I met Kora at my sister's wedding. I went thinking that I would go, dance a little, shake a few hands, smile at a few people, and catch up with friends. As people were arriving I found Christopher and the Best Man talking and joined them. Christopher introduced me to one of his cousins, after shaking his hand I saw a girl walking across the floor, escorting two other young ladies. Only the girl in the center was noticed; the others were merely there peripherally.
I distinctly remember thinking,
Woah, she's pretty. I wonder if she knows how to dance. In the time that it took me to think that, our eyes had met and held – a connection had been made. Looking back, I suppose one could call it a recognition, though I don't know if I realized it at the time.
I shook my head, pushing the thought out my mind – what were the odds?
Shortly after that, the ceremony started. During one part, everyone had a part from
Oh The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss to read. As that girl and her sisters stood up to read their part, they said it with such attitude that I couldn't help but smile.
After the ceremony about 700 posed pictures were taken, and since I was in the wedding party I was in a goodly portion of them. When pictures were done, I decided I wanted a drink, and made my way to the bar. Stopping to talk to guests, the girl walked up to me.
Words in quotes may be a summary and not completely accurate:
You're Zach, right? Erica's brother?
Do you know the answer to these questions?
The week before, amidst her Master’s degree and wedding preparations, Erica had gotten bored. Her words. So she made
Erica and Christopher Trivia, where each guest was given two unique questions. Correct answers would theoretically be thrown into a hat, and a winner would be picked.
I looked at the card – one question was about what Christopher called Erica when he proposed (something I had been told but forgot) and the other regarding Erica's most feared animal.
I know the answer to one of these, yes.
What is it?
Knowing that I had a bargaining chip, no matter how small, I replied,
What do I get out of this deal? I wanted a dance, but I also knew that I couldn't be the one who came up with the idea, at least not immediately.
I'll give you the prize if I get it....I just want to win.
I really have no need for the prize...what else?
That was when my 7th grade sewing teacher, the one person left, Mrs. Conant, jumped in.
How about a dance?
We both looked at each other, and I said
That would work. She agreed. I told her what Erica was afraid of – ladybugs, and she told me her name. Kora.
After Kora left, Mrs. Conant patted me on the shoulder and said
You're welcome, walking away.
Yes, my Middle School Sewing teacher proved to be a better wingman than any of my best friends have ever been.
I immediately did an about face to get that drink.
After dinner we talked a little more when we both got drinks at the same time. Knowing that I'm horrible with names, I confirmed my memory, I found out her relation to Christopher, and that she was a computer programmer getting a master’s degree from University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana. My jaw dropped at the last bit. We went separate ways in the name of cheesecake.
During the first big dance, the wedding party tried to get everyone on the dance floor. Only person I tried to recruit was her. We danced then, and a couple dances after. I felt like I shouldn't let the momentum stop, so I offered to buy her a drink. She accepted. We took our drinks out the back door so neither of us could get waylaid. Sitting down on a bench near a firepit, we talked. About her research, somehow xkcd came up, I can't remember anything else.
We went back in, and danced on and off throughout the night, always somehow gravitating back towards one another. Around 10:00 PM we went out to see the fireworks; we didn't know that they were going to start at 10:30. I asked for her number – for some crazy reason she gave it to me. After the fireworks we went back inside and danced. While dancing I asked how she felt about aerials...after explaining the move I had in mind, Kora agreed. I saw another couple leaving the dance floor – turned out to be the only other couple on the floor. This meant that the entire room was watching us as I first dipped Kora one way, then another, then picked her up and swung her around. At the end of the song, I couldn't stop laughing with excitement.
Sometime after that I went over to talk to family, and she retreated to her family. Eventually she joined me, and we went outside to talk. I got my first picture of her on a camera I had bought just for the wedding. Kora's sister (Kim) came out eventually, saying that they were leaving – Kora's body language said she wanted to stay, so I offered to take her to the hotel. She agreed, and we kept talking.
After cleaning up from the wedding, I drove Dad's car to the hotel and dropped her off. We hugged before she got out of the car, and I watched her walk into the hotel.
The next morning (Sunday) my parents hosted a party for Erica and Christopher at their house to open presents. Dad called me to remind me of the party, but probably just to make sure I was awake. He casually mentioned that Kora and her family would be there, and he was going to get food. (All the necessary parts to inspire me: cute girl and food.) I was slightly too groggy to realize the implications, and realized that I hadn't wrapped Erica and Christopher's wedding present yet.
I get to the house fashionably late, and found out that Kora's family wasn't going to be there; Kora's father had wanted to get moving what with Chicago traffic around July 4th. I was asked about Kora a number of times, if we were going to see each other again or be Facebook friends. I think I slipped through each inquiry without really answering, wearing a slight smile on my face.
Monday morning my coworkers could tell something was different about me. I was smiling. After a bit of cajoling, it came out I met a girl and they proceeded to tease me.
On Tuesday I messaged Kora. Within half an hour it seemed awkward, and she insisted that we continue the conversation on the phone. Extremely nervously I hit send on my phone, and she immediately answered, sounding pleased that I had called. I'm still convinced that the clocks were controlled by an outside force; they kept saying 3 hours had passed when it seemed like five minutes.
Wednesday morning, at about 3 AM, I woke up, rolled over, and distinctly thought,
I want to see Kora.
That day I talked to my coworkers. They all agreed that I ought to visit her that weekend, and it really wasn't that far. I had cousins in nearby Peoria, and we saw them rarely, so I felt it was a long drive. If only I knew how much time I would eventually spend on that road. Hint: I know every pothole.
When Kora and I talked Wednesday night, I asked if I could visit – something extremely out of character for me. She said she was busy running a day camp, and wouldn't have any time to spend time with me. I convinced her that I could come Saturday afternoon after camp was over, and accompany her to the afternoon shindig.
That one picture I had taken talking on the patio got me through the week. Dad provided a few others that he or other family had taken, but I was enamored with that one. I was happy the rest of the week, when people asked what my plans were for the week I would simply say
I gotta go see about a girl, smile, and walk away. I totally ripped that line out of a movie.
Saturday morning came. I woke early out of excitement. I got started an hour early out of nothing to do. I got there an hour before I was supposed to. I called her an hour before I was supposed to. I was told to wait an hour. Damn. Lunch and putter around Kohl's. Kora eventually called, she was done with day camp. I pulled up to her apartment just as she was getting there; she got in the car and got a huge hug. There was a parking spot right in front of me. I parked and got another huge hug.
We went inside, I formally met her sister Kim and Kim's boyfriend Ian. I'm not sure of Kim's impression of me, either thinking this was good or that I was a serial killer. Ian is better at hiding these things, I've found; I couldn't read him at all.
In a bit, Dan comes by and we leave in Ian's car for a barbeque. For some reason I was nervous of this when I had just driven six hours to spend the night at the apartment of a girl I met once. At the barbeque I didn't eat a thing not being sure of my surroundings at all, with the excuse that I had just eaten lunch.
Fortunately no one was poisoned.
When we finally left we went back to Kora and Kim's apartment, where we had birthday chocolate mousse pie – it was Ian's birthday.
And my life was changed.
The pie was really good. And Kora took my hand.
After pie, Kora asked me to go on a walk. I'm not stupid. I agreed. She took me on a partial tour of the campus, and after showing me the underground library she went to run ahead and I held onto her hand. She swung around. I held her close. We kissed.
TThe rest of the night is a bit of blur as we find dark spots off the path to kiss as we continued our tour. We walked past a restaurant and shared a bowl of macaroni and cheese. After getting back to her apartment, we each find that the other is a Firefly fan, and proceed to watch. I offered to give Kora a backrub, not knowing it’s her superpower weakness, just that I'm pretty good at them. Apparently I cemented myself with Kora right then.
The next morning we went to the University of Illinois gardens and take pictures. We come back and cuddled.
I left Urbana around 4 PM, as late as I felt was prudent. Monday morning Dad was at the Habitat for Humanity House being built across the street from me, so I stopped on my way to work – I had some time. According to him I was smiling, cheerful, and in an extremely good mood. I think I kept that going for a full day or two before it wore off.
I think it was three weeks before I saw Kora again, but in that much time I had already provided her computer equipment and started the first of our letters. I felt that I couldn't just send her a box with a wireless router in it, so I wrote a letter telling her not to expect more letters. Man, that backfired. I sealed that box up three separate times, including things I forgot.
I don't regret a single moment of our relationship. Every letter, every late night as I drove home or to Champaign, every phone call and Skype session, every night missing her as I fall asleep has been worth it. I hate when my voicemail inbox fills because that means I'll have to delete her messages. It also means I go through them all again, and reminds me of how cute she is. Kora has inspired me to be a better person, to put off some of the bad habits and develop new hobbies. I love her, through and through.