My second date with Michael (or the third, depending on which of us you’re talking to) was one of those marathon dates newly-dating people do. We began mid-morning with a trip to Good Will to find sweaters for an Ugly Sweater Christmas party that night. After fifteen minutes, we had our choices. We put them on the scale (this Good Will Outlet charges by the pound) and Michael plopped down $3.18.
Bags in hand, we headed to a costume shop to hunt down matching costumes for a themed New Year’s Eve party the following weekend. Michael wouldn’t let me pay for those either.
Hungry and not yet sick of each other, we shared a late lunch at my favorite restaurant downtown, and then took a walk around Asheville.
During the walk, Michael asked if I collected any art.
“Not really, but I’d like to start. I actually have my eye on a piece in a gallery here.”
“Oh yeah? What is it?”
“It’s a ceramic boat. But on top of it is a scene that looks straight out of the Camino. There’s an old church, a path running in front of it, a little bridge crossing a creek. And you know what’s really funny? The piece is called, ‘The Pilgrimage.'”
Why I hadn’t bought it yet, I wasn’t sure. Or so I told him.
The following weekend Michael came to pick me up for the first of two New Year’s Eve parties we would be attending. I opened the door to my back porch to find him standing with a wrapped box in his hands. This was the third time he’d brought me a wrapped gift in as many weeks.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“Well, it’s your Valentine’s Day gift, but I couldn’t wait that long to give it to you.”
Valentine’s Day was not even on my radar, let alone the thought that Michael and I would still be dating by then. Not that I didn’t think it possible, I just wasn’t in the habit of planning six weeks into the future when you’ve been dating for less than four.
I invited him in. He put the box down on a table while I finished getting ready for the party. I opened the door to leave and he said, “You’re not going to open it?”
“I thought you said it was for Valentine’s Day.”
“It is. But I want you to open it now.” I peeled off the paper, opened the box, and moved tissue paper aside to find The Pilgrimage. I stood there speechless, mouth agape, looking from him to the box and back again.
“I can’t believe you did this,” I said to him. “How did you . . . I didn’t even tell you what gallery it was in.”
“Yeah, that took some searching.”
In the car on the way to the party, Michael told me how he remembered the name of the piece, and what it looked like, so he Googled it. Eventually he found a blog post I had written about it–a blog post that included the name of the gallery.
He went to the gallery, but didn’t see it. When he then asked, he was told it had been moved into storage downstairs, so they went to get it for him. He plopped down his credit card and, four hundred dollars later, it was his. And now mine.
And that’s why I hadn’t bought it yet. I couldn’t justify spending that much money on myself. All in one place. And on just one thing–a thing that served no other purpose than to remind me of one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Michael, however, thought I was worth it.