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Reflections on The Best Decision I Ever Made

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of my marriage to my best friend, I thought it would be nice to share our engagement story.

In the early oughts there was a group of DC-area bloggers who had a weekly meetup every Friday at a pool hall named Atomic Billiards in Cleveland Park. The place was below street level and one descended from the bright lights of the city to the dark and smoky bar.

Sometimes more than a dozen people would show up and we took over the place. We filled the jukebox queue with our favorite songs — no Journey allowed — and filled the couches. There was no kitchen, but Atomic allowed outside food, so we’d walk down the block for slices of pizza from Vace or tacos at another local place. I purchased a lifetime membership at Atomic which entitled us to discounts on pool table rates as well as 10% off on our drinks. And did we ever take advantage of that last bit. After Atomic some of us would stumble across the street to the local Chinese restaurant where we would take one of the large circular tables, and we’d have a blast chatting, eating, and drinking.

One Friday night in April 2002, we were in our usual spot when I was chatting with a friend who explained that a girlfriend of hers was coming to our gathering that evening and to keep an eye out for her. When her friend arrived she was still blinded by the sunshine outside, and the backlighting made her glow from my point of view. As she tried to adjust her eyes to the dark space, I waved my arms and in an effort to help her find the group. This is how I met Sarah.

I spent the rest of that evening trying to make this new person comfortable in our group. We had been meeting for a while by this time and like any close-knit group it can be challenging to understand the culture. After a few drinks, she said she was hungry so I offered to walk with her to grab some food. We chatted a bit and then returned to Atomic.

Sarah started attending our weekly gatherings, and we got to know each other better; even hanging out on weekends outside of the meetups. We’d walk around her neighborhood and down to Georgetown. I’d hang out with her in her tiny efficiency apartment while she did laundry. We chatted on the phone, and we exchanged texts using clunky phones where one had to type 4433555666 just to say “hello.” We became close friends, and a month later we began dating.

In June she left for a trip to Japan with a friend, which she had planned before we met. We still kept in touch. She borrowed computers in order to send emails, and used an International phone card to call me. The latter was challenging due to the 13 hour time difference. We’d chat and her hosts would have the soccer World Cup — Japan and South Korea co-hosted that year — on the television, and I would be watching the games in the states. Her version in Japanese, and mine the Spanish-language version.

While she was away I realized how much I cared for her, and missed her. I remembered standing at the jukebox at Atomic Billiards and pointing at the Al Green song “Let’s Get Married,” and her replying that I should be careful because if I asked her she might say yes. I decided to ask her when she returned from her trip.

I made the sign that adorns this post, and I made plans to take off work to meet her at the airport. Sarah had asked me if I could pick her up from the airport and I was careful not to lie to her, but made an excuse about possibly needing to work. When the day of her return arrived, I was surprisingly not nervous. Sure she had said she might say yes, but we had only known each other for less than 3 months. When confronted with an actual proposal, perhaps she would have a change of mind.

Airport security was tight as this was less than a year after the terrorist attacks of September 11. I waited at the arrivals, which was packed. I saw her immediately, and held up my sign. A confused look crept across her face and I briefly panicked. When she got close enough for me to speak to her I simply said “please?” and she nodded enthusiastically. We walked silently to my truck, and once the doors were closed she started screaming and we hugged.

We got married 4 months after our engagement, and on October 12, 2022 we celebrated twenty wonderful years together.