I've now known John for half of my life.
My first day on the college campus, he was wearing bright yellow Chuck Taylor's. Even without that shock of color, he would have been hard to miss. Dark eyes, dark hair, dressed in all black with the widest pant legs I'd ever seen, and an unmistakable upward bounce to his gait. In the weeks that followed, his sneaker choice shifted to bright red more often than not, but he was just as hard to miss.
His small talk was never boring, and our beginning conversations didn't dance around the usual niceties. He skipped those and drove straight to the center, or, if he skirted around the edges, his wit enlivened even dull topics. People of all stripes were in his circle of friends-- jocks, sweet-faced girls, simmering misfits, musicians, geeks-- because he knew the artificial and invisible boundaries inherent in these settings didn't matter.
I had no interest in him romantically, at all. In fact, when I was moping about how my RA was forcing me to attend a "Get Your Roommate a Date Night" (unaware with first-semester-freshmen naivety that I could just skip whatever I wanted to skip in college), he volunteered himself as my date. The notion spooked me like crazy, and I awkwardly avoided him for the next few days. I'd never had a boyfriend, had never met anyone who seemed worth the bother who also seemed to think I was worth the bother, and, besides, John just didn't fit the bill.
But he was the most interesting person I'd ever met-- funny and brilliant and odd, with utterly unexpected twists of personality and action. He was literate and well-read, he paused long before answering questions, he introduced me to music that sank deep, and he wove words well. He was cool, but not in a slick way. He was unpredictable, rough around the edges, forthright, sometimes volatile, sometimes crass, and absolutely opposed-- if they had no other worth-- to actions done simply for the sake of social expectation or obligation.
(Freshman year. Here he is, annoyed with me for soliciting autographs from the American Boychoir youngsters, who were just a little too smug about fawning college girls, proving his point with a typically over-the-top object lesson by abruptly kissing the toe of one Bryan Weimer, a boy who later mailed me the autographs of all the members of the American Boychoir.)
We were such different people with vastly different backgrounds, but even from the beginning it felt like we were kin. Over the next couple of years, I still had no romantic interest in him, but he became one of my best friends, and between us grew the unspoken fact that we Knew each other, without needing to understand everything about each other. Then, one long walk later, I was taken aback to realize he was the best friend. I'd always half-planned on being a globe-trotting old maid, and looked forward to the adventure, but in my few imaginings of a non-existent Prince Charming, he wasn't named John Owen. When John told me senior year that he intended to marry me, he still didn't fit the Prince Charming checklist, but since it was a choice between life with my favorite person or life without....well, you know where the story goes. I tossed that dumb list out the window and moved from No Boyfriend Ever to Engaged, which is probably the only way I wouldn't have run away beforehand.
Today marks 14 years as man and wife, and I would have no other.
He's the one I choose again and again, for 14 times 14 years more.
(Ushy. Gushy. Slushy.)