Our Story
04 Oct 2016

Our Story

James and my story is my favorite.
It doesn’t have fighting, or torture, or revenge…

…no giants, no monsters, no chases or escapes.

But the pages overflow with true love and miracles.
Chapter One:  As You Wish

The first time I saw him, I was the scrawniest little seventh grader. I was stumbling into the theater at Northwestern Regional High School with absolutely zero idea what the heck I was doing. I hurried past all these older theater people and searched for my friends, too intimidated to greet the experienced members of the cast and crew.  They were so much louder and more rambunctious than I was. One kid was quoting Shakespeare at the top of his lungs, his dark curly hair bouncing in front of his smiling, milk-chocolate eyes.

But I scuttled off to my friends, and soon became enamored with theater culture. I wasn’t much of an actress, although I did audition for one of the leads for my favorite play (James later told me that when I stepped out in that red dress, he couldn’t take his eyes off me. It probably had nothing to do with the fact that my character, Lucy, was a “lady of the night”…nothing whatsoever.)

In my sophomore year I became stage manager, and I remember being so nervous as I sat at auditions for The Tempest with the directors and the assistant producer, wondering how on earth I was going to wrangle all these dramatic actors and actresses.

And then he walked in.

And I swear, I could barely look him in the eye. He had trimmed the crazy curls, but his smile still took over his entire body, made his eyes sparkle and his laughter shake the stage.  I was entirely transfixed and completely terrified.

To be honest, his audition was a little over the top, but we cast him as the drunken sea monster Caliban and it suited him perfectly.  He could dance, laugh, make jokes and sing little songs, and the audience would laugh and laugh.  Over the course of the play, I suffered my first major break-up and didn’t have much energy to fawn over guys, but James and I became friends, chatting as we hung lights during set construction and painted the atrocious grey hut of Caliban’s.

One day we were hanging out in the back room of the stage with some friends, and he found an Aladdin lamp buried under some lighting fixtures.  Knowing that I had been sad lately, he handed it to me and said, in his best Genie interpretation, “If you ever need me, I’ll be there!” Everyone laughed, but as we left the room he snuck in a wink behind their backs.  That lamp sits on my desk at home today.

Chapter Two: Is This a Kissing Book?!

The play ended and James decided not to pursue theater, even though I bugged him every time I saw him in the halls.  Jekyll and Hyde started, and I auditioned for and got the part of Lucy, which would end up changing me in the best of ways.  I gained confidence in myself and lost much of my shyness.  I often wonder if that was what James saw in me onstage.

We began meeting up in our free periods, sharing secrets and stories and poems.  James told me that his family was from Greece, and I told him that I would be traveling there in October with my parents and my best friend Kim. He joked and said he’d come too, and introduce me to his family.  “They’re very traditional, though,” he teased, “so we’d have to tell them we were engaged.”  Charmed, I blushed and changed the subject.

The school year ended and James and I said our goodbyes, and I assumed I’d probably never see him again.  He was going off to college, after all.  The summer before junior year, I went through another break up, more painful than the other and definitely more embarrassing.  When I came back to school, I was very lonely and very angry.

Before we traveled to Greece that fall, I decided I would reach out to James on Facebook (a HUGE joke to those of us that know and love James…he does NOT social media well), and got no response.  We left on our trip, and I completely rediscovered myself.  I often say that my soul belongs in Greece.  I came back from that trip an entirely different person, the beginnings of the person I am today.  It was utterly life-changing.

And to my surprise, when I got home I had a message waiting for me from James.  I told him he should come to the play…no response.  A week went by.  I couldn’t believe I had been so blunt!  To a COLLEGE kid!  Horrified, I pushed it out of my mind.  But a week later, James had responded that he would certainly try, and my heart skipped.

The night of the play, I was so busy backstage that I completely forgot the conversation we had had.  During intermission, I was busy rewriting light cues, until Kim came to find me.  “Hey Jenne,” she said in her sing-songy voice, and I knew I was about to get teased.  “James Erisoty is here, and he’s looking for you.”

And my brain shut off, and I was walking through the crowd of people searching for that smiling face, and I was throwing my arms around his neck and hugging him.  For a really long time.  Like, awkwardly long.

What. Did. I. Just. Do?!

But he was completely unphased, and the night went on and it was wonderful.  We had picked up our friendship right where we left off, but there was something else there, too.  Something that made it impossible not to smile all night long.

At the cast party later that night, James (of course) serenaded me on Rock Band, and his song of choice, “Hungry Like the Wolf,” was the funniest thing ever…especially because he barely knew the words.  We were inseparable all night, much to the horror of my parents.  Who was this older guy pulling their daughter onto his lap?  Grrr…

We ended up snuggling under a blanket on the couch and totally passing out.  I remember waking up to a dark, quiet room, my nose centimeters from his (to this day I tell James that I should have just kissed him, and he says, “Yeah, you should have.”).

In the morning, he had to wake up early to work with his dad, but he gave me his number and told me he wanted to take me out that Monday.  Half asleep and half in a trance, I agreed, and he hurried off (“I should have kissed you then,” James always says, and I answer, “Yeah, you should have!”)

Chapter Three: Do We HAVE to Hear the Kissing Part??!

It was the easiest relationship ever.  We didn’t even have to try to get along, or make each other laugh.  It just happened.  He would call me out on my terrible shyness, and I would call him out on his terrible jean shorts.  On our first date, he picked me up and we drove to the movies.  “So,” he said seriously.  “Do you have a zombie apocalypse plan?  Because I would be happy to include you in mine.”  And I was done.  I was all set.  I had found the perfect guy.

We had a few hiccups, the most obvious being that we were hopelessly-in-love teenagers who forgot to set alarms when we snuggled on the couch watching TV (oops).  We awoke to my mother’s voice on my phone, basically saying that I was in eel-infested waters and needed to swim home—fast.  We both got a talking-to from my parents, but they liked James too much to stay angry for long.  He was polite, he was engaging, he always treated me with nothing but the utmost respect, and he was happy to hang out with my parents and me.  We all knew this one was special.

There is something very comforting, falling in love with your best friend so young.  You always feel at home; always.  People would laugh and say we were too young to fully understand true love, but we would laugh right back and carry on proving them wrong.  After being together for five and a half years, it was no surprise to anyone that we came back from Italy engaged.  We never received one, “You’re too young!” or “You don’t even know what it’s like to be with other people!”  I think it’s because people can tell that we’re happy—happier than we ever could be without one another.  We just fit.

Jenne Wilusz