Thursday, September 14, 2023

An Aspie's Wedding: Enter Kristen

It's 2021, and I'm in my second season with the NTT INDYCAR Series. A relationship isn't fully on my mind because of the hectic schedule I'm in the midst of, but at the start of May I decide to try "one last time". I can't recall how many "one last times" there were, but that time I vowed that this was it. 

As I flagged that year's Indianapolis 500, I did have a thought that, "wouldn't life be so much more spectacular if I could share this experience with someone?" This was a stark contrast to the previous posts in that I equaled a relationship with happiness. I had grown, and I didn't even realize it.

Milo Ventimiglia was the honorary starter for that year's race, and I thought that such a photo, as this one, would make my profile a bit more noticeable. It worked. Although I must say I wasn't vain enough to make it my profile picture, that would be too much, but it was there, and a week after a race I matched with a person named Kristen, from Saint Louis, and we traded a couple emails where we spoke of our love of travel, and when she asked me where I'd most want to go I mentioned, "Reunion island. You've probably never heard of it but it's famous for having the most shark infested waters, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and it's the place where the aileron washed ashore from MH flight 370." She wasn't sold on the island, but the next email she asked me, "Are you doing anything fun this weekend?" 

When she sent that email, I was up in Detroit for that weekend's INDYCAR race on Belle Isle, so yes, I would be doing something fun. I didn't mention what work I did on my Match profile, so I said, "Yes, I'd say so and you can watch it on NBC this weekend." Whoa! Where did that come from? I'm not one for sly segways, but she took the bait, and the email onslaught continued the rest of the week.

This Kristen was proving to be highly intriguing. There was something different about her, and I feared the email I had to write her stating that I was still almost a month away from getting back to Saint Louis as we still had races in Road America, and Mid-Ohio before I'd return home. When finding someone intriguing, that's a long time. Would she be willing to wait so long to meet? It turned out, she was.

Our first date was a classic example of not preparing as The Cheesecake Factory at the Galleria mall was a two plus hour wait. So, instead of us both driving across town to the Chesterfield Mall, she offered to drive us, which gave us even more time to talk. And talk we did! 

The following two hours were stories of where we've been, where we want to go, and laughter. Quickly, I noticed I didn't have to be someone else. Finding that special someone, I now believe, is a 50/50 event in that you, yourself, must accept who you are. Each of my previous relationships were doomed due to my attempt to change when change is not possible. A couple months into our relationship, we went to a play and there happened to be some heavy base, perhaps there were drums there which is my worst sensory issue I can have, and I was able to say it without shame. Okay, maybe there was a bit of self-loathing in there, but I didn't hide this challenge of mine. 

A month went on, and I had another multi-week away stint as INDYCAR had several races back-to-back. I didn't know what to do with Kansas Kitty, and she offered to take her in for that time. Now, Kansas Kitty can be a bit of a pill to those she doesn't know, and Kristen had let me know that she was not a pet person. At all. Like, zero pets is a good number. She told me how Kansas Kity at her house would go with shut doors and above all Kansas Kitty would not be allowed on her bed. I laughed, because already Kansas Kitty had shown that she could tolerate Kristen, and after toleration comes the need for affection for the feline. And cats can be highly demanding.

As I was in Nashville, I kept asking her for the "daily mews" and each day Kansas Kitty got closer, and closer, and I think by day three she was sleeping on the bed. Quickly, Kansas Kitty won her way into Kristen's heart, so this meant she was kitty approved. 

Kristen was also quickly becoming more than anything I had ever known. With each conversation, and each date, I was learning that it was okay to be me. I didn't need to change for her, and she didn't need to change for me. It sounds trite, and cliche, but this dynamic was laying the foundation for an unspoken level of respect that transcended anything I thought possible. As I traveled the racing circuit, I noticed myself yearning for just five more minutes with her at dinner, or just driving down the road. What was this? Was this even possible?

We did a couple trips together and nothing had changed. Each day was fresh, revitalizing, and even in the mundane there was excitement. I thought there had to be some sort of trick, or magic potion for there to be a relationship that could work, but this was... effortless.

This... this marvelous relationship scared me for a while because of my history. Surely there would be some sort of disaster, and while I was open with my feelings on most things, I still lulled around this heavy weight which delayed my ability to say, "I love you." Those three words... those words have the heaviest weight of all words in the English language. To say those is to expose one's soul, and I struggle to say these words to my parents even though I know I do, and the months went by and Kristen sort of hinted that she was expecting those words, but she never prodded. This made me love her even more! A couple more weeks went by and suddenly, and without warning, I opened the door, and she responded, "Aw, I love you too!" 

The next racing season began and there was never a word from her questioning my hectic life. Yes, in the heat of the season when I was completely worn down, she asked, "Is this worth it?" And when I said, "yes" she replied, "I know." 

Again, if you have to change for someone, I doubt the proverbial road will stay intact. My previous relationships were all destined to failure. With Emily it was because I didn't know who I was. Even if I had never been diagnosed, the results would have been the same. With my next girlfriend it was always going to play out the same because we each had this image of what a relationship should look like instead of what it is really like, but with Kristen... there wasn't an effort to change anything. It was easy, effortless, and time flew by.

I had it in my mind, from the first time I was there in 2016, that I would someday propose to my future wife on the top of that volcano, and I'll retell this story in tomorrow's blog, which tomorrow is my last day as a single person.

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