Alphabet, A History (D)

The following piece of creative nonfiction is part of a series I started on my personal blog a few years ago called “Alphabet: A History,” which is a collection of short, autobiographical vignettes, focusing mainly on relationships (familial, romantic, platonic, and self). I will be publishing the series on Fridays.

D: Drew

It’s early spring, late afternoon, and I’m having beers and burgers with girlfriends at The Edgewater. It’s warm enough that we can sit on the patio outside, which is a good thing because some of us haven’t remembered locks for our bikes. We lean them against the unpainted
picket fence where we can keep an eye on them while we eat and drink and talk about boys.

I’m the youngest in the group — still a few months shy of my 30th birthday and conversation turns to the challenge of finding a good man before we become old maids.

“I don’t understand why it’s so hard,” I say, “I just want someone who’s funny and charming and kind and gracious and creative and ambitious and smart. Curly hair, glasses and dimples don’t hurt either,” I add.

“I know the perfect guy for you,” Meg says, putting her beer down, resting her chin in the palm of her hand, and looking at me intently.

“You do?” I ask, “Who?”

“This guy, Drew,” she says, leaning back in her seat. “He’s everything on your list.”

“Everything?” I ask, skeptically.

“Pretty much,” she says.

“Well, why haven’t you introduced me to him yet?” I ask.

“He lives in New York,” she replies.

“Well, why would I want to meet a guy in New York?! I don’t want to meet a guy in New York.” I say.

“Weren’t you just saying that you have to be open to finding love?” she asks.

“Yeah, but like, in your own city. New York’s on the other side of the country!” I say.

“Aren’t you going there in a few weeks?” she asks.

“For a weekend,” I reply, “I’m not moving there.”

“You should meet him while you’re there.” she says in a way that suggests it’s a done deal.

“But —” I begin to protest as Meg pulls her phone out of her purse and starts dialing a number.

“Hi Drew, it’s Meg!” she says into the phone a second later. She talks to him for a minute and then hands me the phone.

“Uhm…hi.” I say. “Meg says we should meet?”

“Okay.” Drew says easily.

“But…you live in New York and I live in Chicago. What happens if we like each other?” I ask.

“I can commute,” Drew replies.

Five minutes later, I hang up the phone with plans to meet Drew for a sushi dinner later in the month when I’m visiting New York. For the next two weeks, Drew and I email back and forth every day, exchanging stories about our childhoods, friends, travels, hobbies. I’ll save these emails and will print them out eventually for safe-keeping, but for now, I don’t even know what he looks like. I just know that when I log onto my email account and see a message waiting from him, I get an excited little thrill that catches me off-guard. He makes me laugh and even though I can’t see his face, can’t hear his voice, wouldn’t recognize his handwriting, I’m getting to know him. And everything I don’t know about him — what he looks like, for example —I’ve filled in with guesses and assumptions and wishes of what I might like him to be. That he lives on the other side of the country is something I’ve pushed out of my mind. For now, I just want to enjoy the fantasy of it all.

The day comes for us to meet. It’s May 5 — my mom’s birthday. I dress carefully in a knee-length apple green corduroy skirt, a blue tank top, a brown leather belt with a green and blue belt buckle, and green wedges. I wear just a touch of eyeshadow and my glossiest lipgloss. When I’m ready, I take the subway from Astoria to the Prince stop in Soho and as I walk up the steps to street-level, I see him right away. He has his back to me, but I know it’s him. He has the curliest hair I’ve ever seen and is shorter than I imagined. He turns to me and I see him make the connection. We walk towards each other. I suddenly start panicking. What am I doing? Why am I about to have dinner with a stranger? In an unfamiliar city? How do I know he isn’t some kind of kook?

“Are you crazy?” I ask him two minutes after we meet.
There’s been an awkward silence between us since we exchanged ‘hello’s’ and now he seems lost and completely unsure where he’s going.
“What?” he asks, nervously.
“Are you crazy?” I repeat.
“Oh,” he says, “Yeah, I am.”
“I thought so,” I reply.

We’re silent for another couple of minutes while we keep crossing from one side of the street to the other, never really getting anywhere.

“Do you have any idea where we’re going?” I ask finally.
“Not really,” he says.
“Hmmm.” I say, wondering if I should just go home. I’m not even that hungry.

Somehow, by some miracle, we finally cross the right street and end up at the sushi restaurant. They’ve messed up our reservation, though, and the table we were supposed to have out in the garden is occupied by another couple. I sigh. I don’t mean to, but I’m suddenly underwhelmed by it all. Things aren’t going at all as I imagined. I meet Drew’s eyes and he looks equally unenthused. How could this happen? We had such good chemistry hundreds of miles apart. We stand in silence for another five minutes while the waitstaff clears a table in the garden for us. We sit and order white wine and some gyoza. I tell Drew about growing up in Japan and how my parents would pick up McDonalds for my sister and me before we went out for sushi.

We finish our appetizer and wine, the sun sets, he seems a little less neurotic. By the time our entree comes and before we finish our second glass of wine, he’s growing on me. I like the way he looks in the candle light, I like his smile, he has nice teeth.

“You have nice teeth,” I say, sipping my wine.
“So do you,” he replies.

The people at the table next to us are smoking a joint. They’re passing it around in a circle, clinking glasses and laughing loudly. They speak Japanese and sometimes they lean in together and say something in hushed tones and look over at us and giggle.

When we finish dinner, I find myself nodding when Drew asks if I want to get a drink.

“Sure,” I say.
“Yeah?” he asks, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” I reply, “it’s still early.”

At the bar I tell Drew how I’m writing my masters thesis and it’s the last thing I have to do before I get my degree.

“After that,” I say, “I can pretty much do whatever. Go wherever. I mean, life’s kind of an open path, you know?”

The next day, Drew calls and asks if he can see me again before I go back to Chicago.

We have brunch together the next morning and go for a walk in Washington Square Park. We sit next to an elderly couple and watch the man sing songs to his wife (girlfriend?) and the fly on his shoe. The fly keeps leaving and coming back, leaving and coming back.

“I’ve got a friend!” the old man says in a thick New York accent, “Look at that.”

Drew and I laugh into our hands.

Later that night my friend has a performance at a club right across the street from Drew’s apartment. I tell him I’ll be there, but I don’t invite him to come along. I’m not ready yet to introduce him to anyone. After my friend performs, I get a text from Drew. He tells me he’s recording Grey’s Anatomy if I want to come over and watch it later. I’ve told him it’s one of my favorite shows. A half hour later I go over. I like being at his place. I like sitting on his couch, I like being next to him.

“I have to go now,” I say as soon as the show ends.
“Right now?” he says, disappointedly, “Right away?”
“Yeah…” I say. I’m afraid every minute longer I stay will just make it harder to leave.

I cry on the stairs on my way out. I cry the next morning in Astoria Park as I look across the river into Manhatten. And I cry on the plane later that day on my way back to Chicago.

I don’t know yet how it’s going to work out. I don’t know that we’ll spend the next year and half criss-crossing the country every two or three weeks to see each other, that we’ll rush to one another’s homes after tediously long delays in airports, and become experts in national air travel. I don’t know yet that I’ll leave Chicago and move in with Drew into his apartment in New York and spend the first 4 months of my time there unemployed and frustrated. I don’t know yet about planning a trip through China together, or how he’ll feed my cats in the morning when he wakes up before me, and about the New Year’s party we’ll throw and the confetti we’ll still find in the rugs three months later. I don’t know that we’ll get married and have a baby and make a life together.

Meg was wrong. Drew doesn’t have dimples. And he doesn’t wear glasses (that comes later). But he is “funny and charming and kind and gracious and creative and ambitious and smart.” And I still love his smile (dimple or not).


  1. lets_be_honest says:

    Clearly, you were in it for the green card. hehe.

    In all seriousness, this was adorable and so great to have to show it to lil Jackson some day.
    “He tells me he’s recording Grey’s Anatomy if I want to come over and watch it later.”–that would’ve done me in too!

    1. JennyTalia says:

      I’m glad it worked out and Drew did deserve the benefit of the doubt, but that text would have just said to me that he wanted to get in my pants before I left, and an “innocent” invitation to watch Grey’s alone on his couch would become hands-on very quickly. Maybe I’m too cynical.

      1. I thought the same thing, too. But, like Wendy, I would have gone over anyway!

  2. silver_dragon_girl says:

    Wendy, this is awesome 🙂 What a great beginning to a love story!

  3. GingerLaine says:

    My favorite alphabet essay yet! After all these years, I still love reading about Wendy & Drew! :::sigh::: Wuv, twue wuv…


    1. Firegirl32 says:

      Love the Princess Bride reference! Ha!

  4. LolaBeans says:

    omg. swoooon! i’ve read this on citywendy, and i still love it.

    i love these a-z pieces.

  5. I loved this the first time I read it, and still love it now. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Yay! I love “how we met” stories. I think it’s great that it may not be “love at first sight” but you know you want to be with someone after only spending a little time with them.

    1. Skyblossom says:

      The first time I was introduced to my husband I didn’t actually “notice” him. I was introduced to one of the English grad students in our new research group. I only realized later that it was him because I was introduced to a tall, dark haired guy and my husband was the only dark haired student in the group. He has no memory of meeting me at that time. Later that spring I helped initiate him into our chemistry fraterntiy. Still took no notice of him. That fall he volunteered to help me post some brochures around campus and by the time we were done posting I was intrigued and decided to start dropping by his lab to talk to him.

      1. SpaceySteph says:

        My bf and I met months before we “met” too. I went out on a wild and crazy evening with a coworker at my new job. At some point we met up with some other people he knew, including my now-boyfriend. They were out celebrating another friend’s birthday and I actually had a slight crush on that guy, although it turned out he was engaged.
        Then we were teammates in softball for awhile. Then we started dating. One night I was telling him the story of this wild and crazy night and he’s like “You were there? I was there too!” Whoops. Neither of us to this day can remember meeting the other person that night.

    2. My fiancé and I met on a dating site. One day I was looking through our old messages and found out that he had actually sent me a message several months before we started dating. I had never responded to it because, at that point, he still had a girlfriend. (He only messaged me with a book suggestion by the way, so I totally believe he had innocent intentions at the time.) After I told him about it he didn’t even remember it, but he likes teasing me with it now.

    3. Hell yes, “how we met” stories are awesome! Wendy, how about about that for a weekend open thread? Everyone share their best “how we met” story, whether it be their current partner or a past one.

      1. Love this!

      2. Next week!

      3. YAY!!!

  7. Landygirl says:

    I absolutely loved this!

  8. And it’s so nice to see a true love story that doesn’t begin with “we saw each other from across a crowded room, and instantly knew….”

  9. ReginaRey says:

    I’m not ashamed to admit that thanks to PMS and Wendy’s story-telling abilities…I’m getting teary right now.

    1. I’m totally tearing up too. The crying in the stairwell part really got me. I’m such a sap for a good story.

    2. +full-ish moon? Does that make anyone else into a crazy?

      1. OMG is it a full-moon? I have felt bonkers for the last 24 hours and my poor boyfriend is on the receiving end. and I’m not pms-ing.

      2. Nope, full moon was at the beginning of the week. We are closing in on the last quarter.

    3. Painted_lady says:

      Crying! Not PMS-ing, but crying all the same. My high school students are eyeing me like I’m going to combust any second.

    4. EscapeHatches says:

      My black little heart didn’t even need the PMS to get there. *sniff*

    5. BriarRose says:

      Oh, I definitely got all teary eyed, at work no less. I hope someday I’ll be so lucky and have such a beautiful story to tell (although I don’t know if I’ll tell it quite so wonderfully). Just lovely, Wendy.

    6. caitie_didn't says:

      Glad I’m not the only one 🙂

    7. Me too…but for the last few days I’ve been getting teary at cute puppies in dog food commercials so I think it’s just me and the PMS. lol

  10. fast eddie says:

    A 🙂 says it all.

  11. Skyblossom says:

    The uncertainty at the beginning of the relationship is so true for most of us and such a pleasure when it actually works but you don’t know how it will turn out at the beginning.

  12. Addie Pray says:

    These vignettes are so, so sweet.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      I still remember when I first discovered City Wendy – maybe about a year ago – and loved the vignettes the best. So I printed them all and went to my favorite wine bar and read and drank. That was a nice night.

      1. That sounds like a great night! I get all dreamy-eyed when someone says “wine bar.” Add DW vignettes and I’m a vewy happy girl. 🙂

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        That does sound lovely!

      3. Addie Pray says:

        It was lovely. I need a new book. I’m reading one of Bill Bryson’s travel books. But I’m not in love with it. I want something new to read that is sweet … and that I can take to wine bar. Suggestions?

      4. Oh dear….with working three jobs, a very active 12-year old and in the middle of selling my house, reading is something I can only dare to dream of. I envy you that. Sigh.

      5. AndreaMarie says:

        I don’t have any good reading but definitley excellent wine bar suggestions….do you happen to live in NYC?

      6. Addie Pray says:

        Nope, Chicago. 🙁

      7. what kind of books to you tend to read? i have some different suggestions depending on what you’re looking for!

      8. Addie Pray says:

        A few of my favorites: In Cold Blood, Under the Banner of Heaven, Lolita… I think I’m all over the board, except I can say lately I’m really into reading about crazy religions.

      9. first of all i absolutely love Jon Krakauer, and under the banner of heaven is one of my favorite books from him! there’s a new book called 1Q84 (Haruki Murakami) that i want to read, however it’s just over 900 pages, don’t know when that’s going to happen. some other recommendations: funny in farsi by Firoozeh Dumas, the art of racing in the rain, the god of small things, and there are a few books by Katherine Neville that are mysteries but have a dan brownesque theme with ties to religion. I wish I could go home and curl up with a book now!

      10. Addie Pray says:


      11. ReginaRey says:

        The Eight by Katherine Neville is THE BOMB.

      12. i found that book in a thrift store, did you read any of her others? i enjoyed the follow up to the eight, i think called the fire.

      13. ReginaRey says:

        If you like crazy religions, you’ve got to read “Escape” by Carolyn Jessop…all about Warren Jeffs and how she escaped from polygamy. Man, do I love reading about them crazy polygamists!

      14. Addie Pray says:

        I love reading about crazy polygamists! Read that one. I can’t get enough of that stuff, it’s like crack. I think I’ve read Under the Banner of Heaven 4 times.

      15. I loved Under the Banner of Heaven!

      16. caitie_didn't says:

        Oh man, I read Under the Banner of Heaven this summer and LOVED IT. I would totally read it again. If you like non-fiction I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.

        It’s a book about science and medical research but is written in a way that’s accessible to anybody. and the story itself is enthralling.

      17. i love that book! i’ve tried to get so many of my friends to read it. when i tell them what it’s about they tell me it’s too sciencey for them so i’ve started not telling people what it’s about. it’s a truly amazing story though!

      18. caitie_didn't says:

        BUt it’s not too science-y! That’s one of the reasons why I love it so much…because it’s so accessible to everyone!

        I lent it to my mom, who loved it. She lent it to her friend, who said it was the best book she’s read in years. And now it’s at someone else’s house…I think the hallmark of a good book is when you lose track of it because you want to share it with so many people.

      19. Addie Pray says:

        I’ll read it – thanks for the recommendation!

  13. Very sweet Wendy! Thank you for sharing this.

  14. Absolutely adorable Wendy! It’s crazy to look back to the moment someone so important enters your life, when you had no idea what the future would hold. I am a sucker for how we met story, and yours was the best!

    I met my now-husband at a hot tub in college of all places. My friend tried to hit on him and she wound up throwing up less than an hour later from too many shots (classly) , leaving the two of us alone to talk for hours(oh fate lol). I told my friends later that I thought he’d be great “summer fling” potential, but I didn’t see any long-term potential. Five years, three moves and a wedding later…what did I know? lol

  15. love the story and your necklace in the photo! i need to try and be more adventurous with my jewlery, i always chicken out when I get to the check out!

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Ah, the Edgewater. I assume you mean Edgewater lounge off Ashland and BrynMawr? I live very close to that place. They always have a nice cask pull and good beer selection.

    This story is adorable. i love it!

    1. Yep, that’s the one.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        Now i’m going to think of you when I go there!

        Hope you and Drew and Jackson are getting some sleep and having a great time getting to know each other!

  17. I can totally relate to the crying after spending time with a guy you believe has so much potential – I did the exact same thing after I had a first (unchaperoned) date with my husband. It’s a strange mix of happiness that it can come soooo easy, with a sense of frustration from the distance and the impression of futility in letting it grow. The best part of your story, any lasting love story over the distance, is that there really is no happy ever after – love like that just LASTS and is shared and spread, to your friends, your family, your readers and now your son Jackson.

    TL:DR – Thanks for sharing Wendy. 🙂

  18. this is so sweet…. im all warm and fuzzy inside. aww…

  19. Does your friend Meg brag all the time about the outcome of her matchmaking? : ) What a great story.

  20. belongsomewhere says:

    This is one of the best “how we met”-type stories I’ve ever read, and it’s so beautifully written. I love this series!

  21. Wendy, what was your master’s thesis on?

    1. Using blogs in writing classes.

      1. Google doesn’t seem to know anything about a master’s thesis.

        However it does have pieces of one of your book on a very similar subject:

  22. WatersEdge says:

    This was how it was when I met my husband, too. Things were awkward at first, we didn’t necessarily have instant rapport, I was a little underwhelmed (we even communicated via email first, and had great chemistry there that didn’t instantly translate, too)… but within a few short dates this ease just set in. I just liked being around him. It wasn’t like some crazy fireworks show, more like home in front of a fire, if that makes any sense. Nothing explosive, just a slow burning flame.

  23. delilahgem says:

    Awwww. Wendy, I love reading about you and Drew. Congratulations on your new little bundle of joy.

  24. totally love reading the “how we met” stories. i hope i have one just a wonderful as this to share one day 🙂

    congratulations wendy and drew on your beautiful baby boy!

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