There exists a pub in Ottawa called Pub Italia. At least as of 2018 it still exists.
Food is mostly pizzas and pastas and it notably had an extensive beer list. It also had my favourite restaurant dessert of all time, which has now been off the menu there for several years, the beeramisu.
Hillary and I would make that place a staple of our dates. The party the night before we left for our Cross Canada ride would be there.
Our third date, and the first date where we both realized it really was a date was at Pub Italia.
We sat on the patio which looks onto Preston Street. In the random walk of life, I knew our server, Liz, someone I hadn't seen in a couple of years at that point. I had met her in residence during my first year at Carleton University.
Hillary and I continued various threads of conversation we had started over the previous few months. It was clear to both of us at this point that something was definitely there and I think we both knew we were kind of at an inflection point.
The conversation drifted to relationships. I knew her history at that point and she knew mine. We were at somewhat different points I believed. I don't recall exactly how it came up, but at some point I felt I needed to ask the question, "What are you looking for in a relationship right now?"
"I'm looking for the one," her tone was matter of fact as if that was the only possible response.
I remember fumbling at that point. While I can still hear that response in my head, I don't remember exactly what I said after. In the years afterwards, we referenced this conversation many times. Hillary couldn't recall my words either, though I believe at least once she compared my expression to 'deer in headlights.'
I do know that whatever I did say was right enough that we had more dates after this. I'm pretty sure I made her laugh with whatever it was.
This was either July or August of 2004, it was a warm Ottawa evening. We had both taken the bus to get there as we would be having a few drinks. When dinner and dessert was over, neither of us were ready to call it a night. We decided to walk back to her place and I would bus home from there.
It took us at least an hour via a meandering route through Ottawa to get to her apartment on Parkdale Avenue. We stopped at a playground and used the swings. Years later, I would learn that Hillary had decided that this playground was the site of our first kiss.
That wasn't accurate, though I suspect she remembered it as such as we were definitely close several times and I suspect she felt she had given all the correct signals. I, however, was kinda slow sometimes.
Our first kiss came on the fourth date, the last of the numbered dates. By that point we were nigh inseparable. Where being together ended and dates began became pretty fluid.
And so here I am, 14 years and a bit after that. I guess she did find the one. I know I did. I know I made her happy and as the surviving spouse, I think that's all I could have hoped for given how life played out.
She was happy.