This past February, I had a discussion with my friend Meggie about the idea of Love and Valentine’s Day. I don’t believe in much, but I am a Romantic at heart and I believe in love. I have never doubted for one day that it exists, and that it is the most powerful force in the universe.

I wrote A Valentine’s Day Treatise as my argument for why I believe Feb. 14 is the most special day of the year.

I knew this to be true in February. I knew this to be true 22 days ago. And I know it to be true more than ever.

Here is our story.

***

1211.Rebecca1. In Which We Talk, and Then Don’t

Her picture appeared in my Eharmony mailbox sometime in October. I’m not sure when. I just remember her picture because of her distinct grey streaks. And the traveling. Her picture were scattered across the globe.

Still, I was busy — as I’m always busy. I assume that I sent the first contact request but I couldn’t even tell you that for sure. (If you’re not familiar with the Eharmony system, you have to go through a series of automated steps before you can send someone a direct message. It’s all part of that system’s cognitive approach to dating.)

We slowly exchanged information. Every few days, one of us would respond using the multiple-choice menus that pigeon-hole your answers to questions like, “If you’re in a social situation with your partner, how would you act?”

By the time we reached the open question phase where one person asks three questions that require long-form answers, I was heading out of town for two weeks.

I set the communication aside — she was the only one I was speaking with — and set about my travels fully intending to respond to her when I had time, but not convinced this would lead anywhere in particular.

2. In Which I Don’t Talk Again, but Then Do

Twelve days passed as I traveled from St. Louis to San Francisco to Spencer, Indiana for two races and a conference, and I was concerned she would close the match, another function of the system. When that happens, you can’t communicate with that person anymore.

I was nervous that would happen, but I simply didn’t have the time to write anything of substance to her questions. I did, however, plan on responding to her when I returned home.

The Friday night before my race, November 4, I opened up my email before bed and saw this:

After spending the day at a digital storytelling conference today I was doing some followup research (I’m a geek that way) and I came across your Transmedia Indiana project and the Appalachian Geek website (love that name). It’s really interesting work. It looks like the project has been converted into ongoing coursework, am I putting that together correctly? Is your intention to keep it focused on the Indiana State Museum and New Harmony? Or are there other sites that you are wanting to integrate into the work?

In full disclosure (this is a little awkward)…As I was watching the Transmedia Indiana videos, I kept thinking you looked familiar. Then I finally figured out where I knew you from. I think we were matched up on eHarmony a few weeks ago. Funny, eh?

I’d love to get a cup of coffee sometime to learn more about your work, if that sounds good to you. If you aren’t up for it, best of luck to you and keep up the fascinating work.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond. I wanted to hit reply:

Oh dear god yes I want to talk with you. And by the way, I hadn’t responded because I was traveling but you are saved on my system and you’re the only person I was speaking with so of course we’ll have coffee and then we’ll make other plans too because you seem like the kind of woman I’ve been looking for so don’t hit ‘Close’ on the match…

Instead, I put the computer down and decided to wait until after the race. Two days later (although technically about 30 hours), I sent her a note on Sunday morning.

I’m glad you came across the project. We’re having a blast doing it, and we’re stoked with how it’s turning out.

As a point of interest for your research, you might want to check out StoryWorld. I’m on the advisory board for this conference (put on by F+W in Cincinnati). We just had our first show in San Francisco, and it was by all accounts a wild success. Loads of people who do what we’re doing — only for real.

I’m coming back from a race today, so I’ll be in Indy if you want to meet up today. Otherwise, I have some time on Wednesday before my classes.

If you’re up for something today, you can text me: xxx-xxx-xxxx – or shoot me a note and we’ll try to figure out something for Wednesday or next weekend.

Her reply came quickly. She was free, and we settled on MoJoe’s coffee house, which is the place we both often worked.

3. In Which Trouble Ensues

I saw her walking through the parking lot: blue jeans, blue shirt, scarf, wispy grey streaks in the black hair. I tried very much to look cool, crossing my legs while I read a book on my tablet as I tried to seem indifferent.

I did not want to talk about digital storytelling with this woman even though I’d told my friend Sarah, who had come to Spencer to cheer me on, that I assumed she only wanted to talk about my project since I’d stood her up in the virtual environment. (She didn’t know: I was going to email her, I swear!)

(She told me later that when she walked in and saw me, she had to take a moment. She did set her stuff down and immediately run away from the table. I just thought she was quirky.)

Two hours disappeared with no talk of digital storytelling. I did not want her to leave so I asked her to have dinner with me at Mesh on Mass, my favorite restaurant.

We proceeded to eat dinner for five hours talking about our lives, our work, our families, our friends. Everything, it should be noted, except digital storytelling.

4. In Which We Cannot Agree on What Happened

At some point in this evening, three events occurred. We cannot agree on the order they happened, only that they did.

  1. I asked if this could be a date now as I was ready to start that part of our relationship;
  2. I told that I was certain that she was the woman I was going to marry; and
  3. She replied to some statement I made by saying, “We are going to make so many babies.”

I am certain that I said #1 first. I am not certain about the order of #2 and #3. Rebecca assures me I initiated the crazy.

I am in no position to challenge that logic.

By the second date, we let everyone know we were dating and our friends and family began the freak out. (After all neither of us had declared significant others in some time.)

5. In Which We Want to Meet Our Kids

For the next three weeks, we were inseparable. We split time between Indianapolis and Muncie. We drove to Manchester, Kentucky for 2 days for a personal project. We spent two days with my family and two days with her family over Thanksgiving. We bought ticket to Austin in January and made arrangements for a trip to Pittsburgh around New Year’s Eve.

Wthout following each other around, we just began to exist in each other’s space in the way that you do when you fall deeply and hopelessly in love with somebody.

We began to joke about Dog Years. Each day seemed like an eternity. Time was moving so slowly, which would seem like a bad omen except the slow moving time was keeping us from getting married, having babies, and making a family.

Every conversation contained two elements: “This is crazy” and “I want to meet our kids.”

6. In Which We Simply Can’t Help Ourselves

After spending several days with our families, we’d each decided that marriage was happening. We fit. Our families fit. Everything about our lives fit.

During the long drives in the last 3 weeks, we’d planned the details of the wedding. As we drove home from Thanksgiving, the conversation again turned to the future. “I want to tell everyone,” I told Rebecca. “Me too,” she said.

I picked up the phone and called my parents: “I know it’s crazy, but we’re getting married next year.”

Rebecca did the same with her mother.

Strangely, both families took the news in stride. Rebecca’s father had said he expected us to be married before this year was out so waiting a whole year seems rational in that world. Still it felt good to have the families see what we felt.

(My dad may have summed up the whole relationship when he said: “Brad, it’s like she’s been part of this family for 10 years. She just fits here.”)

7. In Which We Plan Our Wedding

By the time we’d decided to tell our families and friends, we’d already decided upon most of the details of the wedding. We knew how we wanted it to happen, where we wanted it to happen, and when we wanted it to happen.

As you can imagine, we won’t be doing this the old fashioned way. We’re looking to create our own experience, one that involves all of our friends and family. We don’t want this to be a day about us. We want it to be a day about love, and family, and friends. That is, after all, what it’s all about.

Instead of a rehearsal dinner, we’re going to have a night of dinner and dancing in Indianapolis (and that night happens to be Dec. 31, 2012). Rebecca was a ballet dancer, and me…well I just like to shake my tail feather. This is what we want our life to be.

The wedding will be a pot luck affair (no presents!). We’re going to gather on Jan. 1, 2013 — which is  the day I declare my “Year of” goal — and let all of the people in our lives get to know each other. Then at some point, my best man (and one of my best friends, Austin) will marry us.

There hasn’t been a detail that we haven’t just found. It’s really hard to explain without sounding a bit crazy. The best way I can describe our brief, amazing, life-changing time together is this: It’s as if we’re uncovering a treasure that’s always been buried.

Not a day goes by (in the long and vast 3 weeks we’ve known each other) that we don’t stop and ask: “Is this real life?”

And the best part of that answer: It is.