31: Mi Amor

31: Mi Amor

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game

Mi Amor

The most precious possession that ever comes to a man in this world is a woman’s heart.

~Josiah G. Holland

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” I sluggishly rolled over and hit my alarm. The time read nine a.m. It was Monday, the first day of my junior year in college. My friends and I had headed back to school a week early and celebrated the final week of summer together. Monday morning had come fast. Slowly rising, I put on a pair of gym shorts, my fraternity letters, and my backwards hat, the same thing I wore every day to class. Some people might think that I looked like an unclean, unshaven slob, but they didn’t know of my recent incident. That summer, I had been the victim of a brutal assault. I suffered multiple fractures and injuries to my face and would endure a number of facial reconstructive surgeries to correct the damage. The last thing on my mind back then was school, how I looked in class, or my academics. I was just happy to be alive and in the company of my friends.

My house was a few blocks from campus, which allowed me the luxury of walking to and from class, something most students at this university did and enjoyed. I entered Baldwin Hall and ascended the stairs to the third floor for Spanish 202, my final foreign language class required to graduate. My only goal for the class was to fill the requirement. I had no idea how wrong I was.

The Spanish professor began calling out roll and the room was filled with “Aquí,” and “Presente.” One particular name and voice caught my attention. “Laura Miller?” I heard a faint but precious “Aquí” come from the opposite side of the room. Scanning the room I saw the most beautiful smile I had ever seen in my life. She was wearing a Truman Softball coat. I had friends on the softball team and immediately sent one of them a text message saying that there was a girl in my Spanish class who played softball and who I was going to marry. The message back jokingly said, “Yeah, right.” The next few months I made small talk with Laura whenever possible, before, during, and after class.

One day I finally got the nerve to send her a message saying I needed help studying. Of course I didn’t need help studying but it was my plan to spend time with her. We met in the library that night and didn’t study one bit, but rather talked for hours about everything and nothing. I shared the story of my recent trauma and Laura was nothing but attentive and supportive.

As time went on, we were hanging out and going to the movies together. We developed a foundation as friends but both knew we wanted to be more. Late that November, my face started hurting pretty badly, but I just assumed I was still healing from the assault. After a week of increasing pain, I drove back to my hometown of St. Louis to get it checked out, and learned that the pain was an abscess after one of the plates they implanted into my cheek during my first facial surgery broke into tiny pieces. The surgeon scheduled surgery.

I worried that the romance I had begun to develop with Laura would be over . . . no one wants to have that kind of baggage so early into a relationship. To be honest, I wouldn’t have faulted her for leaving. It was unclear how many more surgeries I would need and Laura had a lot to focus on with softball and school. She didn’t need the added pressure of dealing with a broken boyfriend. I prepared myself for her to leave.

I returned to school a week later and to my surprise, Laura’s reaction was not what I expected or feared. She did not consider walking away from the situation but rather took it head on. She was not just there for me physically, icing my face and helping me with my medications, among other things. She was also there for me emotionally, often times staying up late or pulling all-nighters, despite having early morning softball practice or a test she needed to study for, just to listen to me talk or hold me while I cried. I was on an emotional roller coaster and Laura was my saving grace.

During the multiple facial reconstructive surgeries that followed, Laura never left my side. It became clear to me that she was going to be there till the end, no matter what. I knew she was special the day I came back from my surgery and rather than running away and focusing on herself and her life, she dedicated herself to helping me through my struggles.

I am happy to say that the girl I met in Spanish class my junior year of college has been an enormous part of my life and growth as an individual. And the best part of the story? She said “yes!”

~Thomas Schonhardt

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