Before I start with today’s installation, I have to say – If I’m being completely honest, I am shocked by the amount of people who clicked the link and found themselves on Fulghumfamily.com last week. I expected people to think “Oh great, another personal blog we don’t care about,” and continue scrolling all the while mentally judging me but not being too surprised that I did something so predictable. You see this self-doubt? It’s constant – I’m working on it. Anyway, having had what I would call a successful first blog posting, I felt the immense and immediate pressure to think of something else to write – and then had zero ideas! Isn’t that just how it goes?
So while I was in the shower (this is where I do my best thinking, reflecting, worrying, etc) I decided to start writing things down that I never want to forget. Evelyn’s birth story is definitely one of them, but that will require much more time because how do you find words to describe the most perfect experience? I cry if I think too much about it. Next, I began thinking about John. Outwardly, John and I are not the most lovey-dovey couple; we are constantly making fun of one another, calling each other out, looking for ways to embarrass the other. At home, we appreciate each other, compliment each other, do for each other. We’ve seriously got it bad for each other. When I imagined marriage, I never knew it could be this fun. But how did we get here?
If you know anything about me at all, you know that I’m a little bit awkward a lot of the time. I used to be embarrassed of this quality, but once I embraced who I am, life got so much better. The story of how John and I became a “we” is honestly the most typical “Tori” experience you can imagine. Let’s dive in.
Jump back in time: Summer 2013. I made the decision to move back to Kennesaw from Milledgeville where I had been going to college. I arranged with my previous job (Henry’s duh) to come back and work until I figured my life out. Most of the people who I worked with before were still there, so I pretty much picked back up where I left off. The only real difference was a new manager. His name was John.
He approached me while I was clocking in to introduce himself. He was wearing a yellow button up which happens to be my favorite color. Side note: It’s important to know he’s really cute, so naturally I lost all social capabilities the moment I laid eyes on him. We struggled through normal conversation for a minute until I informed him that he shouldn’t worry because one day we were going to be best friends. His response: “I will never be your friend.” Then he walked away.
Now, it’s also important to note that this blog posting does not reflect the man John is today. He is loving, caring, giving; the list goes on and on. However at this point in time, he was a little mean and, dare I say, pretty full of himself. I decided right then and there that this guy thought he was too cool for school and it was my job to teach him that his charm would not work on me. Ever. I saw him one time after work hours with just a tank top on, and I was genuinely pissed about how visually pleasing the sight was. Get out of my eyes with your sculpted muscles and your tan skin! After a few good months of doing my best to ignore him and give him no inclination that I found him attractive whatsoever, we began talking more and more about one thing we had in common: New Girl. Remember that friendship I mentioned previously? This was the beginning. He never saw it coming. Long con.
Fast forward: About a year later. I get a phone call from MY FRIEND John. I’d like to emphasize the fact that I was right; We were friends. He couldn’t resist the high fives and witty sense of humor that accompanied my presence for long. Anyway, my phone rings while I’m at dinner with a friend and my “Hello?” is met with a very sad “Hey, I need help.” While on the way to visit his out-of-town girlfriend, his car died and he was stranded in a parking lot. Well, well, well. Bet he was glad he had his good pal Tori to count on. I picked him up that day, and would take him to work when he needed me to. In return, he’d buy me lunch or dinner as a thank you. Those were totally not dates, guys. Just meals between friends. Looking back, after we started hanging out then, we never stopped.
**Disclaimer: It is extremely important to note and emphasize that at the time John was dating said out-of-town girlfriend we were 100%, totally and completely, platonic. Let’s not get that twisted. I am and always have been very respectful of others’ relationships. Thank you, carry on.**
A few weeks later, I got another sad phone call from John. He and his girlfriend had broken up and he needed someone to talk to. Feeling somewhat awkward because we had not reached that level of friendship yet, I basically told him to get over it and that we’d have a beer later that week. He seemed pleased with my response and the conversation ended quickly. Following that call, I remember saying out loud “Why the hell did he call me?” All this man did was spark a deep, deep confusion within me and it was going to get so much worse.
There are so many instances I can recall where the signs were there, but both of us were in the deepest trenches of denial. Let’s jump forward a little further, circa November 2014. We were both at a friend’s apartment; I had planned to stay the night on her couch because I wanted to have a few drinks. Unfortunately, someone who had a few drinks more than I did went to sleep on the couch before I could, so I had nowhere to stay. John offered to drive me home, and I took him up on the offer. We sat in front of my apartment building, wrapping up our conversation, then I gave him a quick thank you hug goodbye. As I pulled away there was … a linger. We made eye contact and it felt like every blood vessel in my body caught on fire at the same moment. My brain may actually have exploded. I full on panicked to the point that my fight or flight response kicked in. Guess which I chose? Flight. I literally ran away from his car, yelling “Okay BYE” as I slammed the door behind me. I sat down on the edge of my bed, panting from my sprint up two flights of stairs, still panicking and thinking, “There is no way in hell he was about to kiss me. That would be stupid.” I have a tendency to take awkward situations from bad to worse, so being the ridiculous human being that I am, I texted him. Very directly, I asked if he was about to kiss me. His response: “I don’t know.”
YOU GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW. You did know, it’s a simple ‘yes’ or a simple ‘no’. I needed answers, and they were not provided. I decided it was best to just not respond. I figured I probably shouldn’t talk to him ever again either. Maybe I should quit my job for good measure. (This is how I respond to most uncomfortable situations in life, by the way).
Having made the conscious decision to pretend like that experience never ever happened, we resumed hanging out until one evening changed it all. In hindsight, I should have seen this all coming. John invited myself and a couple of other friends over to drink some beers and play some games. We ended up being the only two who could hang, and played a game of Quarters on his kitchen table. You know Quarters, right? You bounce a quarter into a shot glass and if you make it, you take a drink. We played with sips instead of shots because no one was trying to die that night. Anyway, it’s simple and fast paced and I wanted to beat him. We played for a while then decided to sit down and chill for a little while longer. I knew in that moment that it was going to happen. We were sitting close enough that our bodies were touching and my heart was pounding so hard that he could actually feel it. He asked if I was okay. I was mortified, but pretended nothing was wrong.
My internal dialogue went a little something like this: You can’t kiss him. He’s your friend. It will ruin everything. Don’t be stupid. Oh my gosh, he’s going to kiss you. Run away. Don’t run away. Punch him. Okay kiss him, but only for like five seconds. Long enough to know what it’s like, but not long enough to ruin everything. Okay stop kissing him now. Okay now. Okay right now. It’s all over. This is the end.
You could say that I was wearing this entire thought process on my face. John look at me and said “Is this okay?” My answer: “I don’t know.” Guys I’ve seriously never felt so much fear in my life. I knew it was a big deal – I just didn’t know how big.
Three years, one marriage, one baby, one mortgage, and a whole bunch of memories later, we are The Fulghums. John is a good man, a great dad, and the best husband I could have ever hoped for. Our love story is not perfect by the world’s standards, but it’s perfect for me because it’s ours. He may not know this, but reminiscing on those memories and how confused I was is one of my favorite things to do. I was so scared and unsure, but something inside of me knew I had to say yes to it. I’m so glad we ruined his kitchen table that night with countless knicks from those bouncing quarters. And to think, it all started with an insult..