There was a crisp chill in the air on that late January day. I’d been on a bus for the better part of 3 days. I’d endured sleepless nights, little food, and physical violence only to arrive in Oakland, California tired, nervous, and nearly broke. It was all worth it though. The entire trajectory of my life over the past few months had been leading up to this place, at this time. I climbed off the bus, and went inside the historic domed bus station at the corner of San Pablo and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. I was struck by both the beauty of the sculpted ceilings, and the dilapidated state of the terminal. I quickly stepped inside the bathroom, and cleaned myself up as best I could. I applied deodorant, brushed my teeth, ran some water through my dirty hair, and quickly shaved my face without any shaving cream. Then, I nervously stepped out onto the chilly street to wait. I was nervous, partly because I had some idea that I was not in a great neighborhood, and partly because I was being picked up by my girlfriend. She was the reason that I’d journeyed from Western Tennessee to Northern California. Sure, there was an internship waiting for me, as well, but I’d passed up a better one (one that paid) in favor of the one that would put me near this girl - this girl who I’d spoken to on the phone for 2-3 hours every day for the last three-and-a-half months, this girl who I’d emailed, and messaged back-and-forth for weeks before that, this girl with whom I’d made eye-contact months before, at a church function that either of us could have easily missed - she was picking me up in a matter of minutes - and we’d never met one another face-to-face. She was an acquaintance of a friend, and after that bit of seemingly-meaningless eye-contact, we were somehow connected on Myspace.
I stood outside the bus terminal waiting, my only luggage a vintage brown hardshell suitcase, and my backpack. Inside these was nearly everything I owned. She was running late. I didn’t have a cell phone, so there was nothing for it, but to wait. I assumed she had run into traffic, or was having trouble finding the place. In actuality, she was circling the block, repeatedly, because she, too, was nervous. Finally, she pulled up in her little black Acura Integra. She was the epitome of cool, wearing a rainbow-striped scarf, Death Cab for Cutie t-shirt, and green-striped gloves (to mask her sweaty, nervous palms). She sheepishly stepped out of the car, and quickly composing herself, came around the back of the car, and said, “hi.”, striking a pose that said, “please come hug me, and dispel this awkwardness.”
I acquiesced, and we embraced strong, and long there on the curb.
I loaded my bags into her car, and we made the long drive back to her college campus. The next couple of days were a whirlwind - meeting her friends, a tour of the campus, and all her favorite places in town, lots of laughs, lots of hugs, lots of sighs. That first evening, she had a residential life leadership meeting, which I tagged along to. Afterward, we walked back across the campus in the dark, holding hands, and not really saying much of anything - a contented silence. As we neared her dorm, we passed a fountain, and a deck overlooking a small pond. I pulled her onto the deck, and we leaned against the railing holding one another, as the ducks snuggled together at the edge of the water. It was there that we enjoyed our first kiss, gentle and sweet.
I slept in her dorm room that night. She slept on the floor of her co-RA’s room, right next door. The next day, she took me to get my hair cut. I had asked her if she would cut it for me. It was hideously long, and I was desperate, not having any money. We went as far as putting me into a trash bag hair cape, before she chickened out. It was too much pressure. So, she took me to a nearby salon, and paid for me to have my hair cut. It was a bit humiliating, having her pay for everything that weekend, but we already had such a close connection, that it really felt like we just assumed that whatever we had was now shared. We spent the rest of that day frolicking about the campus, lounging in the grass with her friends, taking pictures, and just enjoying one another’s company.
On the third day, we went on our first date. During our long phone calls, Ferial had told me that her favorite place to go out to eat was the Emeryville Public Market, and that it was great to pair with a trip to IKEA which is just down the street. So it was there we went - to IKEA first, walking through the store, laughing, holding hands, and already dreaming of a future in which we could nest together. Afterward we went to the Public Market, and had gyros, stopping over at Peet’s afterward for our first face-to-face deep-and-meaningful. We lingered long, and spoke of many things, looking into one another’s eyes, and blushing.
It’s a strange thing to have your first date, just after your three-month-aversary, but I couldn’t have dreamed of a better way. It was perfect. Things weren’t always easy. We lived an hour apart. She was busy with school, and me my internship, and work. However, almost all our free time was spent together. We practically shared the Integra, and put an inordinate amount of miles on to it, driving back-and-forth just to spend the night, or go on a date, before having to drive back for work the next day. We spent many-an-evening, staying out too late, crying, not wanting to separate or spend even another night apart, let alone the week or more it could be before seeing one another again. We grew to loathe the “goodnight and go”.
So it should come as no surprise that it wasn’t long before I put a ring on it. We were engaged in September of that year, and married June of the next. That was just over 10 years ago. We celebrated our tenth anniversary on June 1st, 2017, and went back to the little English Inn and Tavern just off Muir Beach, where we had our reception all that time ago.
We’ve lived in a lot of little homes in those ten years. Our first home we called The Treehouse. It was a little two-bedroom apartment in a woody little neighborhood. We always had friends over, cooking food, and mixing drinks, and it very much had a clubhouse vibe. Our next home, we called The Third Story, partly because it was a 3rd-floor walk-up, in South Korea, where the word “story” is a popular Konglish aphorism, but also because our life in Korea was sort of the third story we were writing together (dating being the first, The Treehouse the second). Upon moving back from Korea 4 years later, we got a little apartment we called Club 75. We were trying, in many ways, to repeat the welcoming atmosphere of The Treehouse, but in a more grown-up way. After a year there, they tried to jack our rent up. We had just begun to look elsewhere when the opportunity arose for us to rent the home Ferial grew up in from her parents. It was a good deal, so we jumped on it. We called it Tram Manor, because it was, by far, the largest place we’d ever lived in. It also got nicknamed Trammahome, perhaps because we had so many people in and out of it over the years we lived there. We had at least 5 roommates over the last three years, with many others who called it home from time-to-time, or at least a safe place to lay their heads. We lived in Tram Manor for 3 years, and this little story has arrived at the present day.
So why, then, am I speaking of Trammahome in the past tense.
Well, because we’re moving on.
Ferial and I have purchased our first home together, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.
And the reason I’ve told you this story in this way, just to make an announcement, is this - our new home is a mere ten-minute walk away from the Emeryville Public Market, where we went on our first date. It’s a modern, well-lit, three-level condo in a great neighborhood of Emeryville. It’s equidistant to both of our places of work, in close proximity to our church community at Eucharist, and the neighborhood, itself is super cool.
As a matter of fact, we can’t wait to have you come visit. We've decided to call it the TramNest, and there will always be cold La Croix, fresh coffee, and the kettle will always be hot.
Hope to see you there soon.