When Lewis Met Clark – The New York Times

Zack Lewis and his date, also named Zack, had yet to disclose their surnames when they met at a gay bar in Manhattan’s East Village in September 2015, after first connecting on the dating app Grindr. But when Mr. Lewis had occasion to glance at the other Zack’s Visa card, he knew something momentous was about to happen.

“I thought, this is going to be either destiny or disaster,” Mr. Lewis said of discovering that he had just met Zack Clark.

Mr. Clark, 36, a children’s book author and editor at Scholastic, had offered Mr. Lewis, 35, his card before excusing himself to the bathroom at the Phoenix Bar. “You’re not going to believe this,” Mr. Lewis said to Mr. Clark when he returned from that expedition.

Disbelief soon gave way to romance. A second date at Santos Anne, a restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where Mr. Clark then lived, ended with a kiss. Mr. Lewis, an architect with Richard H. Lewis Architect, a firm founded by his father, met Mr. Clark’s pit bull mix, Zoey, soon after. That led Mr. Clark to have the same destiny-or-disaster feeling Mr. Lewis had experienced at Phoenix Bar.

Except disaster was seeming way less likely by then.

“I had adopted Zoey in my previous relationship, and my ex had not taken to the dog,” said Mr. Clark, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. But Mr. Lewis, a native New Yorker, couldn’t get enough of Zoey. “I thought, not only do we have this insane name thing, but he and Zoey really love each other,” Mr. Clark added.

The pair took a turn toward the serious on Nov. 21, 2015, when Mr. Clark, hoping for a commitment, asked Mr. Lewis how he was feeling about the relationship. Mr. Lewis, who described himself as the less emotionally in touch of the two, was game. “We had met each other’s friends at that point, and everything seemed to be meshing pretty well,” he said.

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At the start of 2016, Mr. Clark gave up his place in Williamsburg and moved into Mr. Lewis’s East Village apartment. A year later, Mr. Lewis was designing what Mr. Clark called their “dream house” in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where they now live. But before they moved in, the dream of a happily ever after started to feel shaky to Mr. Clark when Mr. Lewis woke up one morning in a fog of depression. “I just had this moment where I felt like, everything’s wrong,” Mr. Lewis said. “I can’t believe I’m still in this relationship.”

Instead of breaking up, they administered their own version of talk therapy, acting on some advice a friend of Mr. Lewis’s had given him. “He said, ‘You have to keep choosing your person,’” Mr. Lewis said. “‘As long as you wake up every day wanting to choose Zack again, I say stick it out.’” “We did a lot of talking. I realized I did wake up every day wanting to be with Zack.”

While Mr. Clark writes fantasy books for young readers by profession, he and Mr. Lewis both share a passion for adult fantasy fiction. “The extent of my nerdiness extends to voraciously reading every bit of pulp fantasy out there,” Mr. Lewis said. Mr. Clark said he takes his self-described nerdiness to another level by regularly playing Dungeons and Dragons.

In March 2020, Mr. Clark came home from a Dungeons and Dragons meet up and got a call that night about a fellow player who felt ill. Two days later, he and Mr. Lewis were sick. “We started the pandemic as two Covid carriers,” Mr. Clark said. Their recovery led to a fruitful quarantine: On Nov. 21, 2020, Mr. Lewis proposed with a handmade card threaded with string. The message inside: “Let’s tie this knot.”

When the two went to get their marriage license at the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan this fall, the question of whether they wanted to change their names came with guffaws. “The person helping us cracked up,” Mr. Lewis said. The couple had an answer at the ready: They want to be Lewis and Clark forever.

On Nov. 21 at the Montauk Club in Brooklyn, Benn Spratt, the senior rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, made that wish a legal reality in front of 140 fully vaccinated guests, to hearty cheers of “Mazel Tov!”