There is a whole lot of ambiguity surrounding the exact order of the interactions that took place between Graham and I that first year at SPU. Beyond Hill Hall Ball, there were also were also a handful of group hangouts that happened that Spring. And then there was IM.
Graham was a member of a whole myriad of social circles and he appeared to jump from one to the next with the greatest of ease. From my vantage point, he seemed to know and spend time with SO many people. We would see each other and then I wouldn't hear from him for awhile until, at some random interval, he would pop back into my circle and we would hang out again. Graham tells me it was during this season that he began inviting me, and often my sister too, on random adventures around the city. Us Wilson sisters stuck together and we basically came as a 2 for 1 package, even when it came to boys. ;) Graham was always so darn creative and he was also the king of all things free; it was through spending time with him that I got to know many of Seattle's finest parks.
After Graham and my first "date" to Hill Hall Ball, my roommate Jackie was only momentarily discouraged by my we-are-only-just-friends dialogue. She witnessed the periodic interactions between Graham and I and held onto hope that there was still a chance I might fall for him.
One Friday night, she threw out a double date invitation (only she didn't use the word "date" when she pitched the idea to me). She told me that her boyfriend Brant had a really fun "dinner and a movie cookbook." It contained recipes paired with a specific movie title, to provide the structure for a fun themed evening together. Jackie and Brant insisted that these themed movie meals were not fun with just the two of them so they convinced Graham and I to join them. Let's be honest. It probably didn't take a whole lot of arm twisting for those of us residing in the dorms and otherwise dependent on the cafeteria for our meals. The promise of a home-cooked meal was always a welcomed opportunity during those college years.
For me it was a little more than that. The opportunity to cook a home-cooked meal was also very attractive. At the age of 16, I'd discovered my love of cooking and more or less kicked my mom out of the kitchen. She gladly handed over her spatula, set of Cutco knives and checkbook and let me go to town buying and preparing all sorts of creative meals for my parents and siblings. Now that I think about it, that was probably one of the greatest gifts she could give to 16-year-old-me (thanks Mom!) but that's a story for another day.
It had been hard for me to move away to college and lose the creative outlet cooking had provided me for nearly two full years. I suddenly found myself at the mercy of the whims and food preferences of the campus chefs. Honestly, the food at SPU was really good all things considered, but I really, really missed having access to a full kitchen. (Granted, the lounge on my floor came equipped with a microwave and a refrigerator so as long as I didn't need any pots or pans and utensils or an oven, I could cook to my heart's content...so yeah).
As an upperclassman, Brant lived in an on-apartment that boasted a full kitchen so I was IN when Jackie proposed the dinner and movie idea to me. Even the idea of frequenting a grocery store again, let alone cooking sounded thrilling. We went with the obvious and selected the Italian-themed evening from the cookbook. Altogether we shopped and prepared a feast of chicken parmesan, garlic bread and salad. We squeezed around Brant's tiny little table and then someone pulled out the candles and dimmed the lights. Inwardly, I began to squirm. Was it just me or was the atmosphere becoming a little date-ish?
We talked our way through dinner with minimal awkwardness before transitioning to the living room to watch Italian for Beginners (title recollection thanks to Graham's insane memory for random detail, not mine, which has been pilfered entirely by the birthing of children!) The only thing I remember about the movie was feeling a little uncomfortable, sitting there stiffly next to Graham (and leaving plenty of room for the Holy Spirit!) while Jackie and Brant snuggled closely together.
That wasn't the only time the four of us spent time together at Brant's apartment. Jackie and Brant continued to lay down the opportunities for Graham and I to interact. Jackie passed most of her evenings hanging out at Brant's apartment, but on a couple rare occasions, I accompanied her on that trek across campus, to his building near the 7-11 convenience store.
On one such occasion, Graham was there too. It was a weekend and we didn't have any grand plans in mind. The air was turning awkward and it was obvious we needed to think of some sort of activity. Graham said had an idea and ordered us all into Brant's white Ford Explorer. Brant giggled nervously but grabbed his keys. Graham has always been a man of very few words, so when he speaks, people oblige. He told Brant to drive us up to the drop off loop of our dorm and pop the trunk. Jackie was to wait in the car; I was to run to my room and grab a camera and Brant was to go with Graham.
I beat the boys back to the car, camera in hand. Jackie and I laughed curiously, wondering aloud what our evening would hold. We still didn't know Graham very well but we knew enough of him to know we were in for an adventure. Seven minutes later, Brant and Graham appeared back in the lobby, arms overflowing with the girth of a blue love seat.
They loaded the couch into the trunk and slammed the door. We were off! To where exactly, three of the four of us were quite unsure. Graham began calling out directions and Brant drove where he was told.
Over the course of the evening, we found ourselves at some of Seattle's most famous landmarks: Kerry Park, the Fremont Troll, the Interurban Sculpture (also in Fremont) and Pike Place Market. At each stop, we unloaded that love seat, situated it in the most reasonable local (ha!), and then posed for a picture before dashing back to the car the yelling "Go, go, go!" as we hoisted that couch back into the trunk. Thankfully that thing was from Ikea and weighed as much as two boxes of cereal.
This sort of behavior was vastly in contrast to my typical go-with-the-flow, do-only-what-it-is-expected-of-you, rule-following personality. It was downright freeing, honestly, to throw caution to the wind and not worry what other people thought.
As fun as it was, a girl can only be stretched so far in the course of one night. When Graham's last stop that evening involved midnight couples shopping cart races down the aisles of Safeway, I put my foot down. He did manage to take me for one precarious trip around the store, shrieking and squealing, before I managed to climb out of cart he'd thrown me into. I knew we were seconds away from getting kicked out of the store and I'd lived on the edge enough for my personality for one evening. Getting in trouble was not on my agenda for the evening and so we called it a night.
But, the smallest piece, deep within me was growing curious. Graham's carefree personality and creativity was very attractive to me and I marveled at how he didn't seem the least bit phased by the opinions of those around him. He had caught my attention. I couldn't put words on it then but now I recognize it for what it was: a genuine draw toward a man who I knew could teach me to see the world through a different lens, who could broaden my perspective and soften my sharp edges. As the old saying goes, "opposites attract."
Though I may have been beginning to warm, we still had a long, long way to go as you will soon see....