LOVE IN THE TIME OF CONGRESS.

They say that love is a battlefield, and if Pat Benatar is to be believed, my battlefield is located on Congress Avenue.

It all started when I met Ross at one of my first jobs out of college: teaching yoga to kids.  It was a private school, and he was the music teacher.  Our daily banter consisted of such simmering exchanges as, “good morning” and “have you seen my time sheet?”  So it was rather a shock, a happy one, when he called my home to ask me out on a date.

Unfortunately, I was out running when Ross placed the call.

“You know Tolly has a boyfriend, right?”  Laura was my roommate.  She gave it to you straight.

“Wait, what?” said Ross.  “She has a boyfriend?  Oh, oh my God.  You can’t tell her I called.  Just – you don’t – no message.  OK, bye.”

Being the wonderful roommate that she was, Laura told me.

I was delighted, but for the next two weeks, Ross completely ignored me at work.  “Good morning” was reduced to silence.   I had to devise a plan.

Laura and I quickly decided two things: First, I had to break up with my boyfriend.  Second, we had to orchestrate a date-like event, but a group one, that I could casually invite Ross to.  We decided on The Elephant Room, a literal underground jazz club on Congress.  After a work meeting, I found Ross in the hallway, and tossed off an ultra-smooth line.

“Hey!!!  Sooooo … some people are going to The Elephant Room on Thursday for, like, music.  And, stuff.  Just a few people, but like I’m not sure exactly who yet.  Do you wanna come hang out with me?  And those people?”

Miracle of miracles, he said yes.

The “people” consisted of Laura and her friend, Jeremy.  I had too much to drink, as I always did on dates when I was nervous.  But Ross was funny and charming, and he didn’t kiss me when he said goodbye.  Instead, he just squeezed me, and told me he had a nice time.  I thought that was real classy, for a guy.

I also figured he was just being polite.

Laura and Jeremy took me by both arms and led me back to our car on Fourth Street, where I laid down in the back and mumbled all the way home.  Coincidentally, a similar scene would play itself out the next weekend in roughly the same area, but with me driving and Laura in the back seat mumbling, for reasons however entirely out of her control, involving an unattended drink and an extremely suspicious gentleman with his eye on Laura … but that’s another story for another time.  Such as a PSA announcement.

Three years after my sloppy first impression, I would be back on Congress, just over the river.  It would be for my bridal brunch at South Congress Cafe, and this time, Ross wasn’t there.

But I’d marry him the next day.

/// From top: Tree light at Trio, vintage ad on Congress, little turtle in Town Lake, old truck on SoCo, Avocado Quinoa at Snack Bar, and “I Love You So Much” at Jo’s.