My name’s not Susan.

Oh? What IS your name? There’s a new woman in my company and you look a little bit like her.

We had seen each other on the elevator a few times before that. I noticed his eyelashes were so long that they hit the lenses of his glasses. I also noticed he wore a bow tie with his suit (unusual in Washington DC), but had an earring in one ear, showing a little hint of his personality.

He tells the story of our first meeting in an elevator, that he and his friend were so taken by my smile that they missed their floor. I don’t know how much I believe that, but it sure sounds romantic, especially because I don’t remember it at all.

After that magical line, calling me by the wrong name, we had a lunch date at one of the many Asian-fusion snack shops in the neighborhood. He ordered curry, I ordered sweet and sour. He offered to pay, I argued for a minute, and then we agreed I’d treat the next time.

We sat down at the little table to eat, and when I went to shake my jar of juice, and had forgotten to put the lid back on first, juice spilled everywhere. I had gotten used to my little flaky idiosyncrasies, but he didn’t know me yet, so he jumped up to grab napkins, thinking I might be embarrassed. I wasn’t. His jump made me think he took things way too seriously. It wasn’t a great first date for me. Little things came up in our conversation that made me dismiss all of his good qualities. It was awkward.

DC NOW Rally 1994

When we were in the elevator and got to my floor, he said:

That was fun, I’d love to do this again sometime.

I answered:

Sure… I’ll call you.

Nope. I had no intention of calling. Weeks later, feeling a little guilt over not buying him lunch, I found his business card and sent him a total blow-off email message.

Sorry I haven’t gotten in touch. I’ve been really busy. And I’m going to be really busy for the next few weeks.

His response was a two page message telling me all about his weekend adventure. He had gone horseback riding for the first time in his life and fell in love with the activity. His descriptions of the horse, the trail ride, his thoughts and feelings as he rode, were beautifully written. I had a hard time imagining this was the same guy who jumped up to grab napkins when I spilled my juice.

I wrote another blow-off email; thanks for the message, see you around.

A week later, another two-pager arrived in my inbox. This time it was about his long, solo motorcycle ride. It was amazing. His writing floored me. It was like the literature and poetry I loved when I was in college, full of descriptions of sounds, scents, and incredible imagery.

We wrote back and forth for a couple of weeks, and after one particularly nice email interchange, I told my friend at work:

I hope I never run into this guy. He’ll ruin the image I have of him from his writing.

Not 15 minutes later, the building alarm went off. A bomb threat had been received, and all of us were evacuated; the entire city block was evacuated — this was just a few weeks following the Oklahoma City bombing. A Ryder truck had been seen nearby, and emergency responders were not taking any chances.

As I walked with urgency out of the building, he was the first person I saw. Hundreds of people being evacuated, filling the streets and sidewalks, and there he was, right in front of me.

We introduced each other to the colleagues we were near, and all of us walked to a nearby deli for iced tea. Walking back to the building after the all-clear was given, he suggested we try this lunch thing again; I agreed.

Lunch turned to dinner, dinner turned to more, and after eight months together, I asked him to marry me. And that’s the beginning of a love story all its own.

Sarah Elkins is a professional coach and consultant, helping people and businesses improve their communication through the art of storytelling. She’s also the President of Elkins Consulting, the company making a splash with small, face-to-face, affordable interactive conferences called No Longer Virtual.

Originally published at