Twelve years ago today, I met Naoto for the first time.
In true Sophia Petrillo fashion…Picture it:
It was a Wednesday night. I got home from work, changed into my old college overalls and a Bears cap (clearly dating was not on my mind), grabbed a magazine and walked to the Daily Grind, a now-defunct coffee shop in downtown Oak Park. I spent quite a bit of time there on the weekends and some evenings, reading and drinking coffee, just to get out of my (sometimes lonely) apartment.
I got my coffee and grabbed a table by the front window. I was in the middle of reading my Sports Illustrated article when this guy walked in and began carrying on about some fire at the Old Navy. He was carrying a disposable camera (insert racial stereotype here) and he was talking (really loudly) to his group of friends. I kept getting distracted and looking over. Pretty soon, he came over and sat at my table and struck up a conversation.
We talked about our jobs, running and coffee, we exchanged business cards and had a lot of laughs. He called me ‘Kimber” from the start. If it had been any other person, I would have thought that was weird and unacceptable, but for some reason, with Naoto it was okay…
If I remember correctly, Naoto’s friends gave up on him coming back to their table and we shut the place down. Since it was late, Naoto offered to walk me home. He seemed harmless enough, so I let him. (P.S. I would never do this today.)
I should add that Naoto was wearing a vintage Puma sweatshirt, high-water corduroys and sneakers…we made quite the pair.
I should also mention that there were several points in the beginning of our conversation that I looked down at my magazine and tried to give Naoto a subtle hint that I was reading. (If these were available back then, I might have used one…just to be funny.) But he didn’t take the hint and kept on talking. He was charming and interesting and funny so I gave up and finally put my magazine down.
Shortly after we met, Naoto left for Japan to visit his family. We emailed each other the obligatory “Happy Holidays” messages and kept lightly in touch until later that winter when I invited him to a party. I was hosting a “Table Warming Party” to celebrate the fact that my apartment’s dining room was no longer empty–I had bought a new table and chairs. My college friends were there, along with people from work and Naoto brought a couple of friends, too. It was one of the best parties I’ve ever hosted. It was a perfect mix of wonderful people, great conversation and fabulous (simple) food…and gosh, that was a great apartment.
The best part of the party–and the moment Naoto completely stole my heart–was at the end when he said, “Okay everyone, let’s help Kimber clean up!” Naoto led the charge of washing dishes and cleaning up the dining room and kitchen. It was of course wonderful to have help cleaning up, but I especially loved the fact that the whole thing extended the party just a little bit longer. I hate when parties end.
It wasn’t until a few months later that we actually started dating, but I think everyone who was at that party that night knew…even if I didn’t.
The picture above is the first picture of Naoto and I together, from the party that night.
Happy 12/12, Naoto. Putting my magazine down for you was the best decision I’ve ever made.