here, here, here, here, here, here, here and then here).
The next four months passed. The Bellingham Boy and I dappled in long distance, both of us in our first ever official dating relationship. He came to visit me in Seattle on a couple of occasions and we even obliged Jackie's double date wishes and went out to ice cream with her and Brant so they could meet my new boy. For our first solo dinner date, he took me to the Red Robin down on one of the Seattle piers. Graham jokes that it was at this point he knew our relationship wouldn't last. He felt a more unique dining experience was need to woo me (darn that Graham - he knew me better than I even knew myself!)
We were both poor college students so the boy and I awkwardly waded our way through the uncomfortable relationship waters of who would pay for what and when. I went home to Bellingham for Christmas that winter and we spent some time together in person but the vast majority of our relationship took place over the phone. I was 19 years old and had never been kissed and that wasn't about to change. We never made it anywhere close to first base. I'm not sure we even approached the pitcher's mound though we did hold hands a couple of times which felt like pretty big news in my book.
Meanwhile, Graham kicked himself for missing his opportunity, for not putting his feelings out there earlier. But that somehow didn't deter him from spending time with me.
Guys, I'll be completely frank here for a minute, lest you get the wrong impression of me. I am a FIRM believer that once one is in a committed relationship, friendships with members of the opposite sex must change. Personal experience has taught me that men and women can only spend some finite number hours one-on-one together before an attraction for one party or the other begins to form. So, one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex while in a committed relationship was a big no-no in my mind.
Yet somehow, Graham tells me our trip to B and O Espresso on Capital Hill took place while I was dating the Bellingham Boy. I am horrified and insistent I would never have agreed to an outing like that while I had a boyfriend. But, the guy has proven himself to have a memory as sharp as steel when it comes to his pursuit of me so I have to believe he's probably right.
I say all this to further illustrate just how "safe" Graham felt to me. He hates that I use that word to describe him. He longs to be the guy who caught my eye and swept me off my feet from the get-go. But the fact that he was a safe place for me is such an essential piece of our story. And I find it incredibly romantic. I was so comfortable around Graham; he put me at ease. For the first time in my life, I was completely myself around a person. From the very start. I wasn't trying to impress him or put up a front by showing a more put together side of me. My walls were down and he got to know Kelsie Wilson for the real Kelsie Wilson. And that's the girl he was beginning to fall for. I find this beyond romantic. I mean, right!?!
But back to our non-date date to B and O. ;) I console my horrified self by saying I agreed to accompany Graham because he must have asked me casually if I "just wanted to grab some dessert and coffee." I had never been to B and O before so I had no idea that it wasn't your typical bring-your-back-pack-and-study sort of coffee shop. It was a sit-down dining establishment with a full blown dinner menu and dim and moody lighting in the evenings. They also just so happened to serve dessert and espresso and so could be called a "coffee shop."
What sticks out to me most about that evening is how Graham ordered a pear poached in red wine, almost too pretty to eat, it's flesh a deep crimson. I balked at his dessert choice. Fruit? Really? For dessert? If it doesn't have chocolate and come a la mode, I don't consider it dessert. I ordered a real dessert that night - one of the tall slices of cake that had been displayed beautifully at the entrance to the restaurant. We sampled each others' desserts (ok, so the pear was actually kind of good) and made fun of each other for choosing them. We talked about life and Graham asked me how things were going with the Bellingham Boy. Honestly, I think I really appreciated having an unbiased guy (ha!) to help shed male insight into our dating relationship. He always asked me such great questions with incredible intentionality.
The check arrived and things grew momentarily uncomfortable. I don't recall who paid but, if it was Graham who covered the bill, I'm sure I chalked it up to him being gentlemanly. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was interesting and like what I had to say mattered. This Graham guy was a really good friend. I should have seen what was coming.