"February is always very special to us. Not only is it the month of love, but this year we will celebrate 7 years together. It’s February 14th and I’ve scored some sweet lower level Golden State Warriors tickets. I’ve been keeping it a secret for quite some time because it’s not often that I get the chance to plan a surprise date night for him.
Our first stop begins with picking up some new Warriors gear. We get off at the San Bruno station and get a couple of t-shirts from Shirtique in Tanforan. We pass all the tantalizing smells through the food court and find ourselves meandering back to see what’s cooking. We stand between Sarku and Panda Express, intently deliberating which option sounds better. We reach for a small sample of chicken covered in that sweet, teriyaki sauce as the man yells “Yuuuummy, Yummy Chicken!” We’re sold. Sarku it is. Without surprise, he asks me if I want a Cinnabon. My eyes light up instantly because he knows how much I love those soft, gooey cinnamon rolls. “I swear, this Cinnabon makes the best Cinnabons of them all.” He laughs and reminds me that I tell him this EVERY single time. It’s definitely an important public service announcement, so I broadcast it anyway. We make one last stop at Petco Tanforan and hop back onto BART. It also happens to be my sister’s dog’s 7th birthday today, so we pay him a quick visit. We get off at the San Leandro station and walk to their home right on San Leandro Boulevard. We bring a doggy cookie that reads, Happy Birthday, as my sister lights a candle and sticks it on top. He balances his oversized party hat as we snap several adorable photos. Clearly, we’re obsessed with our ‘Neph-dog’.
The sun is quickly setting, and we want to be sure to arrive to Oracle Arena early enough to catch Steph sink a couple three’s during warm-up. We get off the Coliseum station and check out all the handmade Warriors gear every several yards. Inside the arena, we snap a few courtside photos. Somehow, we even end up in the background on the jumbotron. The game is, of course, AWESOME. With every cheer, I catch a quick glimpse of his expressions and excitement. I feel so happy inside seeing him enjoy the moment and the memory spent together. The game is over, and we ride the huge wave of people exiting at once. We pass up several opportunities before we realize it’s our last chance for a bacon-wrapped hotdog.
The BART trains feel like they’re coming just as quickly as they’re carrying fans away. We manage to find an empty row and plop down with exhaustion. We spend the smooth ride home describing our favorite parts of the day and expressing our appreciation for one another.
"After a busy month of writing proposals, I’d just closed a substantial partnership deal with a tech start-up just down the block. I took out my earphones, spun my chair around to face the open office, only to find a sea of my coworker’s empty desk chairs. Feeling both accomplished and energized, I tidied my desk, aligning the eleven scattered yellow sticky-notes into a neat straight line to return to on Monday. My feet practically floated forward toward the weekend ahead. A gust of air unusually warm for a February night greeted me outside. The sounds of agitated car horns, bicycle bells, and the mixed conversations of couples heading to dinner permeated the air. On the crowded San Francisco street, I made the usual weaving pattern through groups of college students clutching their square, white canvases and art supplies piled into crinkled, brown paper bags. I daydreamed about what they might create when they arrived, paintbrushes scattered across the scratched wooden floors of their dorm rooms.
A wave of relief washed over me as I glanced up at the familiar ‘Montgomery’ sign. I’d come to rejoice over this sign as a reminder that the work day was done and I could unwind. Once in the train station, I saw the flower shop at the bottom left-hand side of the escalator. Bright yellow daisies, deep red carnations, and majestic potted orchids lined the tiny stand which had just enough room to house the petite woman, an antiquated cash register, and nothing else. Hypnotized by the intense hues, my emotions sparked the insignificant fact that it was Valentine's Day.
An automated voice warned of the next train’s departure as I rushed down the stairs alongside dozens of commuters dressed in their financial district suits. The car arrived with more passengers than I’d anticipated, blowing a gentle breeze of hair across my face. I spotted an empty seat and walked over just as another man and his young child sat in it. That’s okay, I thought. I’d been sitting all day, after all. We began to move forward when suddenly the train jolted to an unexpected stop. I quickly lost my footing and fell backwards into the person behind me. Instinctively, I turned around to blurt “I’m sorr--” and that was the moment I saw him.
His eyes were the first thing I noticed. They were a shade of green that reminded me of the ocean water in the Maldives. Striking. I imagined any person who’d ever looked at him for the first time might’ve had a similar experience. I spent what felt like two hours staring when, horrified, I saw I was still standing on his foot. “Oh my gosh, I’m s-sorry!” I managed. And that was when he curled his lips to reveal the first smile that’d ever made me subconsciously gasp for air.
I wanted to simultaneously shrink into a tiny ball on the ground and burst through the BART car ceiling like a firework. I was about to walk away from the confusion of what to do next, when he looked down and handed me a postcard that’d fallen out of my purse.
The postcard, I realized, was a free pass to the Oakland Museum of California. It read:
- Exhibition - 1/2 - 2/14, Who is Oakland? is an exploration of Oakland’s many dimensions through the work of artists who live and work here and love this city.
With all the hustle and bustle of work, I’d forgotten it was the last day to see the exhibit. It felt like fate that he’d found it. He calmly uttered “what’s that?” in a melodic tone. His voice made me lose track of where I was. I mumbled, “oh, this? It’s for some art exhibit,” slightly hoping he’d turn around and forget I was there, a giant glass tank of squirming jellyfish, standing in front of him in human form. But instead, he smiled that smile again and asked which exhibit it was.
The operator speaker blared: “now approaching Lake Merritt.” That was my stop. His thumb made contact with mine as he pulled the ticket back. “OMCA? I’m going to there, too” he said. We both got off the train. The museum was less than a mile away. He asked for my name, and I got his. Will. In the short walk, I learned that Will was born in Oakland, worked in the city, and enjoyed clam chowder more than the average person.
The outside world melted away. We spent the next few hours walking and talking through the museum. I learned about his big family, friends at work, and his dry, but lovable, sense of humor. He asked, “what do you think of this one?” at each of the installments and he intently listened to my responses.
By eight, we’d seen every piece, and the museum was closing. In the cool night air, Will asked if I’d heard of Lake Chalet. I immediately recognized the restaurant’s name. I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of the night eating potentially overpriced fried seafood and looking into his eyes. As we walked along the soft-yellow twinkling lights that surrounded the entire perimeter of Lake Merritt, the sheer serendipity of the date settled in. I couldn't help but think to myself: thank you, BART, and smile."