The moment our relationship rounded that final corner and opened up to a full sprint to the Engagement Finish Line, Katie was washing dishes.
I was not.
I was in a play, up on BYU campus. It was the second to last night of the show – the comedy Ordinary People. (I think it was a comedy. I’m not completely sure. I never really read the entire play, because I found that it interfered with my acting process, which I’d carefully honed. And also I didn’t know how to read.)
The play was highly entertaining, but only to those of us in the cast. The other eight folks in the audience gave us a lukewarm reception. Could be that they found dysfunctional families sad or could be that they weren’t privy to our myriad inside jokes that included hidden quotes from other movies, pratfalls, and an RC Cola reference.
I got home that night around 10:30 p.m. and called Katie so she could give me an unbiased opinion on how awesome and funny our play was. (She’d seen it opening night.) This was back in 1995, before email, texting, or even cell phones. So I had to wait until I got back to my apartment to use a landline to call her – like some sort of barbarian or wild animal!
“Katie?” I asked. “Don’t you think it’s funny when, at the part in the play when Chris lies to me that I respond, in my best 1920s gangster voice and say, ‘Why-I-oughtta…!’, even though it takes place in the 80s and we’re not gangsters?’
Her response came at lightening speed, and it was difficult to decipher, except I could hear her repeating my name several times. Finally I was able to make out a “I missed you so much, can you come over right now?!”
Of course, after I literally hung up the phone on the wall, I was on my way. But the funny thing was, I’d just been with her before the play. So I hadn’t been gone that long. But I hurried anyway because, my goodness, she sounded like she was caught in a gin-raid at a speak-easy!
I kicked the door off the hinges and in slow-motion it fell to the floor of her condo with a thud and a cloud of dust. The moonlight behind me shaped my silhouette and cast a shadow on the clearing haze. The music crescendo-ed. There she stood in the kitchen, her hair blowing from the breeze through the window over the sink, wearing nothing but jeans and a long-sleeve turtleneck under a BYU sweatshirt, with an apron on, plus cleaning gloves and a hairnet. Shoes and socks.
She ran towards me, and I stretched out my arms. She jumped into my embrace.
She was crying. I had no idea why. But we were hugging, and I liked that. Breaking the spell, I asked her what was wrong.
“Nothing,” she said. “I’m just so excited to see you, and I love you so much.”
I liked where this was going. It seemed things were in my favor, but she was still crying and I was still confused. Fortunately, she went on.
“I have memories of doing homework late at night on the kitchen table,” she started to explain. “My mom would be cleaning the kitchen, and the last thing she would do was start the dishwasher. Once it was running, she would come sit at the table with me. I loved that time. The world had slowed down, she was not multi-tasking, and everything was about our conversation and our relationship. It felt safe. I felt nurtured. I felt loved. And the sound of the dishwasher running has always reminded me of that. Tonight, with nobody else home, I did the dishes, loaded the dishwasher and sat at the kitchen table to do some homework. And as the dishwasher ran, I remembered all those feelings. And I realized that that’s how I feel when I’m with you.”
As you can imagine, I was thrilled. I was in love and I didn't even care that Katie had distracted me and side-stepped admitting to my face that the play I was in was nowhere near the Coke or Pepsi caliber at all, but was in fact the RC Cola of plays.
A few weeks later, we were engaged. You can read all about that story, plus watch the extremely 1995 candid video of us actually getting engaged right here.
Happy 14 years of that delightful dishwasher-y feeling, Katie!