By Sara Gaynes Levy
Brandon and Ugo were both living in the Chicago area when they met online—back in 2013, before the days of Bumble—and began chatting occasionally. “It was just casual discussions,” says Ugo. The two shared interests like travel and fitness, but still, it took more than a year before they decided to meet up in person. When they finally did, there was an instant connection, but the timing wasn’t quite right: both Brandon and Ugo were getting out of long-term relationships, and their respective Chicago neighborhoods were far enough apart to almost feel long-distance. The relationship fizzled out. So when Ugo, a social media manager, got a job offer in the Scottsdale, Arizona area, he didn’t think twice about taking it. He had lived in Chicago since moving to the U.S. from Nigeria, and was ready to try something new.
About a year after his move, Ugo returned to Chicago for a work trip. He opened Bumble on a whim and there was Brandon. Ugo messaged first: “Hey, remember me?!” Despite still being unsure of why their relationship hadn’t worked initially, Ugo suggested they meet for dinner. “We picked up right where we left off,” Ugo says. Brandon, a sales professional, explained that he hadn’t been looking for anything serious when the two first met, and the hour-long drive between their houses had made it feel serious. As their dinner wore on, it was clear the chemistry hadn’t fizzled at all. “The conversation is so easy,” says Ugo. “It’s like I’ve known him forever.” Their shared sense of humor, their similar interests, their attraction to one another: all of that was still there, but now the distance that had once been dozens of miles was hundreds. It seemed daunting, but after that dinner the two resumed their digital friendship, FaceTiming and texting frequently, though neither was sure what their relationship was.
Finally, in late 2016, Ugo invited Brandon to visit him in Scottsdale. “I invited him down not really expecting anything,” says Ugo. “I just thought, he’s an active guy, I’m an active guy, there are so many activities to do here and things to see.” When Brandon left, it was an emotional goodbye. “We both clearly didn’t want the trip to end,” Ugo says. Their time together helped them see the potential in each other, and what a long distance relationship might look like. They decided to make things official.
Brandon and Ugo pledged to see each other at least once a month, which they kept up for almost four years, mostly visiting one another in Chicago or Scottsdale though occasionally taking trips together to nearby spots, like Sedona, Arizona or Saugatuck, Michigan. (Both men love to travel and have a shared travel Instagram, @brugotravels, where they document their journeys together.) “It’s a long flight, but we made it work,” says Ugo. “It wasn’t easy. Any time we had to leave, one of us was always crying!”
Then, early in 2020, Ugo decided he’d had enough of the constant flights. “We both reached a stage where we were like, okay what are we doing?” It was lucky timing: he secured a new job that would allow him to work remotely, and headed back to the Chicago area just days before the coronavirus lockdowns hit. The couple went from once-a-month visits to quarantining together virtually overnight, but the transition was smooth. “We enjoyed each other’s company even more,” says Ugo.
In April of 2021, the couple ventured back to Scottsdale after some damage to their home required them to vacate for a bit. “We had been talking about getting married and were ready for it,” says Brandon. “Scottsdale is like our second home, and the more I got to thinking about it, the more I thought that I should propose there.” He organized a romantic sunset desert walk, and wasn’t nervous about proposing—that is, until Ugo got choked up. Brandon then got emotional too, and thought he was going to “lose it.” He got through it, and Ugo, of course, said yes. The two are planning a destination wedding in Mexico for 2022.
“I got on Bumble not really knowing what I was looking for,” says Brandon. “And then I saw Ugo.” Sometimes the second time is the one that’s the charm.