flown in for a visit, and another guy from Barcelona, and as I was giving the Barcelona guy the standard two-cheek kiss, I exclaimed in surprise, "I know you!!"

It turns out, two summers prior, I had been at Taizé (a monastary that welcomes thousands of interfaith young people to participate in their life of prayer every summer) at the same time as this guy, and we had spoken to each other on several occasions, mostly because I had wanted to practice my Spanish, and also because he had been interested in a Polish girl who was in my group. He had been a long-term resident, even considering priesthood, while I had just been there for a week.

What an amazing moment, and for me a clear confirmation that all was going to be well. Unbeknownst to us, M and I had a friend in common, and THAT VERY friend was at the airport at the VERY moment that I was arriving for the first time to Barcelona. Unbelievable.

He gave us a ride back to the city in his little car, and what I remember about that ride was the large dog that was our friend's family's pet: we were sitting in the back seat, and the friendly, hairy sheepdog, although sitting in the rear of the hatchback, draped his head between us and from time to time gave us a happy lick. I felt so reassured, and comfortable with M, and when he held my hand for the entire ride, I knew that everything was going to be OK.

Sure enough, the week was magical. M treated me like a princess, considerate in every way, and we got to know each other much better. He introduced me to Barcelona, and I fell in love with the city even as I was falling in love with him. His historian's eye showed me corners of the city in creative ways, and we strolled the streets and the beaches, ate tapas, and hung out with friends. I even met some of his family, but in a nicely low-key way, when we went to his parent's house just outside of the city. He had to work, so he would leave me with a metro card and the keys to his place, and I walked around Barcelona by myself, feeling immensely happy and wishing the week would never end.

It did, of course, but over the course of the following summer we were able to see each other quite a few more times; my brother and I stopped in Barcelona during our month-long backpacking trip in Europe, and M joined us in Berlin. And eventually, in September of that year, M flew to the US for the first time. Flew into New York, on September 10, 2001, to be exact. But that's another story...

[to be continued]

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