here, here, here, here, here and then here).
Just as our friendship was beginning to take shape, summer swooped in and threw Graham a curve ball. With my first year at SPU behind me, I moved 80 miles north up the interstate to my childhood home in Bellingham, Washington. Graham, a born and raised Seattleite, stayed in the area and passed the summer months at his parent's house, located about 20 minutes from campus. The distance would prove to put a wedge between us.
I had landed myself a summer gig in the medical office at BP's Cherry Point Refinery, my dad's employer of over 30 years. BP offered children of employees generous-paying internships that provided an up-close-and-personal refinery experience perfect for those considering degrees in the sciences. My sister and I both took advantage of the program that summer and we spent Monday through Thursday commuting with my dad to Blaine for our 10 hour shifts.
I applied for the medical internship given that, at the time, I was still considering nursing as a potential major option. I quickly learned that there weren't a whole lot of exciting things that happened in the medical building of an oil refinery. I suppose this is probably a good thing but I spent those three months bored out of my ever-loving mind the vast majority of the time.
I was tasked with assisting the Physician's Assistant (PA) I worked under in completing annual physical exams and new hire screens for all the middle-aged male (and the very rare female) employees that came through the medical building. This primarily involved collecting heights and weights and urine samples as well as conducting vision and hearing screens. It was wildly exciting. The PA sensed my boredom and tried to round out my experience by teaching me to take vitals too. But after I made one too many employees nervous when I was unable to locate their blood pressure, he reclaimed the cuff duties and banished me to reorganize patient files in the back for the rest of the summer. Maybe it was then I knew I would never make it as a nurse...
The other most memorable moment during that internship was probably the day I learned the definition of the word "midriff." Once I had my vital-taking privileges removed, I passed most of my days bent over the drawers of the massive file cabinets, pulling patient charts, sorting their contents, and adding a new tab system to help bring order to the documents in each file. Apparently there was a day in there where my choice of attire did not combine well with my hunched-over-the-top-of-a-file-drawer posture. I bet you have an idea where this is going.
The PA I worked with was about the same age as my dad so you can only imagine the degree of humiliation I experienced when he approached me that day to tell my I needed to be careful to keep my midriff from showing. Mortified, my hand flew to my chest, checking to make sure the neckline on my shirt wasn't exposing any more skin than it should. No issues there. Next I clutched my short sleeves but they were fine too. I mumbled an apology and assured him that this wouldn't happen again before dashing to my computer in the back to look up where exactly this midriff he was referring to might be located. This was not one of my proudest moments.
Anyway, I kept busy that summer. On the days that I wasn't filing charts and being educated on all the different names for my own anatomy, I spent my time hanging out with my old friends from church, many of whom happened to be boys. They were a tight-knit group who affectionately referred to themselves as the FAT Boys (FAT being short for Faithful, Available, Teachable). They were adventurous and funny and spent most of high school trying to convince everyone that they weren't at all interested in dating girls. What advantage they felt this gave them, I'm not entirely sure, but they were bound and determined to make it known to the world that they were not on the market. Yet, even though we were girls, my sister and I weaseled our way into their social circle and managed to receive invitations to many of their social gatherings (probably because we made them cookies and occasionally dinner). We had a standing Thursday evening BBQ every week at the park and on weekends, we would hit up the local lakes to swim or explore.
It was an odd experience for me, to jump between my college life in Seattle and my life and friends in Bellingham for the first time that summer. They felt so separate from one another. I had made some really great new friends at SPU, but I still considered the relationships in Bellingham to be my primary community, though that was beginning to shift some. I felt detached from my Seattle life when I was in Bellingham and vice versa. My only real contact with my Seattle friends during the summer months occurred late in the evenings when I would log into IM to chat and catch up. This was how Graham and I remained loosely connected.
On a couple of occasions, he actually called our house to say hi. The first time he rang, my sister Lani was the one to answer the phone and they talked for a while before he hung up. He couldn't bring himself to ask for me since he was, after all, friends with both of us. The second time he called, I was the one to pick up. He was elated. His call was unexpected and caught me by surprise but it was fun to hear his voice. He proved to be just as random and funny on the phone as he was when communicating via IM. We shared about our summers thus far (I left out the part about discovering my midriff). Then at some point, I finally developed the photos from our Love Seat Adventure back in the spring and mailed them to Graham, placing them carefully in the protective shielding of a flattened Pepsi box to prevent them from getting bent. That was the extent of our interactions.
Summer was coming to a close when one of the FAT boys - the one who happened to be the best at pretending not to be interested in girls - asked me if I wanted to accompany him on a day trip to Vancouver, BC. My sister and I were both present when the invitation was extended and, since we were usually attached at the hip, it was unclear to me whether this was a group thing or whether in fact his request was directed just toward me. As it turned out, I didn't end up knowing for absolute sure who would be joining him on his trip to Canada until the morning of. He arrived at the front door of my parents' house where I was ready and waiting. I watched closely for his cues. He seemed set to go and so I took a step out toward his car. When he didn't stop me and ask "Where's Lani?" it finally sunk in. "Well, I guess it's just me and him!"
Honestly, I was thrilled. But I felt the need to pinch myself repeatedly. Was this guy, the one who had never had a girlfriend, the one who acted the most disinterested in girls (but yet was hugely popular among the girls), actually taking me on an outing? I'd had a crush on this guy for quite some time but, story of my life, resolved to the fact that he wasn't interested. He had always been a year ahead of me in school and, to add to that, he was old for his grade and I was young for mine. Throughout my high school years, he always made a point of emphasizing how young I was. I assumed this was his way of brushing me off and telling me I was annoying. Little did I know it was a backhanded attempt at flirting.
We had a lot of fun that day, on our adventure together to Vancouver. It was the very first time we'd ever spent any time together one-on-one. But summer was slipping away and, within the week, I'd be packing up my things and moving back to the dorms in Seattle to begin Fall quarter. Given his long history of not pursuing girls, his day trip invitation seemed to be of significance. It had only been a couple of days but I hadn't heard from him and I wasn't sure what he was thinking.
At 9 PM on the night before I was to return to Seattle, I was folding one last load of my laundry when I heard the rumbling of a car pulling into our driveway. The doorbell rang and my dad called up the stairs that he thought it was for me. I came down and there on the porch stood my fellow Vancouver adventurer, hands running through his hair, the air thick with nerves. I noticed right away that it wasn't his car parked in my driveway. In the driver's seat sat another one of the FAT boys, safely out of earshot behind the closed car window. He acknowledged me awkwardly before looking away, along for the moral support, I suppose.
My eyes returned to the guy on the porch who stood before me, searching for words. He looked uncomfortable, to put it mildly. Finally he found his voice. There was something he needed to tell me before I left again for school, something he needed to say before he chickened out.
His words that evening were brief but they both flattered and somehow surprised me. I didn't give him an answer right then; I'd been caught off guard. Things were moving quickly and we agreed to continue the conversation after I'd had some time to mule it over. Could I, should I jump head first into my very first dating relationship knowing that it that would, at it's very inception, involve a distance of 80 miles between us? I wished he would have made his profession to me earlier in the summer so we could have had a month or two in the same city.
And so I left for SPU the following day, head swirling with the events of the past week....