Monday, April 3, 2017

Wasting no time


(If you are new to my blog or just popping over after some time away, I'm in the middle of a series I've entitle "The Story of Us" where, in honor of our 10 Year Anniversary, I'm writing about how my husband and I met. This is post #10 so you can catch yourself up by first starting out herehereherehereherehereherehere and then here).

February rolled around and I was still dating the Bellingham Boy.

He seemed to be falling for me hard and this fact terrified me. I was experiencing a whole slew of physical ailments and he took great interest in better understanding what I was going through. But for whatever reason his degree of compassion scared me and so I put up a wall to keep a safe distance. This was the beginning of the end for us.

One evening, Graham asked me to join him for dinner at Gwinn Commons, our college's cafeteria. Upon entering Gwinn, many students would survey the room and stake out a table and reserve their spot before getting in line to order food. Typically this room scanning practice took place to ensure one wouldn't be dining alone. Heaven forbid. Most of the tables in Gwinn were long and narrow with seating for 8-10, perfect for group dining. But there were a few tall pub tables near the entrance that only seated two comfortably. If ever your dining partner reserved a place there, you knew they meant business. It was one of these pub tables that Graham snagged that evening as we walked into Gwinn.

He checked in with me about life in general and asked his typical questions. Then he asked how things were going with the Bellingham Boy. I was questioning my dating relationship; my prior comments had made that obvious. I told him I was confused and that I felt myself distancing. And then came the real kicker: I asked for Graham's opinion.

Now anyone with half a brain sees this for what it was: a perfect opportunity to jump in and recommend a game changing move. "What should you do? Oh definitely you should break up with him. It sounds like you're not into him and there's a better guy for you."

But Graham is a man of integrity. He said none of this though he admits he was tempted. Instead, after checking himself and his motives, he provided me unbiased, sincere feedback. He absolutely did not tell me to break up with the Bellingham Boy. In fact, I think he actually gave me advice on how we could make things work. He confessed later that he really felt for the guy. I'd struck some chords that were close to home, paralleling one of his relationship experiences where he fell hard and fast and she got scared and ran.

Nothing anyone said to me would have helped me shake the knot that had formed in my stomach and so, on Valentine's Day of 2004, I broke things off with the Bellingham Boy. Horror. Over the phone. Double horror. It wasn't supposed to happen that way but he forced it out of me. I'd planned to wait until at least the 15th because that somehow made me feel like less evil of a person but I wear my emotions about as subtly as if they were written in Sharpie across my forehead. He knew something was heavy on my mind and I couldn't hide my cold feet. He didn't understand why we were ending. Honestly, I didn't really either at the time. I just knew we weren't right and I couldn't let down my guard.

Graham and I often speculate whether I needed this first relationship to "wear me down," so to speak. Would I have let anyone in, regardless of who it was? Probably not. Lucky for Graham, the Bellingham Boy took one for the team and broke me in and paved the way for my relationship future.

When the news trickled down to Graham that I was single and back on the market, he wasted NO time. Like as it zero minutes. I'll leave it to you to guess who I spent that post-break up Valentine's Day evening with. Yep. The Graham Crozier. And of course his ex-sorta-girlfriend-and-now-my-friend-too Danae. Classic. He offered to take me out, you know, to help me "get my mind off things." Seated on each side of him, we ate our desserts in effort to soothe away our singleness on the holiday of love.

Three weeks later, Graham asked to me join him on an evening walk through the neighborhoods that surrounded our campus. The homes nearby were straight from a fairytale - made of red brick, with adorable archways the frame in the rounded front doors.

Graham had something weighing heavy on his mind. One of his other female friends was having a crisis of faith and he was torn up about it and needed to vent and process. So I joined him and we walked and talked. We made our way up the steep hill, past the dorm known as "Ashton" and then along the edge of the cemetery that was always so much spookier in the moonlight. Panting and out of breath, we reached the crest of the hill where the road leveled off and the neighborhood streets grew flatter and we could speak with greater ease. We didn't have a destination; we were simply wandering.

We made a long loop, meandering through houses, the street lights illuminating our way. Graham told me all about the situation with his friend and, once he'd cleared his mind, the conversation moved onto more general topics. Eventually we found ourselves back on campus, strolling past Ashton Hall. It was here that Graham stopped abruptly and planted himself on the rock wall in front of the basketball court. This was unusual and I was taken aback. It was apparent that he had something more he wanted to say and he motioned for me to take a seat next to him. My stomach dropped and my throat went dry.

Oh gosh, I thought. Suddenly I knew exactly what was happening.

Graham's entire demeanor had shifted. He avoided eye contact and appeared paler than before.

"Well," he started. "There's not really a way to say this other than to just come out and say it: I have feelings for you."

My heart was pounding and my insides felt twisted in knots. The pieces were all coming together.

I thought of all the times I'd wondered briefly could he have a thing for me? But then proceeded to write them off as "just the way he was with all girls." All the instances where it seemed he *might* be pursing me were easily explained away. Deep down I think I did know about his feelings, certainly not at first, but eventually. Yet I couldn't fathom how someone could be drawn toward the side of me that he had come to know - the good, the bad and the ugly. And so I denied all the signs. I had shared with him some of my insecurities, my health issues and he had seen first hand how I could prioritize keeping up my own grades and over caring for people. This always filled me with such shame. Yet somehow he snuck in the back door and got around the edited self that I presented to the rest of the world. I couldn't wrap my mind around how someone could be attracted to the real me so I ignored any evidence that would indicate it were so.

Thoughts were flying through my brain like lightning and suddenly it dawned on me that he was waiting for me to say something. Always quick with my words, I responded with that one assurance every man wants to hear:

"Oh!" I exclaimed.

It came out complete with all the undertones of alarm and surprise that I was feeling.

What else should I say? My mind raced and fear and dread overcame me, witnessing this sweet, sweet boy putting himself out there. I cared about him deeply and had grown to cherish our friendship immensely. First and foremost, I did not want to hurt him. I wanted to let him down easy.

What I said next was just about as poetic as my initial response:

"Sure, I think maybe we can hang out more often."

That wasn't really what he'd asked for. But he was going to take what he could get, even though I'd just handed him the friend card. This rejection was unlike any of the others for me. I didn't actually want him to go away and leave me alone. I wanted to hang out with him more. I liked the guy a lot. It was just that we were so very, very different. I couldn't see how we could possibly work together and I lacked romantic feelings at the time.

Plain and simple, I just wasn't ready yet. I'd come out my relationship only three weeks prior and I was thoroughly confused by all of it. Graham recognized that. But this time he wasn't about to let me get away again without first telling me straight up how he felt. And I'm so very glad he did.

2 comments:

  1. "Oh!" that has to be one of Pete's favorite responses from me (just kidding, it's not). :) I think it works well in so many situations though....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! It's like the world's most versatile and communicative word!

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