My wife and I had a less-than-typical first date.
To start, we were surrounded by dozens of dead bodies—plastinated, naked, and doing strange things like playing soccer. It was also about the third time we’d ever spoken in person. Everything up until then was housed in letters, tens of thousands of words floating around in the dozens of emails we’d spilled ourselves into over the previous several months. If I’m being honest, we weren’t even sure that it was a date. We might have just been a pair of slightly morbid friends who had suddenly rearranged our Sunday afternoons to include a 45-minute drive to a far-flung museum showing a morally ambiguous exhibit of preserved human remains.
The truth, of course, is that it wouldn’t have mattered what the museum was showing. We were already in love.
We met in early 2015 at a tech startup in Austin. Switch out the money-minded Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail with a bold, independent-minded loudmouth (me) and make Meg Ryan a lanky, literary boy drawn by Tim Burton, and you’ve pretty much got our story.
We started talking because Noah noticed a book on my desk. I was reading Steve Martin’s memoir, Born Standing Up, because I was missing performing and looking for a little inspiration. Noah loved Martin’s fiction, and—ever the librarian’s son—strode up to me one day and offered to lend me the author’s novellas. An avid reader myself, I accepted.
They were perfect. I wrote him a short email to tell him so. He dropped off another book not long after—The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson—with a note and an elegant scribble of an ice cream cone. If possible, this one spoke to me even more than Shopgirl. It may sound trite, but I felt the strongest sense of connection to him. If he gets these stories, I thought, he just might get me.
The next weeks disappeared in a flurry of book lendings and letters, all culminating in our aforementioned outing to Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibit.
We’ve been together ever since, marching to an offbeat rhythm that has incorporated a spontaneous move to (and from) New York, a tweed-and-blue-dress backyard wedding, and the launch of our own business, Two Cats Communications, creating digital content for bookstores and authors. (One of our clients, Houston’s own Blue Willow Bookshop, has a distinct “Shop Around the Corner” vibe.)
What amazes me most about our story is the speed and ease with which we transitioned from being single people to being inseparable people. It was at once exhilarating and somewhat shocking. I had gone my whole adult life thinking that I was complete, fully-formed, missing nothing.
Enter: Mary Cate. The moment you know, you know you know.
These days, there is rarely a moment that we’re apart, and never a moment that we want to be. I think it’s a testament to the power of love. Neither of us was looking for a relationship when that first book was lent. (Mary Cate, I should mention, actively resisted the idea before being gradually worn down by her insurmountable attraction to me.) But that’s the thing about love—it just happens, sometimes when it’s not expected. There is no “ready”; there doesn’t have to be a “looking.” There’s just love. And when you find it, you do whatever it takes to nurture it, honor it, keep it in your life.
We watched You’ve Got Mail for the first time together over Christmas. I was struck by the parallels to our life and the memories it brought back. The thrill of having mail from someone I felt so inspired by. Even little things, like the walk in Riverside Park. I felt strangely proud of our story, with all its quirks and surprises. Like a good book, it’s one I’ll never tire of revisiting. Even better, it’s one I get to live.