On a cold evening in February, my friend Jack and I took one of our frequent late night walks that are often catalyzed by some emotional trauma. Tonight, however, the walk was to just get out. We sped from Elliott Hall down to Peffer Park, snipped off the end of fresh cigar, took a light to it and caught up. Jack had finally started dating this dynamite chick, Lindsay, and he was over the moon. We eventually made our way Uptown, to meet up with some of my friends at Cellar.

At the bar, I found my friends, Jack found his jacket he left there a week ago, and we decided to stick around for a bit. At some point, Jack left me to momentarily talk with some pals he found  and soon motioned me over to meet them.

“Max, this is my friend, Angela.”

“Hi Angela, I’m Max.”

Coffee date

“When do I get to marry your friend Angela?”

“What?”

“Her ‘Go Green’ Ask Angela was hilarious”

“You know what? Here: (XXX)-XXX-XXXX. Go call her yourself.”

“Bet.”

Unlike my first meeting with Angela, our second was much more thoroughly planned. I mustered the courage to reach out and text her, and asked her out. Nothing too intense — just a cup of coffee and a chat at Kofenya. Simple though it sounds, I knew I was interested in seeing her more often, so I was naturally a bit nervous.

When she finally arrived 20 minutes late (Tardiness, I would soon realize, was as much a part of her as those dazzling red glasses), we found a table and didn’t leave for two hours.

We talked about classes. We talked about study abroad trips. We talked about everything under the sun and, I swear to you, I only felt like I was going to mess things up, like, twice. Three times, max.

I still remember the flustered look on her face (she just dropped one of her residents off at McCullough-Hyde), and the yellow cardigan under her heavy outer jacket. We eventually left, and being the smooth criminal that I am, gave her a pat on the back as a parting gesture.

‘Are you a salad girl?’

“So what kind of eater are you?”

“What?”

“I mean, like, are you one of those salad-eating girls or do you actually enjoy food?”

“What?!?”

Cool as a cucumber.

After our coffee date, we started seeing each other more. A netflix session here, a study session there, really anything I could do to see her more. I was hooked on Hatcher.

At some point, I invited her over for dinner, one that I said that I would cook. Coming from a largely Italian family, I knew exactly what to cook. I spent the hours readying for 7, retrieving the groceries, preparing the dishes and finally putting to work our rusty old stove.

Though predictably late once again, Angela eventually did make it to dinner. But, for whatever reason, the conversation did not come so naturally to me this time around. I bumbled my way through attempting to neatly eat spaghetti (literally impossible) and speaking articulately (situationally impossible), but wound up sticking my size 11 shoe directly into my mouth with that absolute gem about her eating habits. Once again, my nerves got the best of me.

Not for a second

Rarely, and I mean rarely, does someone randomly walk into your life and absolutely change it forever. I can’t say that there was any exact moment where I said to myself, “Hot damn, this girl is amazing. I should totally date her.” Rather, there was a string of little moments like those previously described.

For those reading who haven’t quite guessed this yet, no, this is not an article about my trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Angela. This is about how we got there.

If you’ve ever been backcountry camping, you know that the experience is incredibly deep and emotionally intimate. Journeying from point A to point B, you experience the purest form of bliss nature has to offer. You have nothing but the beautiful views and the open-hearted conversations.

But you also get to see the other people in your group take shits in the wilderness, and sleep next to them and their smelly bodies in tents and shelters.

When we departed, some of these conflicts of excessive exposure to one another troubled her. She would ask me questions like “What if you don’t like it? What if we don’t get along? What if we can’t stand each other three hours in?”

If you had asked me after I met her that first night if I could spend five days alone with her in the wilderness, I would have immediately said yes.

Not for a second did I doubt it. Not once.

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