Way back on 6 February 2002, my friend bailed out on a day trip to St Andrews. With nothing better to do, I decided to walk up to Edinburgh’s Royal Mile instead to buy some souvenirs for my nieces and nephews back home in America.
I left my Haymarket flat and walked up Princes Street where I’d planned to cross over to the Royal Mile by way of Waverley Bridge and Cockburn Street. But for some reason, I was compelled to turn up towards The Mound instead and opted to climb the steps of Mylne’s Court close to access the Mile.
On exiting the close, I found myself opposite a small shop I’d never been to before called Whigmaleeries. The shop sold reproduction swords and armoury, but they also had some mini-bagpipes in the window so I went in.
And that’s when I met Paul.
Paul was the general manager for a wholesale/retail company in the UK that had a string of tourist shops along the Royal Mile as well as a shop in York, England. He spent most of his time in the office but was, in fact, meant to be visiting the York shop that day. Only several Edinburgh-based employees had called in sick so he had to run the shop floor.
I wasn’t meant to be there. He wasn’t meant to be there. But there we were. And we started talking and talking and talking. And nearly three hours later, I was still there!
I was feeling a little awkward because I was sure this guy just wanted to make a sale and get me out of there, so I finally purchased my bagpipes and made my excuses. And as I left, he said if I was in the area again, he’d like to take me out for a drink. I just smiled and said that might be nice, but assumed he was just being polite.
That night (a Wednesday), I had the most vivid dream that I was walking down the road and saw him walking towards me. We both hurried our pace to meet up quicker and we embraced before he kissed me lightly and we walked on hand-in-hand. I woke up feeling as if I’d known this man forever and I couldn’t shake the feeling all day. Never before had I had a dream like that.
Then the following night (Thursday) I dreamt that I was in a shop browsing note cards when he came up behind me, wrapped his arms around my waist, and whispered in my ear. Again, it was such a vivid dream and it felt as if I’d known him my entire life.
When I woke up on Friday, I found myself completely distracted by thoughts of this man and the dreams I’d had about him. I wished so much that I could see him again, but I feared going back to the shop would be too embarrassing.
So I looked at my receipt and found a phone number. Only I hadn’t actually caught the man’s name. But I called anyhow; on a hope and a prayer. One of Paul’s employees answered the phone and gave me quite the run-around before finally putting me through to Paul. And I nervously told him that if he was still up for a drink, I was game.
Later that evening (Friday, 8 February 2002) we met at the Guildford Arms for a drink. One drink turned to two then three and before we knew it, it was time for Paul to walk me home. He kissed me good night and I watched him walk away. But I knew that I’d see him again. After all, he was my very own personal souvenir from my day out on the Royal Mile.
It’s hard to believe how many years have passed since that fateful day. If anything had happened differently, I might not have been Mrs Ryan; I might not have experienced so many things that I’ve been blessed with; I might not be here in Scotland (where it all began!) working on my PhD.
On that day, my life changed for the better. And even though that meeting then means that I’ve had to experience the horribleness of widowhood, I wouldn’t change it for a moment, because all those years ago, my heart found love. And once your heart knows what love is, your soul truly comes to life.
It’s strange to think that one day I might have a new “how we met” story to be excited about, but even if (when?) that happens, I will still remember the start of my first love story.
* The employee, now a friend of mine, was told there might be an American woman looking for Paul, and the guy decided to have a bit of fun with this “power”. To this day, he reminds me that if it wasn’t for him, the first day would not have happened.
[Title note: A “meet-cute” is the moment a couple first meets in a film or television show.]