Continuing the story. I thought I could cover the whole story in just three parts, but there will be more than three, and I honestly don’t know how many parts there will be in total. I’ll do my best to get to the end as soon as possible while also covering everything I remember experiencing and thinking.
Part 2: In Love, But Afraid
So, now, there I was, in a relationship with the girl I was crazy for, when I never expected I even had a chance to begin with. I knew I wanted to be with her, she said she was in love with me …, and I wasn’t ready for any of it. I never told Brooke (and never will tell her) just how frightened I was at the beginning. That fear never completely went away, either. She wasn’t just some girl, and I didn’t want her to feel she was. I was set on doing everything I could to keep earning her companionship. I never even came close to thinking, “Okay, I got her; mission accomplished.”
But my god I didn’t know what to do! I had quit my best-paying job just a few months before I met her (and I would never have met her if I’d stayed at that job); I had just emerged from another episode of severe depression…
I never felt I deserved her, especially at the beginning, when I was still surprised to be with her at all. I couldn’t comprehend how someone could “fall more and more in love with me every day” when I didn’t even like myself. For all the time we were together – all of it – I was never able to explain to myself what it was she loved about me, and I always, yes always, wondered if she even did love me. It was easy to forget all this fear and uncertainty when we were being affectionate or intimate, but every minute we weren’t talking or touching, my mind was overwhelmed with not knowing how to process everything.
My uncertainty would only amplify over time, after meeting her family, after time itself had gone by, after … several things I will talk about. My uncertainty only got worse, not better.
Brooke was just shy of her 20th birthday when I first met her, and she grew up around 25 miles away from where we first met. At the time, why was she living where I’m from? She wanted to get away from her family. As you read in our text conversation from Part 1, she felt like her family treated her “like a slave.” When we got to know each other, and especially once we started dating, Brooke opened up about how she felt about her family, namely her stepfather. She described her stepfather as abusive, even though she never used that word outright. According to Brooke, he yelled at her, he blamed her for things her brothers did or things that didn’t happen at all, and as you saw from my text conversation from Part 1, her stepfather threw things at her simply because she got quiet when he yelled at her.
Brooke wasn’t ready for her family to know about us. As you could read from the text conversation from Part 1, she didn’t like or trust her family. She felt they treated her “like a slave,” and not to mention, none of them liked Dylan, for ridiculous reasons. So, there was a short time when Brooke kept me a secret from everyone she knew, just so her family wouldn’t find out. But that only lasted about a week or two. I won’t cover anything regarding her family in this part, but I will extensively cover those things in part 3.
As you can figure from what I said at the end of Part 1, in how much I wanted to simply feel Brooke’s touch, there certainly wasn’t any time wasted in that becoming sexual. I think it was the first afternoon after the night we started dating. I wouldn’t say what I’m about to say if she and I were still together, or if I still loved her, so I’ll say this now: It was the worst sex I’ve ever had. A large part of the reason for that (or maybe even the entire reason) is … a deeply personal reason for Brooke – still too personal to publicly share – and so I won’t disclose that. But I divulge that it was the worst sex I’ve ever had to help emphasize another fact: I didn’t care. My love for her more than made up for it. To me, sex with Brooke was never about having fun, it was just about the intimacy.
Regardless, whether it had been great or not, I couldn’t stop touching her. I loved her hair, I loved her longer-than-normal fingers, I loved staring into her eyes. She had this habit of nudging me with her nose. At night when we were going to sleep, I tried to hold her as tight as I could. She even did her nose-nudging thing when she was sound asleep. I couldn’t stop touching her – before sex, after sex, didn’t matter. She didn’t like it when I stroked her hair, always complaining that her hair was greasy, and so I had to do it reservedly.
So, that’s how it was for the first month. Every day watching Brooke’s favorite shows together, every day working on each other’s art, and every day making love, often multiple times a day. The image used for this post was taken during that first month, when I wanted some ‘model’ shots of my beautiful partner. But there were a couple things of note that happened during that time as well…
I told Brooke about Lana and Larry (among many other things, of course). Lana and Larry are, to this day, the couple whom I deem “the parents I chose.” They’ll come up in the story later, so I’ll save more description of them for then. Well, the day after Brooke and I had started dating, Lana’s mother, whom I called Grandma Jackson, had died. Sometime shortly after that, a memorial was held for Grandma Jackson, and I asked Brooke if she’d come with me there. It was at this memorial that I learned something interesting about Grandma Jackson. I learned that both she and her husband decided way back in the 1940s to make a conscious effort to raise their children with good morals and a strong sense of family and community. (I will come back to this point in the final part of this whole story.)
I was glad Brooke got to meet Lana and Larry less than a week into our relationship, because they are the parents I wish I’d had, who in a way I’ve always treated like my parents, even though they’re not. Wise, altruistic, generous, and they bring people together like nobody else I’ve ever seen in my life. Brooke trusted me (I could see that, and she outright said it), but I still wanted her to know, for certain, who I choose to keep in my life. The company we keep shows who we really are. She hadn’t met my best friend Mitch yet, but I wanted her to meet him as well for the same reason. I wish she had met Sydney, whom I’ve known even longer than Mitch (she and I grew up together), but that was never possible because Sydney moved to England in 2015.
I was so proud to call Brooke mine, and it made me happier and more hopeful that she could call me hers. I outright told Brooke shortly after our relationship started, “I don’t just want to be your boyfriend, I want to be your man.” I even wrote about that exact thing on this blog, which I reposted here not too long ago. This is why as soon as we started dating, I finally decided to try starting a business. But more on that in part 3.
I could see it on Brooke’s face how happy she was. I could see it, I could feel it. One day, still during the first month of our relationship, I wanted to make a video and post it on my YouTube channel about how amazing she was, and how happy I was to be with her. Keep in mind, never had my feelings for anyone before Brooke been this powerful, not even my first love, Lisa. She always had such a big smile on her face, and I wanted to capture and record it for my YouTube video. She looked so happy, all the time. And the only reason I’m not posting one of those pictures here is because she almost never wore clothes when we were home. But that face… That face made me so happy and also so scared.
Being with her made me so happy and fulfilled, but I was also scared because I didn’t know what I needed to do to be a proper partner. I didn’t want to just be her boyfriend, I wanted to be her man. (Yet another reason I asked her to marry me, but more on that later as well.) Ever since the movie The Social Network came out in 2010, I was inspired to start my own business, but I hadn’t even started yet. Even when it came to my books, and I’ve been writing books since the 3rd grade, I didn’t finish my first novel until 2015, the year before I met Brooke. What I’m saying is: Believing in myself has always been a struggle of mine.
But I was determined. I was going to serve my woman, whatever it took. I was going to start a business, I was going to write more books, I was going to establish a name for myself in order to open more doors for our future… There was only one thing that had to be done first: I needed to marry her. But I couldn’t ask her to marry me in the first week of dating, or even the first month. So, I thought waiting two months was plenty. The logic was that I didn’t want Brooke to think I was out of my mind (asking for her hand in marriage after just a couple days), but I also wanted a bit of time just to be sure this is what I wanted to do.
Our first month together was amazing, but it wasn’t perfect. And here’s where I cover the imperfect parts of that first month.
The day after Brooke and I had started dating, I made sure to sit down with her and tell her everything I thought she needed to know. Really the only thing I remember needing to explain was my insecurity. I told her about Lisa, and how Lisa cheated on me with one of my buddies and then left me to be with him. I told her that being cheated on scarred me. Brooke told me I had nothing to worry about, and she offered to leave her phone unlocked if that’s what I needed to feel better.
Honestly, as I was telling her this, literally as I was speaking, I was doubting if I should go through with continuing to be with Brooke if I still carry this problem. Toward the end of our discussion, I told Brooke, “All I need is for you to be honest. If you’re going to text or call another guy, or go see a movie with a guy, all I need is for you to tell me. Just tell me.” I very vividly remember telling Brooke the words, “Just tell me.” My meaning in emphasizing that was so that she knew I wasn’t going to have ‘rules’ for her or something. I asked that I just be in the know. Then, aftertelling Brooke about my insecurity, I gave it a lot of thought, and I realized I probably have nothing to worry about, anyway. So, I didn’t worry about it…
One night, maybe one week into our relationship, I had to go to work, but Brooke did not. While at work, I texted Brooke, asking what she was up to and she said she was playing tennis at the high school. This made my insecurity get hold of me a little. I asked Brooke if she’d send me a picture of herself at the tennis court. She sent one, but this greatly annoyed her. I don’t remember how we resolved this, but I remember we got over this minor bump in the road in less than a day. I think she apologized to me for overreacting, and I apologized to her for doubting her.
That was the first time she and I ever clashed. But it made me happy how quickly we resolved it, though. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time we clashed in the first month of being together. Before I tell about the second time we clashed, I must preface by admitting I did start occasionally looking at Brooke’s phone after the tennis thing, even though she hadn’t done anything wrong (that I know of).
The second (and final) time we clashed in our first month together was much more severe than the first. It was one of the last days of September. I was about to go to work when I … sensed something. (This was yet another instance when I knew something without having any idea how I know it.) I sensed there was something Brooke needed to tell me. This was the only time in our entire relationship that I got this feeling. It wasn’t suspicion, it was as if I actually knew. So, it was a few minutes before I left for work… Brooke was reading on our bed, leaning against the wall. I was sitting on my desk chair, and I leaned over. “Brooke?” I asked. She looked up. “Is there something I need to know?” She said no, in a strange way, as if I wasn’t even speaking English. “Are you sure?” I asked again. She answered, “No, there’s nothing.”
I accepted it, at least at the moment. I went to work, and while I was at work, I still couldn’t shake my suspicion. So, when I got back from work, Brooke was still reading (or she had started reading again). And so, I asked her again. I said, “Are you sure there’s nothing I need to know about?” And this time, I only needed to ask once, because she paused and gave a truthful answer. “There is one thing,” she said. And she proceeded to explain that she went over to Dylan’s house to pick up some mail, and that she stayed at his house for half an hour because he wanted to talk.
Ever since I had started occasionally checking her phone, I had never seen anything from Dylan – no texts, no call logs, nothing – and so, when Brooke admitted that she went to see Dylan, I immediately knew that she had erased the evidence of it. And so, right there, after she admitted what she did, I asked her, “…If all you did was pick up mail and talk, then why did you erase your messages with him?” Brooke said that she erased everything so that I didn’t get upset. Then, I asked Brooke, “When did you do this?” And she said, “About two weeks ago.” (Which meant she did this one week after we’d started dating.)
I leaned back in my chair and thought about what to say. I was really at a loss for words. “That’s really messed up,” I finally said. “We’ve been together for less than a month, and you already do something behind my back?” I didn’t raise my voice at Brooke. In fact, I’ve never raised my voice at her. As far as I can remember, I’ve never raised my voice at anyone. But even though I kept a calm tone, as I usually do, Brooke started crying. To this day, I still regret how I reacted at first. I did nothing; nothing at all. And the reason I did nothing when she started crying was because I consciously believed she didn’t deserve comfort. That was … until what happened next. While she was crying, she said, “I don’t deserve you…” And then she buried her face in her arms.
Once she said those words, I got off the chair, sat next to her on our bed, and held her. I don’t remember if I said anything or not. All I remember was what I was thinking. I remember thinking how much I didn’t want her to feel like she didn’t deserve me. I remember wishing she didn’t think that way at all, because I’ve never believed anybody should think that way. Maybe that’s hypocritical? Because I always thought from the very beginning that I didn’t deserve Brooke… So, all in all, I couldn’t handle that Brooke said she “doesn’t deserve me,” because in absolutely no way did I believe that was true.
She took my reaction to the Dylan thing much harder than I had wished. I wanted her to feel bad, but not so terrible that she hated herself for it… But I thought even this dark cloud had a silver lining: I came to realize that Brooke is someone who can admit mistakes, she is someone who tries to resolve conflicts. I came to love her even more after all this. I was already planning to propose to her in early November, and this made me even more certain that I wanted to.
After the night she admitted the Dylan thing, I made a very conscious decision to be more careful with how I say things to her. I realized now just how fragile she was. When October came and went, I remember making a mental note about that month: Nothing bad happened. No issues whatsoever, at least that I could perceive. And since October went by without a hiccup, I was even more certain I wanted to marry Brooke.
When November rolled around, it had finally been two months of waiting. Well, technically, it still hadn’t been a full two months to the day, but whatever. It was finally time to propose. I asked Brooke if she’d ever been to a place called Rocky Butte. She said no, and I asked if she wanted to go see it. She said sure. I put on my nicer pants and a nicer shirt. I knew she noticed, but she never said anything about it. Then, we drove up there that night. This was one week before the 2016 presidential election, so it was either November 1st or 2nd.
The place I took her to, Rocky Butte, is a peak where you can see all of Portland and pretty much the entire Portland area. It’s gorgeous at any time of day, but nighttime is my favorite, and that’s when we went. When we got there, I think Brooke might have tried to do some photography? But before long, she and I stood leaning against the stone perimeter, just talking. When I finally mustered the courage, I said, “Brooke, do you remember when I said I don’t just want to be your boyfriend, I want to be your man? And then you said that you could see yourself being with me for the rest of your life?” Brooke said, “Yeah.” Then, I said, “Do you want to? Do you want to spend the rest of your life with me? Because I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” And Brooke said yes.
Sure it was unorthodox, but all of it was intentional. I wanted to present the question in a way that kind of conveyed, “We already kind of said we’d stay together forever.” Almost as if I asked her like we were already married – with that level of ease. And no, I didn’t buy a ring, because I know a few things about the diamond industry: It’s a scam industry. (If you want proof it’s a scam industry, just buy an expensive diamond ring, and then try to sell it back to the same jeweler or to a pawn shop. You’d be lucky to get even 10% of the price you paid back.) Even my best friend didn’t buy an expensive ring for his wife; their rings only cost about $80 each. And after the night I proposed to Brooke, I explained to her why I didn’t get a ring, and she seemed to already understand. I already told her my views on that industry. I remember a month or two after we got married, I went looking at the same type of rings my best friend got, but Brooke said she didn’t want one. I asked if she was sure, and she said she was sure…
At this time in my life, I didn’t even believe in marriage. My views, as of 2021, are different, but back then in 2016, I believed marriage itself was unnecessary and pointless. So, why did I still propose to Brooke? It was my way of telling her I was serious about being committed to her for the rest of my one and only life.
This is the end of Part 2. I will try to cover our entire marriage in Part 3.