Samantha Valenzuela – Across the room but miles away
Couple’s Love Song: Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
He was sitting across the room but it felt miles away. My 16 year old heart raced as my eyes gazed upon his borderline 90’s heartthrob haircut and deep laugh lines. I remember feeling like I was in a haze, struck by some winged baby wielding a bow and arrow. “I have to say hi to this guy…” I thought as I nervously twisted by hair between my fingers. He caught my gaze with a dumbfound look on his and as I was about to give a hint of a smile, he looked away. I thought that that was my chance and I blew it.
I spent the following weeks catching glimpses of him in the hall ways walking to class, sitting at the piano in the choir room, and laughing in a sea of girls who, without a doubt, were pining for a chance to toy with his heart. I knew I could never compete with those other high school girls. They were prettier and probably had far more interesting then I could make myself out to be. It wasn’t until that one fateful day in our computer class that it all changed. It was that day I knew that fate was on my side as the teacher called out for us to partner up. Having been sitting closer and closer as the days went by, I figured that today was the day he was going to notice me. “Hey, want to be my partner?” He said unexpectedly. After a few seconds I picked my jaw up off the floor and snapped out of my daze. “Sure!” I answered almost too eagerly. We spent the hour talking mostly about movies, music, and gushing over “August Rush”, movie that we both had recently fallen in love with. In that hour, it began to feel like I was talking to an old friend. He thought it was beyond amazing that I listened to Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane. It was then that I learned that he was an aspiring pianist and guitarist. He was becoming more perfect by the second. I kept my awkward to a minimum all the while maintaining the facade that I hadn’t been admiring him from afar for weeks. It wasn’t long into the project when his phone made a familiar ding as though he received a text. He sighed in disappointment and announced to me that his Prom date dropped out on him last minute. I was a Sophomore in high school at the time and as a sophomore you are not allowed to attend prom unless invited by a member of the upperclassmen. I gave him a friendly but equally eager “Aww man, that’s a bummer.” It was in that moment that I realized that this boy, the one who I had been day dreaming about, had been noticing me all along. After class as I was about to walk away to my next period he nonchalantly asked “If you’re not busy on Friday, do you maybe want to go to after-prom with me?” “After-prom…?” I thought to myself. “You know we could just go to prom prom and then to after prom if you want?” He followed. “HOLY-SHIT SAMANTHA, DO NOT BLOW THIS!” “Sure!” I said with the same amount of eagerness I used to accept his request to partner up in the first place. This will forever be remembered as the time Garrison and I first met.
I fell in love with Garrison so quickly. He struck me like lightning hitting a power line. He electrified me. We spent two years of high school together under the stars, singing and playing guitar to our favorite songs, and spending hours watching films on the couch in his mom’s basement. I knew he was soon going to leave and go to college and the last thing I wanted to do was hold him back from his dreams. Without prompting he stayed home my senior year of high school and went to a community college. I felt lucky and also selfish. I could hardly stand to think about living hours away from each other and then, suddenly, he made the choice to stay which made that worry disappear. My senior year in high school was spent staying out too late, sitting on the tail gate of my car in the mountains, dreaming about our future and falling deeper in love in the process. It was then my turn and I had to decide what I was going to do about college. I had fortunately made it into the school I has been dreaming of since freshman year of high school and I had a difficult choice to make. Do I sacrifice love for school, or school for love? He then again, as he did once before, made the worries disappear as he too announced that he had been accepted into the same school. The fall after my graduation we both dove into the unknown and moved to our new home together.
College dorm room living brought it’s own difficulties and shenanigans to go along with it. We grew into ourselves and in turn we grew into one another. We lived our lives at similar paces and continued to support one another close by during school. It wasn’t until I fell very ill with a disorder known as Degenerative Disc Disease. The discs in my spine were degenerating at an alarming rate for someone my age. Walking became harder, as did standing and laying down for long periods of time. There were weeks that I spent sedated in my bed feeling like death had warmed over. Through this all, Garrison never once left my side. I had been hospitalized for a short time and all I can remember is him sleeping by my side in the most comfortable hospital recliners you can think of. He sacrificed days and nights and endured endless amounts of tears and fears that spewed from my lips. I remember telling him multiple times the he should leave me because we were too young for him to have to take care of somebody. He assured me every single time that he would never leave me because I was the person he loved most in the world. He made me feel like the struggle and pain would all be worth it. We ran with this for years. We met countless doctors and therapists each one promising to fix what was broken. Each year, each back attack, every time I was poked and prodded and gawked at, he never once blinked an eye or had a hint of doubt that we would be okay. It was because of him that we were able to rent our first home together. I spent my good days attending a minimal number of classes and playing house wife by cooking his favorite meals and baking his favorite bran chocolate chip muffins. We loved in this house, we lived in this house, I was safe because of him, in this house. It was here we stayed for 5 years while I slowly navigated the waters through my college career and where he sacrificed a full time school schedule for a full-time work schedule instead. He supported the both of us all while seeing me through treatment after treatment to gain control of my condition. After 3 or 4 months of new treatments, I was finally finding that I had found a lasting solution. I have Garrison to thank for this. Without him I would probably still be in crippling pain and without hope as he would drive me to try my hardest each morning when I didn’t even want to wake up. After 5 long years of schooling and building a life, we moved back home to our parent’s homes in Denver.
When we moved back to Denver, we told ourselves that we would only be at our parents house for 2-3 months tops before we found a new apartment. Fast forward to present day and we are now two and a half years in and counting from the day we moved home. Denver, being the fast growing metropolis that it is becoming, has kept our heads down and our savings growing. We haven’t even begun to dream about our future home since the finances simply aren’t there. We commute to one another, spend the night in each other’s childhood bedrooms, work full time, and rarely have time to spend a whole day with one another. Through all of this, I’m still as sure of this man as I has been 8 years ago.
Let’s rewind to late 2017. At this point in time we had now lived with our parents for close to two years. One quiet Sunday morning I rolled over in bed to meet him already wide awake and reading a new book in his tablet. That morning we packed up our bags and drove back to the city we called home together. Our old college was up north and was in our path to get to the most spectacular marvel we could ever hope to witness, The Great American Solar Eclipse. We drove up to Greeley, Colorado the day before and visited all of our old haunts. We ate dinner at the restaurant Garrison use to work for, we drove past our first home, and parked ourselves for the evening in a cheap motel right off the highway near the university. The next morning we work up at the crack of dawn to make our way to Glendo, Wyoming, a city in which it was expected to be in the path of eclipse totality. We drove three hours to the half-pint town and found ourselves on a dirt road with about 4 hours until the eclipse was to begin. We didn’t have a plan. It didn’t matter as long as we were here to witness this momentous occasion. We happened by a privately owned ranch called Oasis that was just outside of Glendo. We forked over $60 for a secure uncrowded parking spot, private hiking trails, and a port-o-let which was a pretty sweet deal. We hiked the various hills and awaited the celestial spectacle to take place. Once it began the earth grew sill as the coverage of the sun grew further and further. 25%, the air whipped through the nearby trees and I found myself needing to change into my flannel. 50%, the sky began turning the most muted shades of peach and indigo and it felt as though we were witnessing a sun rise and sun set combined as one. 80% it became colder and a soft murmur of chirping pierced the air. There were cows on the field across the dirt road that began laying down as if it were time for a slumber. 99%, we all held our breath and our eyes grew wider through our safety viewing glasses. The light disappeared in our goggled vision and it was then time. 100%, Garrison was still, his breaths were slow and steady. Our hands were clasped so tight as if we were about to be abducted by UFOs and carried away. There were two minutes of utter silence, awe, and beauty. I was standing there witnessing the most beautiful moment of my life with the person I love so deeply in this world. After about two minutes the sun peeked it’s golden ray from the far end of the moon and totality had ended. Garrison said soft spoken, “ I think I know how this moment could be better.” “How?” I replied. He turned to me, placed both hand of mine in his, knelt on the talk grassy hillside we were perched on and asked, “Will you marry me?” I freed a hand and brought it to my head while looking into the partially uncovered sun and uttered, “Of course.” We embraced and he returned to his 6 foot 3 inch stature and kissed me long and deeply. In that moment we had been together and in love for 8 years and 11 months. He waited for a moment that may only come once in our lifetime to ask me for forever. Our engagement nearly eclipsed the eclipse itself. After a few moments, my mother, who came with us to witness the great eclipse, had ending up snapping photos on a disposable film camera that came with her emergency car accident kit. It’s these photos I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Here we are now. 9 years and 5 months from where it all began in that computer lab in high school. We have dreamed together, supported one another, fought, made-up, made plans, and made promises. Our new dream is to forever commit our hearts to one another. We don’t have much but we have each other and it is in this union that I am rich. It would be an absolute dream come true to be able to plan our wedding so that we can celebrate our lives with those who we love. No matter what may be, all I know is that wherever we are and no matter the hardship, I will always have him to ground me and be the best husband and partner this world can muster.