The Accidental Couple
by Elizabeth and Stanley Dankoski
Elizabeth: If I could go back to that weekend in April 2009, I’d first give myself a little shake and then advise against that teal, fake silk shirt. “Girl, quit pouting and put on something flattering,” I’d whisper in my ear. “Your life is about to be recast.”
But of course I was oblivious that my self-pity was about to meet its expiration date, and so I slouched my post-divorce, post-MFA, non-writing self into The Muse and the Marketplace that weekend, hoping a stray bit of inspiration might leap from behind some lectern to kickstart my writing — and maybe my life — again.
Stan: Meanwhile, months after my first Grub class where I’d sweated out a summer day in a stuffy classroom writing anti-climactic sex scenes, I’d started to wonder if other writers sat at home in their underwear late at night trying to remedy their inhibitions. The Muse, I was certain, would peel back the sheath of reticence and release the quivering writer within. It was obvious even to me that my literary tendency toward the pornographic wasn’t getting me anywhere.
At the end of the first day of the conference, faced with a room full of chattering writers, all extroverts as far as I could see, I’d armed myself with a rum and coke. Now, with the rum humming in my veins, I felt a little surge of bravado. I began hovering around the edges of groups of strangers, waiting until the inevitable lull in conversation allowed me to edge in with my own comments.
E: After a day of hustling from one session to the next, all of the exuberant, writerly energy swirling around that massive hotel had me both exhilarated and exhausted. I stood in a clutch of writers, sipping white wine from a plastic cup, and tried to summon my fizzled mind to think of something witty to say.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed another Muser heading toward us.
S: It had been a tough crowd that night. I was bored with women who chirped about their memoirs of sordid love affairs, and with the guys who were lamenting the death of some great author I hadn’t yet heard of, David Foster Somebody. Glancing across the room, I noticed a cult of writers gathered around a blonde dressed in a shiny teal shirt and a black shawl. She was surrounded, somehow the uncomfortable focus of conversation but clearly trying to make the most of it. I sauntered over.
E: Something about his demeanor, maybe the deep breath he took before he introduced himself, struck me as brave, distracted me from the strain of trying to pass myself off as clever while mired in a momentary mental fog. Now I remembered something from one of those Secrets to Success books about how pointing your heart toward someone could encourage real connection. God knows my Grinchy little heart needed connection, so I turned my whole body toward this man and, with a big smile, held out my hand.
S: Almost as soon as I entered this new sphere of writers, the woman in teal stopped mid-sentence to introduce herself. Somehow all the others in the circle ended up evaporating, and I was back in my element, at ease talking one on one.
E: The wariness most of us practice with strangers vanished within moments of introducing ourselves when I happened to mention I was on the search for Dinty Moore’s The Accidental Buddhist.
S: This was my pivotal Sword in the Stone moment. Pulling a copy of said book from my backpack, I asked, “You mean this? I read this in two days.”
* N.B. As long as you have a handful of good classics stashed in your sack, you won’t be able to keep the ladies at bay. (Seriously, I was smoother than Ryan “Hey Girl” Gosling.)
Elizabeth’s blue eyes shot wide.
E: It was pretty impressive, you have to admit. I started grilling, asking about his family, what religion he’d been raised in, how he reconciled his family’s Catholicism with his newfound awareness. You know, small talk. Finally, toward the end of the mingling hour, I interrupted him. “Hey, I’d love to continue this conversation over dinner.”
S: I started fishing around for my hastily made business card.
E: But it wasn’t the card I wanted. “No, I mean now. You’re not doing anything, are you?” (No assumptions on my part, clearly.) “Want to have dinner?”
S: While Elizabeth went in search of the restroom, I stood in the hallway overlooking the first-floor lobby of the hotel and reasoned with myself. You’re just having dinner and conversation with another interesting writer. It’s not like it’s a date or anything. It’s not like you’re getting married.
E: Downstairs, over grilled fish and roasted veggies, three more hours skipped by, and we still hadn’t run out of things to talk about. Turns out we were on a date and we really were getting married. We just didn’t know it yet.
S&E: A year and a half later, exchanging rings made from Hawaiian koa and black walnut, we professed our wedding vows beneath the stately trees of the Arnold Arboretum. This October, just a couple of weeks after our second anniversary, we will become the next giddy couple to welcome a wee one into our lives.
Today we both regard that first meeting at the Muse with reverence, appreciating not only Grub’s nudging us together but also how well-matched we continue to realize we are.
Elizabeth Dankoski is a private college coach and SAT tutor who also channels her creativity into cooking, photography, and devouring any and all great writing she can get her hands on. You can follow her new blog at chickenpotatomama.wordpress.com. (For extra laughs, read this post.) Stanley Dankoski is a writer, photographer and web developer and founder of Boston Writers Review, a new site focusing on local emerging writers.
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