Andrew & Miki
Andrew looked down at his flannel and boat shoes before stepping onto the dance floor. I look good, he thought.
He was ready for anything tonight. Summit at Sea had already been such a ridiculously great time, and he couldn’t wait to see what the night would bring. Andrew began to sway his hips to the upbeat music when someone caught his attention from the corner of his eye. She was athletic, her toned body and muscles glinting in the light that reflected off the moon as she moved in rhythm with the bouncing beat.
Andrew moved toward her without hesitation; she had some sort of magnetic pull on him. “Hi, I’m Andrew,” he shouted over The Roots.
Miki Agrawal grinned at him. “Hi! I’m Miki.”
They began to dance together, the gentle breeze that rolled off the ocean cooled them as they moved. Miki threw her hands above her head and spun in a circle, her ink-black hair flowing wildly around her. Andrew couldn’t help but think how beautiful she was. And hot. There was no denying that she was super hot.
He had to make a move. He leaned down to speak to her. “Do you want to go look at the stars?”
“Yeah! I just need to go grab my bag,” Miki said as she sauntered away across the dance floor.
Andrew walked over to the railing to wait, smiling to himself.
“Hey, Andrew!” He looked over to see his friend Oliver heading toward him. “What a night, huh?”
“Yeah, and I have a feeling mine is about to get better,” Andrew said with a grin. He could see Miki making her way back through the crowd toward him. His stomach dropped a little, anticipation igniting in his veins.
“Oh yeah? Hey man, remember that girl I’ve been telling you about?” James said.
“Mmhmm.” Andrew was barely listening. Miki was smiling at him from across the dance floor—he felt like he had won some sort of lottery.
“The one I’ve been hooking up with that I really like?” James continued.
“Mhmm,” Andrew said again. Her smile made him feel like he had known her for years somehow.
“That’s her,” James said.
Andrew snapped out of his stupor. “Who?”
“Miki Agrawal. That’s the girl.”
Fuck, Andrew thought. An ocean of disappointment crashed down over him. Well, that’s that. I can’t do anything about it now.
“I’ll see you later,” James said before walking off. He passed by Miki on his way and gave her a hug. Andrew turned away, disappointment creeping across his chest.
Miki was next to him again, her presence demanding his full attention. Her eyes were shining bright and a delighted grin flashed across her face. “Hey, you.”
“Hey,” Andrew said, searching those dark brown eyes that had held so much promise only minutes before. He exhaled. “It was really nice meeting you. I’ve gotta go catch up with some friends.”
Miki glanced over her shoulder at James, seeming to understand. “Okay, hopefully I’ll see you around.”
A few days later the boat docked, and Andrew was staying with a group of friends at the Delano Hotel. He hadn’t seen Miki since their night on the dance floor, but her smile still echoed in his mind. He stretched in his hotel room and checked his phone to see a text from his friend.
Jeff 4:03 pm: a few of us are at the pool sharing stories from the boat. Come down!
Andrew threw on some swim shorts and rode the elevator to the pool. As soon as he stepped onto the deck, he was immediately aware of Miki. She was laying out in an all-white, floor-length sundress with a black hat shading half of her face.
“Andrew!” Jeff yelled.
Andrew couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw the corners of Miki’s lips turn up into a smile when Jeff called his name. Andrew hugged Jeff hello and took the empty spot next to Miki.
“Hi there,” he said. She tilted her head so he could see her eyes, and it took him by surprise how much depth they had to them. “Wish we could have seen each other again on the boat.”
“Hi,” she said, a smile playing on her lips. “Yeah, I heard you had a good time on the bow.”
“You heard about that?” Andrew said in shock.
Miki threw her head back in laughter, and soon they were engrossed in conversation. They talked about their childhoods, the different sports they played, business pursuits, and everything in between. He couldn’t get over how easy it was to talk to her. Their laughter was unrelenting, and Andrew found himself wanting her to know him. This wasn’t always the case when he spoke with women these days. He was twenty-four and having a lot of fun in his bachelor lifestyle, but that didn’t necessarily leave a lot of room for deep, meaningful connections.
Before they left Miki put her number in his phone. “Don’t be a stranger,” she said.
He gave her a big hug, nearly picking her up off the ground. He felt as though he had just made a lifelong friend. “I won’t.”
Andrew grabbed his phone off his desk, feeling restless after a call with some of his advisors. He almost couldn’t believe he had actually done it: he was going to leave his non-profit Dreams for Kids. And he knew the one person he wanted to talk to about it.
“I did it,” Andrew said. “I told them I’m leaving.”
“I’m so proud of you,” Miki said, and Andrew could hear the smile in her voice.
“I want to go to Burning Man. I think this is the perfect time for me to do it.”
“Me and Radha are going this year too! We should all go together. And my boyfriend might come as well.”
“I’m in. How is everything with Sam by the way?” Andrew picked a pen off his desk and absentmindedly twirled it in his fingers. He was used to talking with Miki about guys and who she was dating. They had slipped easily into being best friends, despite Andrew’s initial attraction to her.
“It’s okay,” Miki said. She sounded distracted and Andrew almost pressed her for more details when she said, “I have to run, but we’ll start planning Burning Man soon! I’m so excited to go together.”
“Me too,” Andrew said, feeling a million times better than he had only a few moments ago.
“So I have some news,” Miki’s voice cascaded over the phone a few weeks before Burning Man. “Kosta and I broke up. And Radha dropped out.”
“Oh man, I’m sorry,” Andrew said.
“It’s okay, but now it’s just me and you. Should we camp together?”
Excitement flared in Andrew’s stomach but he shook it away. He knew the energy between him and Miki was very real, but he still wanted his freedom and independence. He wanted to have his own experience. And there was a fear that if they opened the gate of intimacy and romance, it would be something that would really deserve his attention. He just wasn’t sure that he was ready for that. He thought this all over in a moment, and decided with resolve that he would make sure they didn’t take their relationship any further on the trip.
Even though we’ll be sleeping in the same camp now, he thought.
“Definitely,” he said.
Andrew walked up to baggage claim at the Reno airport to find Miki waiting for him.
She jumped up and rushed into his arms, causing bolts of electricity to fly through his muscles. He pulled back to smile at her.
“I can’t believe we’re finally here!” she said.
“I know, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited,” Andrew said.
Later that night they climbed into their cushy hotel bed, giggling and playing all the while. Andrew felt like a child at a slumber party he had been anticipating for weeks. Miki reached over, poking him jokingly on his chest.
Andrew laughed. “Quit it!”
She sat up in a blur and began to tickle his stomach. Andrew howled with laughter before pinning her arms to the bed. Something flashed across Miki’s face and Andrew realized this could be dangerous territory.
“Okay, I’m making a pillow fort down the middle of the bed so that nothing happens here,” he said, half-jokingly.
Miki cracked up before raising her arms and rolling over in defeat. Andrew put his hand on her arm one last time and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “I’m so happy to be here with you. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“NIGHT ONE ON THE PLAYA!” Jeff yelled out.
“Owww owww!” their friend Marcus cried.
Andrew was brimming with excitement as the group of his guy friends began to howl and whoop with joy. He looked down at Miki, who looked adorable in her playa clothes. However cute she looked though, he needed to make sure she understood that they weren’t going to be together the entire time. He was still focused on his independence. “I’m gonna go with the guys tonight, Mik.”
She nodded, seeming to recognize that he needed this moment of freedom. They hugged and Miki ran off to join her friends.
“Everyone ready for an adventure?” Jeff said with a gleam of mischief in his eyes.
Andrew grinned, he was ready for it all.
Around 4 am, after coming out of a four-hour-long adventure of contemplating his existence with his friends, Andrew groggily made his way back to their tent.
“Oh no,” he said to no one. “Shit.”
He had forgotten to cover the tent, and everything, literally everything—his clothes, the mattress, the food—was covered with sand.
Andrew put his head in his hands. He was too exhausted to deal with it now, apparently staring into the depths of a water bottle for hours could be incredibly tiresome. “I’ll deal with it in the morning,” he said to himself before crawling into the sand-covered bed.
Miki crept up to Andrew’s tent at around 5 am. Her eyes were wide with wonder as she took in the beauty of the playa. The moon seemed to be dipping low toward the earth tonight, as if it were coming down to kiss the playa goodnight. She sighed happily. Coming back to Andrew felt right. Of course, she had had a great time with her friends, but she had missed her playmate. She giggled into the night, realizing she had never thought of Andrew as her playmate before. But it was the truth. From day one she had laughed so much with him that she could have sworn they had been friends or lovers in another life.
Suddenly, she was overcome with the urge to kiss him. There was no harm in that, she was sure. She made her way to his mattress and saw his sleeping figure lit up by the moonlight. His lips were chapped and his mouth hung open as he snored loudly into the wind. Miki giggled again. He was so cute! She crawled into the bed and planted the tiniest kiss on his weather-beaten lips. Andrew’s eyes flew open.
“Erghhh?!” A noise of confusion escaped his mouth as he flailed his arms, panicking.
“Ah!” Miki cried out in surprise. She instinctively ran toward the entrance of the tent, clamoring to get out.
“Miki?” Andrew called. She slowed and his arms grabbed for her waist. “Wait. Miki, come back.”
“Please,” Andrew said.
She smiled into the darkness, her stomach tightening at the way his voice wrapped around her name. Andrew pulled her down onto the mattress and put his arms around her, nuzzling his head into her neck. She fell into a deep, contented sleep, smiling in her dreams.
Andrew woke up the next morning feeling refreshed, albeit a bit sandy. He opened his eyes to find Miki already awake, sitting on the edge of the mattress, looking like she was deep in thought.
“Good morning,” he said, his voice filled with sleep.
She smiled at him and reached out to put a hand on his arm. “You know, dude, if I want to kiss you, and you want to kiss me, it's not a big deal. Like, let's just do it. It’s Burning Man. Who cares, you know?”
“That’s a good point,” Andrew said. Fuck it, he thought. She was his beautiful friend, and he did want to kiss her. That didn’t mean he was throwing his independence away. “Come here.”
He pulled her to him and the electric current that ran through him that first night on the dance floor passed between their lips and coursed through his entire body. Their tongues danced, and Andrew twisted his hands into her hair, wanting more, needing to feel her closer, but not entirely sure where they should go from there.
Finally, they pulled apart and smiled at one another.
Miki laughed. “I told some people I’d meet up with them in half an hour. I’ve gotta go, but I’ll see you later?”
“Definitely,” Andrew said. He threw on his clothes and headed out of the tent.
When he approached his bike, he realized one of the pedals had broken off somehow. After a few minutes of toying with it, he figured out how to ride it more like a scooter. This can work, he thought.
He pushed the bike around in a circle by the tent a few times to test drive it and nodded his head. A giggle came from his left and Andrew whipped his head around to find Miki seated outside the tent, watching him with a hint of mirth in her eyes.
“I meant to do this!” Andrew called out as he did another lap, as if to show off. “It’s the latest style to ride your bike like a scooter!”
Miki laughed again and Andrew gave her a farewell nod. She waved goodbye and they went their separate ways.
After a full morning of galavanting around the playa, Andrew was exhausted. He and Miki had found each other at some point, and he turned to her now. “I think I need to sleep.”
Miki nodded at him. “Let’s get you back to the tent.”
“Okay. Let’s go.” He wasn’t looking forward to pushing his bike, but he would be happy to sleep in his own tent, sand-covered and all.
Andrew looked through the sea of bikes for his and finally found it next to Miki’s. He straddled it, ready to scooter his way home, but was shocked to realize the pedal had been fixed.
“Wait, what?” Andrew looked over to Miki, who was grinning. He did a double-take back down at the pedal. “Did you do this?”
“Yeah, dude. Can’t have you pushing your bike around the rest of our time here.”
“Miki! Thank you!” Andrew took off, soaring around in circles. He couldn’t believe how incredible it felt to just pedal again.
“I’ll race you!” Miki cried out.
They took off toward the tent. The wind whipped Miki’s hair behind her as they flew across the playa, laughing the entire time. When they finally made it back, the tent was scorching hot and still covered in sand. Andrew looked at it, ready to brave the worst. He knew he needed rest right now.
“There’s a communal place to sleep,” Miki said, seeming to read his mind. “It’s much cooler.”
Andrew was sure the gratitude was evident in his eyes. “Thank you.”
They made their way to the communal sleeping tent and Miki gave him a quick kiss on the lips before she departed. A sense of calm and peace spread through his body and Andrew passed out almost immediately.
Hours later Andrew began to stir. He couldn’t tell what time it was, but the sun was still up. He could hear unfamiliar voices around him. He was discombobulated for a moment—where was he? Why wasn’t he in his own tent? And where was Miki? His eyes flew open and he shot upright. His eyes searched frantically around until he caught sight of her. Andrew relaxed. He watched Miki speaking with someone outside, her arms moving as she told a story.
“Mik?” Andrew called out.
She smiled over at him. “Come here!”
Andrew rolled off the mattress and made his way to her, a sense of being home washing over him.
“Your tent should be cool enough for you to sleep in now,” she said.
As they neared the tent, Andrew became confused. It was completely covered. Were they at the right place? he wondered. But he was sure they were. Again, he looked at Miki, who had a mischievous smile on her face. “Did you cover the tent?”
“Maybe,” she said.
He hopped off his bike and went inside, sucking in a soft breath at what he found: the entire tent had been cleaned and cleared of sand. He felt like crying; it was such a kind thing for her to do. And not only kind, but how resourceful was this woman? She was incredible! Andrew turned to her. “How did you even? What—?”
But Miki ran up and hugged him, effectively silencing him. “Don’t worry about it.” Andrew leaned down and gave her a tender kiss on the lips, feeling a layer of the protective armor he had built around himself slip away.
“Ready for our first full day together?” Miki said while doing a sort of excited hopping dance from one foot to the other.
“Yep!” Andrew stepped out from the tent, dressed in a poncho and red bandana he had found last minute at Target. “I’m ready.”
Miki’s eyes widened as she took in his ensemble. Andrew looked her over too, marveling at how gorgeous she was. Miki was dressed in a gold high-cut bodysuit and black boots, her tan legs looking incredible in the sunlight. Her raven hair flowed freely down her back. She was a goddess.
He looked back down at his Target poncho. “Um, yeah. I didn’t really know what to get for costumes.”
“Yeah, don't take this the wrong way but you look like a total dweeb. But don’t worry, we’re gonna get you kitted out. I know just the place.”
Miki walked into Kostume Kult, a free-for-all costume haven that she had miraculously heard about only hours before. Andrew trailed behind in his nerdy outfit. He still looks so cute though, she thought. But they could do so much better.
Miki ran her hands over the array of outfits, looking for a piece that felt like him. She wanted something that would do his spirit justice, something that would make him shine.
Her hand stopped on a beautiful white cloth that she could imagine Andrew wearing to dress like a pharaoh. “Oh! This one Andy!” He hurried over as she procured some gold arm cuffs and a gold bandana from the jewelry section to complete the look.
Miki went to wait by the runway as Andrew changed. The thing with Kostume Kult was that although the costumes were free, people did have to walk the runway on their way out. And “walk the runway” may have been an understatement… people were expected to work it. Miki couldn’t wait to see how Andrew would react.
When he finally stepped out, her mouth dropped. He was shirtless, his muscular chest bared to the sun. She didn’t know what she had expected, but it wasn’t the sexy way he was moving now. He danced over the walkway completely owning the stage. The crowd reacted immediately, shouting and cheering. Miki’s heart swelled with pride and she let out a yell of triumph for him as she fell in love with him. The entire world seemed to shift around her, pointing her to Andrew in a million different ways; a deep understanding settling in her soul that this was her human.
Andrew stepped off the walkway and grabbed a makeshift mirror someone held out for him. He had a glint of mirth in his eye that hadn’t been there before, and somehow he just knew it was from Miki, as if a trace of her had rubbed off on him.
He felt a tug on his arm and looked down to see Miki grinning up at him. “Okay, time to dance,” she said.
They made their way across the playa (Andrew couldn’t help but revel in the ease of movement on his newly fixed bike) and into a wild, dystopian-feeling techno dance party. They stepped onto the dance floor and into a throng of shimmering, swaying body parts. Andrew looked around in awe—here were some of the most beautiful half-naked humans he had ever seen in his life, dancing and shouting and playing. Someone had a super soaker and was spraying the crowd with water, causing the beautiful bodies to glisten and glow as they moved to the techno beats. Andrew looked down at Miki and when their eyes met the tiny jolts of electricity flew through his body again. He felt as though he could stare into her eyes forever, but there was something so raw about the moment that he looked away, feeling vulnerable. This happened a few more times, and each time the mesmerizing eye contact caused Andrew to feel more and more exposed until he couldn’t look at her any longer.
Miki grabbed his chin. “Hey, I’m right here, dude. Why aren’t you looking me in the eyes?”
Andrew sucked in his breath. Normally he would have brushed this type of comment off, not bothering to explain or defend himself. But with Miki, he found that he wanted her to know him. Andrew reached down and took her by the hand. “Let’s go outside for a second and I’ll tell you.”
They walked to an adjacent bar and sat down. Andrew took a deep breath; this wasn’t a story that he shared often, if ever. “There’s a reason why I’m not looking you in the eye. Growing up I had a lazy eye. Like a really bad one.” He paused, waiting for something to give way in Miki’s face—maybe that she was a little freaked out, or judging him… but all that shone in her eyes was a pleasant expectancy as she waited for the rest of his story. He continued, “When I would make eye contact with people, my right eye would wander. And because of that, I’m still really hesitant to look people in the eye.”
Miki took his hands in hers. Her voice was stern, but not reproachful. “Number one, I’ve never noticed. And number two, who gives a fuck?”
Andrew felt a smile take over his entire face. “You’re right.” He grabbed Miki’s face and kissed her. When he pulled back, he looked into her eyes—those same brown eyes that always seemed to be talking to him. Wow, he thought. This woman just did something to me… I was challenged and inspired to share a part of myself that I never have before. I know this is something important. This is something special.
When he leaned back in to kiss her again, he was not the same person he had been only minutes before. He now understood that this was a woman whom he shouldn’t let slip by. Whether he had felt ready or not a few days ago was now irrelevant. He was ready for her. He was open for her. And somehow he knew that even though this was all happening so quickly, this was something that could evolve into big love.
Miki had stepped away from their embrace to stare out at the thriving dance floor. She reached back for him now, grasping his hand and breaking his internal epiphany. “Should we dance?” She turned to smile back at him, and his stomach coiled in an exhilarating way Andrew had never experienced before. He couldn’t wait to be dancing with her. He couldn’t wait to be anywhere with her. And above all, he was happy to be here, now, with her.
A few hours later they were racing across the desert to their tent for a water break; their laughter echoing across the night. With each moment that passed, Andrew felt his love for Miki growing. Now that he had given himself permission to have feelings for her, they washed over him like waves on a shore during high tide, stronger with each minute. They reached the tent and hopped off their bikes, breathless from the ride and their laughter. Andrew grabbed Miki’s hand and spun her around before dipping her into a low kiss that he felt all the way down to his toes. Miki broke away and wrapped her arms around him. He stroked her soft skin as they stood under the stars—Andrew had never felt so alive or surrounded by love.
“I’ve never experienced love like this,” Andrew said.
Miki nodded up at him, her eyes glowing in the moonlight.
“How do we honor it?” Andrew wondered out loud. “How do we honor what’s happening between us?”
Miki squeezed his hand. “Why don’t we get married?”
To Andrew’s surprise, he wasn’t scared by this statement. He didn’t feel the need to run or hide. It felt right; he knew he belonged with her somehow. “I heard about a place called Wedlock Ranch,” Andrew said. “We can go tomorrow.”
“Do you know where we can find Reverend Funk Pocket?” Andrew called out. It was around 10 AM, and they had ridden over to Wedlock Ranch first thing. Andrew wanted to laugh—the man he was addressing was seated in a fold-out lawn chair with a full poncho on that looked more like he was wearing a large carpet, with a Fu Manchu mustache and a wicker hat. To top it all off, he was playing the ukulele.
“You’re looking at him,” the man called out.
“We heard you marry people,” Miki said, smiling in that way of hers that made people feel at home.
“I do, indeed,” said Reverend Funk Pocket.
“We’d like to get married at the Bridge to Nowhere at sunset, if that’s possible,” Miki said.
“Ah, yes. The Bridge to Nowhere is a good choice.” Reverend Funk Pocket eyed them, seeming to size up their relationship. After a minute or so he smiled. “I could do that.”
Miki turned to Andrew. “So I’ll see you at the bridge at sunset?” Her eyes searched his as she spoke.
Andrew bent down to give her a gentle kiss. “I’ll see you there.”
Andrew returned to the camp and took out a notebook to journal. As he wrote, he kept a few questions in his mind: What do I want to bring into this? What do I want to promise Miki?
As his vows spilled out, he was surprised at the ease of his love for her. How silly to think now, that only a few days ago he had been fighting this. Andrew laughed out loud. Just the fact that he had been worried about them kissing on Monday and now they were getting married on a Wednesday was comical. But the best kind of love is full of surprises, he realized. A grin spread over his face as an idea took hold of his mind. He looked in the mirror, taking in the look of his massive beard. As a twenty-four year old business owner who had to fundraise, part of him had wanted to look older than he was for credibility. But now, he realized, he didn’t need that assurance. I’m gonna shave this thing off, he decided.
An hour later Andrew emerged from his tent, clean-shaven in his white pharaoh outfit. He walked over to a group of his friends and told them the story.
Among the congratulations, his friend Jamison pulled him aside. “Are you wearing that? To your wedding?”
“It’s the best I’ve got,” Andrew said, looking down at the robe-like dress.
“We can do better. Come with me.”
They walked over to Jamison’s friend’s RV. When Andrew stepped inside he couldn’t believe his eyes. Strewn about the RV were five suits, all brand new and spectacular.
Jamison clapped him on the back. “Alright, my man. Pick one.”
Andrew’s mouth dropped open. “What do you mean, pick one?”
“Just take one. We want you to look sharp for your wedding.”
Andrew nodded, speechless in his gratitude. He spotted a Brooks Brothers baby blue seersucker and threw it on. He looked in the mirror—somehow he had transformed from a bearded desert pharaoh into a dashing, suave gentleman. “Okay, this is dope,” Andrew said.
Jamison laughed. “Take it, it’s yours.”
Andrew hugged his friend. “Wow. Thank you.”
Andrew set off toward his wedding ceremony, excited to discover Miki’s reaction when she saw him. He came up to the seventy-five yard long Bridge to Nowhere and saw Reverend Funk Pocket waiting for him next to a couple of people fishing for their dreams off the edge.
Andrew made his way toward the end of the bridge and shook Reverend Funk Pocket’s hand. “Nice clean up,” the Reverend said, nodding his head in approval.
The people fishing waved to Andrew, and one of them called out in his direction. “Hey!” The guy was wearing a Dr. Seuss-like hat and a kind smile. “What’s happening here?”
“I’m getting married,” Andrew said.
“Wow,” said the guy’s friend, who also wore a goofy Dr. Seuss-like hat. “This is it. It’s happening! That’s amazing.” His friend nodded in genuine agreement.
“Yeah. It is.” Andrew smiled down at his suit, running a hand over the fine material. An idea struck him, and his head whipped back up. “Wait, would you two be my best men?”
“Are you kidding? Of course!” The first one yelled.
Andrew laughed and hugged the hatted men. “Thank you.”
The four of them stood still at the end of the pier in peaceful silence, waiting for Miki to arrive. Reverend Funk Pocket’s hands lay folded across his stomach in a contented gesture. From the other end of the pier, Andrew saw a glimmer of a flowing white gown, and his heart picked up its pace. He remembered that Miki had bought a long piece of fabric from Walmart before the trip, without having a purpose for it. She came into view and Andrew blew out a breath—she had retrofitted the fabric into a stunning wedding dress.
Miki seemed to be looking past him, her face clouded with confusion. Her eyes landed on Reverend Funk Pocket and then quickly flitted over Andrew and his new best men. She did another sweep of all the people standing around and then halted, doing a double-take of Andrew. Her eyebrows rose for a moment before a wave of understanding washed over her face. She let out a laugh and floated toward him in joy.
“Wow. You’re incredible,” Andrew said when she reached him. “And beautiful.”
“You clean up pretty nice too,” Miki said.
“This is her? Wow. Congrats!” one of his best men said.
Andrew was surprised to find his stomach tighten pleasantly on the word her. He realized Miki was now his her. After tonight, she would always be tied to him, and he to her.
Miki laughed. “My new best men,” Andrew said with a shrug. They all introduced themselves and Reverend Funk Pocket invited them to say their vows.
Andrew couldn’t believe this was only their second day hanging out as more than friends, and here they were, professing their love and lifetime commitment to one another. This is totally insane, Andrew thought. And it feels so right.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” Revered Funk Pocket proclaimed.
As Andrew’s best men cheered in the background, he took Miki into his arms and kissed her. He could feel his love for her tingling in every cell of his being. His body was buzzing, his mind was soaring, and he was so giddy that he couldn’t help but smile into their kiss.
The rest of Burning Man went by in an exhilarating blur of love, joy, and laughter. Andrew felt free and excited for the future in a way he had never experienced before, because he now had a partner.
He and Miki sat in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant after the last day of the experience, reminiscing on their epic journey.
“And I couldn’t believe it was you standing at the end of the pier! What made you think to shave your beard for me?”
“I didn’t need it anymore. And I wanted to show up fresh for you as we began our lives together,” Andrew said before he fell into thought. The last week was incredible, but Burning Man was such a different world. They had been married by a ukulele-playing man named Reverend Funk Pocket, for crying out loud. It wasn’t exactly a “normal” scenario. How would he prove to her that this was real? That he was really committed to the long term?
“I’ll miss you in New York,” Miki said, twisting a lock of raven hair in her fingers.
Andrew had a sudden burst of inspiration. “Why don’t you come back to DC with me!?” He figured this way, they could spend more time in the default world together.
Miki looked over at him. “That’s not a bad idea.” She looked down at her phone and began typing away. “I can change my flight, but I would get there three hours before you today. That’s the only option.”
He didn’t want to say goodbye. “Book it,” Andrew said, excitement running through his veins.
An hour later Andrew dropped Miki off at the airport. She leaned over the seat to kiss him, her lips tenderly brushing his. When she went to pull away, Andrew grabbed her and pressed his lips to hers one more time, overwhelmed by how much he loved her. They belonged together and were going to figure this out in the real world. He could feel it.
As soon as Miki was inside, Andrew called his mom. She picked up after the second ring. “Mom, I met the woman I’m going to marry.” His mom let out a happy noise of surprise and Andrew continued, “she’s coming to DC with me today, but her flight is getting in three hours before mine. Can you pick her up from the airport?”
“I’m so happy for you Andrew!” His mom’s voice was ecstatic. “Of course I’ll pick her up. Send me the flight info and I’ll be there.”
Later that day Andrew stepped off the plane and checked his phone.
Miki 3:35 pm: This was the best surprise. I love your Mom!
Miki 6:12 pm: We’re in the airport parking lot waiting for you. See you soon x
He made his way to the parking lot to see his mother and Miki grinning and waving to him from inside his mom’s car. They looked like lifelong friends, and he knew Miki understood the significance of her meeting his mother. This was real.
Later that week, Andrew sat on his couch, meditating on the wildly beautiful course his life had taken over the past two weeks. He and Miki recommitted to each other on a daily basis, choosing each other out in the real world. He was discovering more about her all the time, and in doing so, loved her more every day.
A thought flew into Andrew’s mind, and he shook his head at the serendipity of it all: he remembered that before he had even planned on going with Miki to Burning Man, he had asked his mentor, “What’s one piece of advice you would give going into Burning Man to have a great experience?”
His mentor had told him, “Go in with a question you’re excited to explore and allow Burning Man to be kind of your canvas for exploration. Just follow that relentlessly while you’re there and magic will happen.”
Andrew had been enjoying his bachelor life to the fullest and embracing his freedom, but he had seen many of the people he truly admired growing and thriving in committed relationships and love. He had wanted that happiness for himself. So he decided his question would be, “Am I open to love? Truly open?” That had been his guiding light. Although he had had stories in his mind about holding on to his freedom to grow into the man he wanted to be, all his fears had fallen away in his time with Miki. There was something special about how she opened him up, and he knew that they would have a profound level of growth and depth in their partnership. That question had been sitting in the back of his mind, and he was sure that’s what had enabled him to dive in fully.
Andrew took a deep breath and let out a joyful laugh. He couldn’t believe how their love story had unfolded. From the boat cruise, to close friends living in different cities, to getting married two days into Burning Man, to her meeting his mom a few days later. And now when he thought of Miki, he couldn’t stop smiling. Sometimes he had trouble going to bed at night because his reality was better than his dreams. Sometimes his love made him feel as though he might burst. They were going to go through life together as a team; they were going to explore the world, take on their fears, experience life to the fullest with their incredible friends and community, and give back as much as they could along the way.
His phone vibrated from the desk, and Miki’s smiling face looked up at him from the screen. Andrew grinned and picked up. “I was just thinking about you.”
“Mmm,” she murmured from the other end of the line. “I love you.”
“I love you more,” Andrew said to his best friend.
NINE YEARS LATER
Andrew sat on the floor of his home in Austin, Texas with his son Hiro, who had decided to don his astronaut outfit for the day. Miki was seated a few feet away from them both playing with their new puppy Bernedoodle, Moto Moto.
Andrew looked down at his son. Sometimes he still had moments of joyous overwhelm, wondering how he got so lucky to end up with this little family of his own, so full of heart and love. Andrew pushed a lock of Hiro’s long brown hair out of his eyes. “Where are you going today, Hiro?”
Hiro’s adorable voice chimed out, “To the moon!”
Miki laughed and held her arms out to Hiro. “Where are you going today Hiro? I didn’t hear you!”
“TO THE MOON!” Hiro shouted with enthusiasm, jumping up as he spoke. He ran to Miki and threw his arms around her. Moto Moto nipped at Hiro’s outfit, and Andrew came over to pull the puppy away.
“Can we all go to the moon together?” Hiro asked, his voice sweet like ice cream.
Andrew got behind Miki and wrapped his arms around both of them. “Of course we can.”
Miki turned her neck and tilted her head up to his. He leaned down and kissed her lips, that beautiful electrical current he had come to know and love running down his body.
“Of course we can,” she said.