stijn, originally from belgium, was living in geneva and working for p&g when he came to live in cincinnati for the clay street project. i was living in cincinnati and working at the coffee emporium, also known as clay streets cafeteria, thus placing the two of us in very close proximity. after exchanging smiles and sideways glances for a few months and with the encouragement of tiffany (our fairy godmother), stijn asked for my number. being that he was a) a stranger and b) only going to be in cincinnati temporarily, i was reluctant but he wore converse so i thought why not? how many cute, foreign, converse wearing men are there? i wrote my number on the inside of his sandwich box and off he went, literally, back to wherever he came from in europe.
months went by until one day in a conversation with tiffany i mentioned the trip i was planning to brussels, paris, and london. a few days later, quite unexpectedly, he called. he was going to be working in paris while i was there and wondered if i would like to accompany him on an afternoon visit to musée d'orsay. and so we agreed to meet. we walked the streets of paris together, visited the museum, had lunch and rosé at a cafe, ate ice cream, and talked and talked and talked. it was truly magical. never in my life had i experienced a more real and easy connection with another person nor had i ever felt more understood. our time together came to an end and we both left, different. we returned to our lives, or tried to, and wrote one another daily. at the time i didn't have a computer so i would run to the library after work to check my inbox anxiously awaiting the arrival of even just a few lines from him. as life caught up with us and the reality of the distance separating us became impossible to ignore our writing became less frequent and then almost non existent.
over the years my mind would flicker to him, recalling our time together, our connection, our words. such reflection was always accompanied with questions of "what if" and "i wish" and then quickly pushed aside. i resolved myself to the idea that it was a great tragic love story, that it was only great because it wasn't real, that it was better this way, that i was in love with the fantasy but not the man. how could i be? we barely knew one another? and countless other lines that would talk me out of believing that i deserved something that great. but try as i might i could not shake him. in the spring of 2010, 4 years after that unforgettable trip, we found ourselves in the familiar place of wondering and both single decided to do something about it. i'll never forget my mom's words, "you have to do this megan. to settle it within yourself, otherwise you will always wonder." hey a mother knows best and so with nothing to lose i got on a plane...
it was better than either one of us expected or imagined. we seamlessly fell into step alongside one another and knew instantly that we had no choice but to find a way to make a transcontinental relationship work. we flew back and forth monthly, skyped weekly, spoke daily, and sent countless emails and text messages. he met my family. i traveled to belgium and met his. while in belgium stijn took me to his favorite place, a bench under a tree next to the river. this had been the place he had come to ponder many big decisions in his life. this was where he made the choice to take a job at procter and gamble, a decision that ultimately brought us together. he tore a leaf from the tree, fashioned it into a ring, and asked me to marry him. my answer was yes and once i recovered from the shock of such incredible romance i knew that it was time for me to make another bold and courageous choice. it was time to erase the distance between us. in september of 2010 i packed all of my belongings into boxes and, with two suitcases and a large crate holding my enthusiastic dog, i left everything familiar and made the move to switzerland.