On a cold Saturday afternoon my girlfriend made me the proudest I have ever been of her. After 4 and a half years of long and hard work it was time for her studies to pay off. That’s right she had finally graduated. She was graduating with honors from Eastern Michigan University as a teacher. We arrived in at the convocation center on a wet rainy day at about 1:15. I got picked up by my girlfriend’s dad and my girlfriend, Elizabeth. They picked me up from my apartment which was about 2 miles from the convocation center, It seemed like a very short drive. The Convocation center was buzzing with anticipation, buses were going back and forth from the various parking lots to the front door. The majority of people had umbrellas looking around it seemed like the three of us walking in were the only ones without. Once we got inside from the rain an instant crowd and bundle of people were huddled everywhere.
After getting inside we found a good spot to stand and wait for other members of our party to arrive. The 3 of us didn’t wait long until my girlfriend had to leave to get ready for the ceremony. This left me and my girlfriend’s dad waiting for other members of Elizabeth’s family to arrive and walk in with us. We waited for what seemed like an eternity. Pacing back and forth we held our phones like a trophy waiting for word from the other party. I watched as other grads were taking pictures and simply waiting for the ceremony to start. I was tasked with holding all of the stuff that Elizabeth brought with her but wasn’t taking to the ceremony. An easy task but after 40 minutes of holding a purse and coat it seemed monumental.
The rest of Elizabeth’s family arrived and were surprised to see me after not seeing me for a long time. I also met her aunt and uncle for the first time. They both live in Chicago and had come for the ceremony. We all got together and entered the ceremony. Finding 7 seats together proved difficult and confusing after having to wait so long before actually entering the Convocation center. We tried getting seats in the bottom rows but they were completely full. We tried for a second set of rows and had no luck. After trying a couple other sections we finally found a large section with a lot of empty seats. One row had just enough seats for all 6 of Elizabeth’s family and I found my seat in the row above that.
I now took it upon myself to find my girlfriend in the sea of graduates. I scanned and found what I thought was he but turns out it wasn’t. I took pictures from a very long distance away of a random person. It was not who I thought it was but who could tell from that far away.
Hearing Elizabeth’s name as she crossed the stage I knew she was happy. She was finally crossing the bridge from academics to a career. Shortly after my girlfriend’s name was called her family opted to leave. At that time I saw nothing wrong with it and let them go. Once they were gone was when I realized how big of a mistake that was. The ceremony went on in a normal ceremonious fashion. They insisted you will take Elizabeth home right. I could not argue with that because that was the plan all along. Only after the graduation did I realize just how far off the plan we had steered.
My girlfriend heartbroken after realizing her family had dipped out early from the graduation almost immediately started crying. She knew very well what was wrong and what I had messed up. Without any ride back to my apartment and my car Elizabeth and I would have to walk back to my apartment where my car was. She was sad but strong. You rarely see someone in the state she was in. She felt real, uncovered, and raw, I’m glad I was there for her at that moment. I felt like a real heel however because it was all my fault.
We went to a bus out of blind hope that they may be going as far as the campus but the buses were only going to different parking lots. Angry we stomped in the direction of my apartment. It was a cold day and the rain was still pouring down on us. We walked on sidewalks down Huron River trying to stay warm and complaining about the cold. I felt the biggest schmuck on the planet. Here I was being the supportive boyfriend on my girlfriend’s big day and I can't think of the simple transportation back. After a while on the sidewalk the sidewalk ended. Our walk became a trudge. It was muddy, snowy, wet and miserable. at some point we decided to cross the street to get to a safer looking side of the street. This proved to be a bad idea because after trudging through level ground we reached a part that was unpassable and after slipping and tripping a couple times we came to a stop.
We both felt like we had to cross the street but also both felt the traffic was to heavy to even try. Elizabeth now with tears flowing harder than the rain looked me in the eyes and begged me for an answer. I could see she was a broken woman, the sadness in her eyes was absolute. I knew she was in no condition to continue trudging down the side of this steep road. I told her to stay here and i would come back with the car. With much protest she let me do so. “Everything is going to be alright”, I exclaimed, “I will be back with the car.” You rarely have that type of moment where you say those kind of things to someone who needs to hear it and actually mean it. I did mean it and I would do anything I could at that point to make it happen.
I set out on my journey (and it was a muddy wet journey) and start to realize all the things you don’t think about when you are driving, the amount of snow piled up on the side of the road, the lack of sidewalk on both sides of the street, the way I probably look in a soaking wet suit, how out of shape I am. I walked the first part of the way but once I got about halfway to my apartment, I don’t know what it was guilt for not thinking ahead or just knowing my girlfriend could potentially be in trouble on the side of the road but I started to run. I ran as fast as i could with a suit on and wetness all around me. I don’t know how long it took me as time didn’t matter at that point I only had one thing on my mind, getting Elizabeth.
I got to my beat up old mini van and instantly started it up and started driving back to where my girlfriend was. This was harder than it seemed because my car at the time had no heat. So as you might imagine driving with an always foggy windshield is very difficult. However there is always one spot that stays clear even though I had to move my head to see out of it. Hands shaking from the freezing cold, I raced to get to my girlfriend like it was the only thing that was happening in the world. People probably being murdered and tortured as I drove but to me the only thing that mattered to me at that moment was getting my girlfriend safe and off the streets. I drove as fast as I could trying to remember where I left my girlfriend. I kept thinking that something could have happened. Thinking the worst and hoping for the best.
I got to the driveway that my beauty had found her way into. She quickly got out of the rain and into my van. She looked rattled. She was defeated. She and I both were both a mess. We had to go straight for a while to find a place to turn around once turned around we rushed back to my apartment. I was speeding and rushing as quickly as the wet rainy roads would let me. It seemed like we hit every light on that short drive to my apartment. When we got inside I had my girl put on more comfortable clothes take all of her wet stuff off. I changed out of my drenched rain-filled suit as well and I made us a most refreshing cup of hot chocolate to go.
The thing I love most about this story and is that the situation is enough to ruin almost anyone's day based on the expectations of the day and the real outcome. My girlfriend on the other hand didn’t let that happen. She took everything that happened in stride and continued to look at the positives of the day. We went to her parents and celebrated her graduation with food, cake, wine and presents. That is what I have come to love the most about my girlfriend*. The fact that she carries herself with so much composure and so much positive energy gives me so much happiness. It personally gives me strength and reason to carry myself in a similar way. Elizabeth took insurmountable circumstances, enough to crush anyone and shrugged it off like a bad hair day. This was the happiest worst day of my life and maybe hers too.
*originally written in 1/31/2014 I am no longer dating Elizabeth
An interesting guy who loves technology