Abigail Wenger sat outside of Emerson Hall two and a half years ago on a warm, September evening. She only planned to do homework. She never expected to meet the love of her life.
People started filtering in around the table where she was, and Abigail soon realized she was in the middle of a Cru informational meeting. She had been interested in joining Cru, but had found herself part of the meeting by chance.
Steven Ruane was standing nearby, and the two struck up a conversation.
Both lived in Emerson — Abigail on the second floor and Steven in the room directly above.
Steven’s roommate would often bounce a golf ball on the floor. The noise would echo down into Abigail’s room and throughout their whole side of the hall.
“That would be his roommate’s cue to be like, ‘Hey, come up here if you want,’” Abigail said. “So, I would go up there and say, ‘You’re annoying me,’ but it was actually to spend more time with Steven.”
“There were all sorts of trickeries in the beginning,” Steven said with a smirk. “Like, ‘I just baked a whole loaf of pumpkin bread, and I don’t know what to do with it. Steven, will you take it off my hands?’ She’d have the same problem with chocolate chip cookies, too.”
But eventually, their antics paid off. Their first date, if you can call it that, Abigail said, was a planned set-up by her roommates.
“Abigail’s roommates went off to a movie, and Abigail was ‘left behind,’” Steven said.
“Well, I claimed to be left behind.”
“She told me that she was left behind, and so she texted me, and was like, ‘Hey, do you wanna hang out?’”
Steven walked down to Abigail’s room where they planned to watch “Parks and Recreation.”
“We put a laptop on a chair in her room, and we sat in two other separate chairs — not touching,” Steven said.
“At some point, Abigail says, ‘you know what I like? Ice cream. We should get ice cream some time.’ And we just decided to do it right then. So we walked to Graeter’s together. That was the first time, I think, we really talked one-on-one for an extended amount of time.”
Steven admitted he was a little slow to get into a relationship because Abigail is his first girlfriend.
“I tease him for this a lot,” Abigail said. “But I definitely was the initiator. It all worked out how it needed to, and knowing each other so much better now, it totally makes sense how we came together.”
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Steven said. “No idea. I had watched some friends in a relationship, and I was super into reading all sorts of books and lectures about ‘what’s good dating’ and that might be my rational side coming out.”
But sometimes, Steven said, those things don’t translate into reality very well.
“It didn’t help that I was kind of shy and absolutely not a ladies’ man in high school,” Steven joked. “So in addition to being my first girlfriend, Abigail was one of the first women I’d talked to in my life.”
They both said Abigail had to initiate everything in their relationship, from holding hands to their first kiss.
Early in their relationship, before even officially dating, they went to go see Macbeth on campus. After the play, they went back to Abigail’s room to watch a movie.
“We were sitting on my bed, watching a movie, and both of us were thinking about holding hands, for sure,” Abigail said.
“We knew it was time.”
“It was so middle school! It was the most middle school thing you can imagine. I strategically placed my hand…”
“On my knee.”
“On your knee?”
“Yeah. Or, maybe it was your knee?”
“It was my knee,” Abigail stated. “I was trying to make it known that I wanted to hold your hand and was making little movements. The whole time I was watching Steven and I could see his eyes watching my hand. I knew in his head that the wheels were turning and he was deciding what he wanted to do.”
“I was paying no attention to the movie. I was hyping myself up the whole time. I was watching every twitch of her pinky, waiting for my moment to move in.”
Abigail finally just grabbed his hand.
“The first time we hugged, my brain was going crazy,” Steven said. “I had nothing. My mind just shut down and had no awareness of my surroundings. I had walked her to ballet, to dance and we hugged to part, and I was so oblivious to everything that I got hit by the closing door in the middle of the hug, right in the back.”
Steven went back to his roommates and asked them if there was a better way to go about it.
“I said, ‘Roommates, I hugged for the first time, but I don’t know how to do it right. Do you go arms above hers? Arms below hers? A criss-cross?’ They said, ‘Ya just have to kinda feel it out, man.’”
Abigail laughed as he told his side of the story.
“It all seems so silly looking back on it now.”
That summer, they went on a mission trip together in Guatemala.
“We got to serve in a poor, rural community, but we also got some opportunities to explore,” Steven said. “We climbed an active volcano. That was a good bonding experience for us.”
“I think being in a foreign country together, you kind of, especially in a place that’s already so vulnerable and raw, you just bond a lot closer together,” Abigail said.
They both admit having a serious, long-term relationship while in college can be pretty tough sometimes.
“It’s hard being in like a ‘hook-up’ culture because we’re both really invested in our faith,” Abigail said. “It’s super tempting to be in a culture where hooking-up is so prevalent to be like, ‘Well, we should just be able to do whatever we want.’ When you commit to something and you set your heart on it, you can grow a lot from that. When you find that, why would you want anything else? That’s your person.”
“I think, definitely, the sense of commitment that we feel toward each other and feel toward not bailing out at the first sign of trouble, and being willing to communicate and forgive each other … is something that I think is really important for us and is maybe a little more rare than it should be,” Steven added.
Abigail describes herself as a free-spirited extrovert who’s “all over the place.” Meanwhile, Steven, she said, is extremely logical and introspective.
“He’s the one who would grab my shirt when I’m about to jump off of the cliff.”
But still, Steven has his quirks.
“Steven loves to, even when no one is around and even if people are around, and there’s no music or anything, sing and dance to himself. I’ll be having a conversation with someone and he’ll be off to the side and I’ll look over be like ‘what.’”
“It’s true…” Steven said. “And you just have like an alternate dictionary of communication through faces and noises. Overtime, I’ve had to pick up on it and learn it.”
“There’s the ‘cold’ one where instead of going outside and being like ‘oh, I’m cold,’ I’ll just scream.”
“There’s also the ‘I really want a bite of that food you’re eating’ grunt,” Steven added.
“I feel like we’re finally slipping into a place where we’re embracing our quirks rather than saying, ‘oh my gosh, why are you like this?’” Abigail said.
“Yeah, especially because we spend basically all day, every day together now.”
“We have our friends and independent organizations, but my favorite part of the day is when I can hang out with Steven. I can be myself, completely myself.”