I will never forget the moment I first caught a glimpse of Curtis Hale. He was standing at the back of the bus, chatting with a few fellow low brass players. He had a tan, young-looking face with dark, compelling eyes. But he had an air of genuineness and warmth about him. I'm still convinced rays of sunlight were radiating from his presence. You may not believe in love at first sight. I'm not so sure that I believe in it either . . . but I distinctly remember thinking, I want to be his friend. I didn't know anything about him. I had never seen him before. I didn't even know his name. All I knew was that I was drawn to him.
It was May 8, 2007. We were both on tour with the BYU Wind Symphony. Although we both played in the same room at least twice a week for the past five months, he just never sat in my line of sight: He played the tuba, and I played the clarinet—opposite sides of the crowd. It was easy to talk to him for the first time. I feel quite lucky, actually. Everyone on tour wanted to get to know everyone else. We were airing around Appomattox Court House with a group of fellow band members, and small talk sprouted among us. I found out what his name was, where he was from, and that he had just turned 19 years old. He had recently received his mission call to Berlin, Germany. Ooh, we've struck gold, I thought. I took German 101 this year on a whim (I registered for the 8 a.m. class on the night before the first day of school), and I was in love . . . with German—at least at this point. Let's keep digging.
|Standing on the steps at Appomattox Court House in Appomattox, VA|
|Chatting after lunch at the (my best guess) Merchant Square Mall in Williamsburg, VA|
|Reviewing pictures together somewhere along the East Coast|
|Napping on a long travel day to Mooresville, NC|
|Having lunch at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC|
|Posing in the Duke Gardens in Durham, NC|
The tour eventually ended. He left the country for two years. I dated other boys. And somehow our friendship never died. We drafted hand-written letters to each other and sent them across the globe month after month, always anxiously concerned for the comfort and well-being of the other.
Now, seven years later, we are back. Curtis's job has brought us back to the place that our early friendship took roots. Last weekend, we reminisced on our first impressions of each other in one particularly enchanting location in Durham, North Carolina. We revisited the Duke Gardens, the first place we took pictures together while we were on tour.
You can see for yourself how . . . handsome—I mean . . . I must be getting distracted by those eyes again! It turns out, we are living in one of the cities that we performed in. We drove by the Charles Mack Citizen Center in downtown Mooresville the other day, and we are almost certain that is where I first laid my head on his shoulder. (No, no, nothing scandalous was going on.) Curtis noticed that my eyes were quietly filling with tears. I don't remember what sparked my sadness; I had probably suppressed my grief about my father's condition for too long. He patiently pulled my off to the side and asked if I would like to get some air. He walked with me. He never left me alone. And I cried. On his shoulder. The moment was raw but, oh, so comforting. He is still my rock, my forever-constant, best friend. Even on the darkest days, he is my ray of sunlight. But I knew that the very first time I saw him.