[Me and the girls, that weekend. Thank you Mrs. Mary Ann Wood & Mr. Robert Wood for hosting us that weekend. And thank you for sharing your daughter with us this weekend in Maryland!]
[Brad, brothers & nephew, that summer. Photo stolen from Katrina!]
15 JULY 2012
“GUYS! This guy has 10 siblings. And he’s ROMAN Catholic!” I yelled shamelessly to my friends standing eight-feet and twenty-people away in that crowed bar.
“Brad, if you don’t get her number, you’re an idiot,” his older brother nudged him as he walked away.
Still standing at that crowded, rectangular shaped, wooden island bar, we exchanged numbers. “Geena Cooley the greatest girl I’ve ever met” was added to his phone and “Bradley Harrington” was added to mine. (In hindsight, I’m not sure where my newfound confidence had come from. Maybe it was just the excitement?)
That night, we danced until the 2:50 AM last call. The flashing lights went from yellow, to green, to blue and then back to yellow. We talked and laughed while he twirled me on the crowed dance floor, and it reminded me of the stories I’d read as a little girl. I remembered Cinderella with her Prince Charming, dancing across the ballroom before the clock struck twelve and then Aurora waking up from her sleeping spell to a kiss from Prince Phillip. Like most girls, by the age of five I knew all these stories by heart. Yet, I wasn’t a little girl listening to a story at bedtime anymore. In that moment, I was living it. And just like that, something about him reignited desires within my heart that I had dimmed out for some time.
While we danced, Mel and our friends talked with Bradley’s friends. Brad’s friends were on the Notre Dame rugby team and had a house in the city for the summer. They seemed trustworthy, and we didn’t want to part ways just yet, so we taxied back to their house. (And that’s the shortened version of it.)
At the house we made our way to the kitchen where we stayed up eating watermelon and laughing on the kitchen floor. These people we’d just met an hour prior felt like old high school friends.
“Want to go outside and talk?” Brad whispered in my ear as we collided in the kitchen hallway.
“Yes,” I said and took his hand.
He lifted me up off the floor and we navigated out to the front porch. There, we took turns asking each other any and every question we could think of. I confessed things to Brad that I hadn’t ever confessed to another person before, let alone someone I had just met, and for the first time ever, I felt all of my walls drop and I was just me. Most times, when anyone asked me about my career and life aspirations I would inform them of my great interest in marketing and how, after I graduate, I plan to enter the workforce and make for myself a successful career. But when Brad ask me “what I want to be” my response was very different. It wasn’t edited, formulated and wisely articulated. It was automatic, honest, and came out before I had time to bring my palm to my mouth. I surprised myself as I replied, “be a stay at home mom!”
I told Brad all about my family and childhood and he told me all about his.
“Everything I learn about you makes me like you more,” he said, and I felt the same way.
Bradley grew up all around. He was the third eldest of 11 children (now 12 children). He was a senior rugby player at University of California: Berkeley, and was just in Chicago for the weekend visiting with his brothers from Notre Dame. As a senior at University of Maryland: College Park (2,912 miles away from UC Berkeley), we couldn’t live on farther sides of the country.
Mel’s parents had booked us a hotel for the night. So, at 5am we caught a taxi to the hotel. The next morning I woke up in a king size hotel bed, in between Mel and our other friend, Annie. I was filled with a strong instinctual feeling that morning. I have to see Bradley again. My flight is the next morning. I’m not leaving this up to chance. So, I was more forward with Bradley that morning than I had ever been with anyone before. I texted him. “The girls and I had a great time last night. I’d love to see you tonight.” This was huge for me.
That night we met at English Bar, in the city. We hopped around the city with Mel, Annie and a few of Brad’s rugby friends. At last call, we headed back to his friend’s place. Sean’s apartment had a wall with windows, opening up a picturesque panorama of the Chicago skyline. There in the living room we laughed, listened to Disney music, danced, and played games until the sun rose.
It was already 5 AM, and I had to leave in an hour for my flight. There was no reason to sleep. I mean, I may never see him again. At 7 AM, I woke to Mel shaking me.
“G! Your flight is in an hour.” We must’ve fallen asleep.
“Come visit me in Maryland,” I said as I quickly said goodbye to Bradley and Mel, Annie and I bolted for the elevator.
Our car with my luggage was on the other side of the city.
“We will just mail it to you. My dad booked you this flight and you can’t miss it,” Mel said, as she hugged me goodbye and hailed down a cab all in one swift motion.
“O’Hare International, please. And quick! My flight is in 40 minutes.” Just like that, we were off.
I was standing in line at the United Airlines ticket counter, still in my Jeffery Campbell heels and white Free People dress from the night before, when the thought struck me. Why was I rushing home, back to the same life I’d been living? Why don’t I take a chance and see where things could go with this guy?
“I am going to delay my flight. Come meet me?” I called him.
“Yes,” he cooly and simply responded.
At that point, I called my mom, who was expecting me.
“Mom, I met the man I’m going to marry.”
Then I called Liz, who was expecting to pick me up at the airport so that we could carpool to the Luke Bryan concert that night. (Liz tells this part better.)
“Liz, I met the man I’m going to marry. I can’t come to the concert. I’m going to sell my ticket.”
Twenty minutes later, still standing at the ticket counter, he called.
“Where are you?” he asked as he stepped through the double sliding doors into the busy airport.
“Look, right here,” I said as I waved Bradley over to me.
Bradley joined me at the ticket counter and we decided to delay my flight for another day and a half. That day, when his brothers headed back to South Bend, he stayed.
We spent the rest of the weekend adventuring around the city. He opened the door for me, made me laugh, and fulfilled everything my heart had every yearned for. Kissing him goodbye at the train station the next day I wasn’t sure if I’ve ever see him again.
15 July 2012
“I’ll go for it,” I thought.
I stood there for a minute, waiting. When those other guys are done talking, I stepped between them.
Once we’d got to talking I told you I was one of twelve. You didn’t believe me. It didn’t help when David came over. He was being goofy and told you he had three kids, even showing you a picture of my little sister Molly (who is blonde just like David) and telling you it was his daughter. When I could tell you weren’t believing me, I told him to get serious. And he got serious real quick. He chatted with you a bit and before leaving told me, “you’re an idiot if you don’t get her number.” Because you’re vain (kidding, kinda), you decided you’d put your number as “Geena Cooley the greatest girl I’ve ever met.” Ha. I just put “Bradley Harrington” in yours.
For a bit, we danced. The normal dancing, though.
I wanted to keep hanging out. There was just a feeling where I needed to be around you. I invited you to come hang out, but you sorta shrugged your shoulders smiling, saying, “You’ve got me. But you’ve gotta convince my friends.”
“I need everyone to keep going or else they’ll all go to bed and you’ll leave,” I thought.
So, I finally convinced everyone. After the Apartment closed we went back to the house. There, I took you outside to the front porch where we just chatted about everything- the future, what you wanted, what I wanted, and just everything. (I remember, you wanted to be a teacher and then eventually a stay-at-home mom. I liked that.)
Soon enough, the girls came out to the porch porch to grab you. The sun was rising and you guys were taking off for the hotel in the city. As the girls are walking off, and you’re about to go, I knew I wanted to kiss you but really didn’t want to offend you or scare you off. So, I made sure to ask first (which looking back wasn’t the smoothest of moves).
As soon as you left it was like I had lost you. I didn’t think there was any way I would see you again. It just didn’t seem realistic (besides that we had things planned for the whole weekend and you were leaving soon). It’s hard to explain, but even though I didn’t think I would see you again I had this crazy thought in my head that you’d be the one. It’s all very confusing and I don’t know how to explain it. I just needed you to be the one to keep roping me in and I would continue to say yes to your requests.
That Saturday morning I called my mom and told her all about you. I even called my dad to tell him all about you and how I was going to take you out.
After not even knowing you 18-hours, you invited me to go to mass with you. That’s when I knew you were different. I had a serious discussion with David after that, basically begging him and some of the other guys to come meet up with you that night. It felt so right; I knew that I had to see you again- even if it meant that I went out by myself, which actually ended up happening.
At some point on that second night, and just 24-hours into knowing you, you first asked me to come visit you in Maryland. I thought how great that would be. At the same time, there was no way it was gonna happen. I just shook it off as you being crazy, in a good way.
Sunday morning, you were leaving for the airport. I was saying bye for the last time. (Actually, each time we said goodbye I thought that was it.) I wouldn’t see you again. I’m a little pessimistic like that. And for the second time, you left. I came back to the apartment and rolled into bed. Less than an hour later, I got a call from you. You stood at the ticket counter, asking me to come to the airport. Hearing that, you made me the happiest man right then. There was a chance again. It was crazy, but I got out of bed and met you at the airport. You delayed your flight a couple days.
I couldn’t stay to spend time with you because I had plans with the family but knew I had to find a way to see you that night. The problem being, my whole family was headed out of the city and back to South Bend. If I was going to stay it’d have to be alone and I’d need to find a place to stay. It was crazy (to stay in the city, with a girl I just met), but worth it.
It was a stressful time in that car with Chris, David, Katrina, and Ryan. My phone was dying as I tried to figure out where to meet you. We drove through the streets of Chicago because I was torn between going with them or staying in Chicago to possibly meet up with you. Meanwhile, Ryan was tired and losing it.
The moment I really knew I had to have you in my life was when Katrina turned and said, “If this girl means anything to you, you will get out of the car.” As soon as she said that I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity slip or I would for sure regret it.
I was nervous and anxious to see you; you have no idea how excited I was. At the same time, right when I got out of the car with that decision, I’d never been more at peace.