For months, I entered the church’s gym rather abruptly without a passing glance at anyone. I was usually mentally preparing myself for whatever my friend H* and I had planned for the evening- volleyball or yoga typically. I had no idea that someone noticed me. Every check in, every game, every time I stepped out of the locker room ready for church, the person claimed (in time) that it was impossible not to see me. Funny. I never noticed him at all.
Then, my friend H invited me to her parent’s house for a group road trip to Austin. It was there that she introduced me to T*, her friend that managed the front desk of the gym at church. After that trip, I wondered why I had never noticed him before. He had dark hair, stunning blue eyes, a chiseled jaw line and the most adorably crooked smile with a little gap between his two front teeth that I found utterly endearing. Basically, he was completely aesthetically appealing for me, but he seemed far too spiritually “out of my league.” We were still merely acquaintances anyway and I desired no distractions on my quest to spiritual greatness in the Lord.
We chatted back and forth over the months to follow, usually about church or faith related issues. He, H and I started sitting together at church and eventually I became a part of their “family” joining in all of their group activities. I never spent time with him one on one though; I loved his personality and we got along well, but I did not believe it appropriate to completely adopt my friends friends as my own. However, one fateful Black Friday, when all of his friends were out of town for the holiday, he posted a status on Facebook about fighting the crowds at the Galleria mall. I told him that he was crazy; he proceeded to invite me along. For some stupid reason, I agreed to meet him there. I was intimidated by him- first by his faith, second by his attractiveness and third by his friendship with H. Honestly, I had no idea what was going on between them. Despite their claims of being just friends, I could not understand how they were not attracted to each other. They were two of the most beautiful and spiritually sound people that I had ever met; they seemed perfect for each other. Not to mention that they hung out all of the time, cooked dinner for one another and could easily make you feel like the third wheel in their presence (unintentionally of course). After much mental deliberation, I decided to just go. Why not? After all, it was not like I was intending for one trip to the mall to become anything beyond just that. Besides, at this point, he was my friend now too, right?
I was wrong. We were there for hours shopping, talking and people watching. It turned out to be a completely awesome afternoon; the typically overwhelming crowd seemed to fade into the background. After that evening, it felt like we were instant best friends. He was so easy to talk to, so honest and open; I felt oddly comfortable with sharing any and every aspect of myself with him without fear of judgement or disappointment. I was guarded, but trusted that he would be an amazing and spiritually motivating friend for life. I swore to myself and to our mutual friends that all that I saw him as was a friend. Nothing more. However, that all changed the night that he kissed me. The kiss was exactly how I had always dreamed a guy would kiss me without requiring me to prompt him to. It was perfect. Quintessential. Fortunately, I was not foolish enough to “fall” just yet. I trusted that my heart was secured- not ready to submit to his hands… no, not yet.
He was incredibly encouraging and inspirational toward me. He was passionate; intelligent and athletically inclined. He loved my dog and she was totally enamored of him; he loved his family and friends and was not ashamed of expressing it, but his true love was clearly the Lord. His confidence seemed to be completely in and of the Lord and I found it irrevocably sexy. One night while we were walking Mesha at Memorial Park, I finally, for the first time in my life, opened up and shared my testimony, with him. He held me as I sobbed in the middle of the trail and I had never felt more safe, more comforted or more loved in my whole life. For the first time in a long time, I did not feel judged. I felt relief; I was… happy. It was then that I really had a heart to heart with both H and T regarding their situation and they both assured me that there was NOTHING to fear with them; they were like brother and sister. For me that meant she would value me as a sister too, I thought. What could be better?!
I started going above and beyond to make him happy; I wanted him to feel special. I wanted him to feel like he mattered and to let him know that I was interested. So, when he flattered me uncontrollably, I would reciprocate. He seemed to be completely into me, so I grew equally as devoted. He looked at me with absolute intensity and adoration; he was chivalrous and, well, perfect. Everything I did for him, I did because I WANTED to… and it was easy to. It came so natural, whereas in past dating attempts, everything felt so forced and almost scripted like a bad soap opera.
At one point, he even begged me to let him meet my family. If he wanted to meet the family, he had to meet the WHOLE gang, so I invited him to our big family pre-Christmas dinner and he eagerly accepted. We are talking extended family here, not just immediate. I could not believe that this guy was willing to meet my ENTIRE, crazy hillbilly family. But, he did… and he was brilliant. For Christmas he said he had a gift for me; nothing big, just something that he wanted to give me. He had written me a note on a plain index card sized piece of paper that was so encouraging, inspiring and absolutely beautiful. I nearly cried after he read it to me, then presented it to me to keep. I, in turn, wrote him a poem that I shared with no one else. For the first time, I even kept no copy for myself. It was for him and him alone.
When he left for Christmas, he seemed to be more upset than I was that he would be gone for ten days without seeing me in person… it was only ten days. I will admit that I knew that I would miss him too, but I also knew that ten days was nothing in comparison to a 15 month tour in Iraq/Afghanistan that I had survived a decent portion of, so this tiny absence was definitely survivable. Bless his heart, he decided to surprise me with a flight to St Louis to be with him for New Years and to meet his family as well. “What kind of guy does this?” I thought, “He must really, REALLY like me.” So, on New Year’s Eve, I boarded a plane to STL where he met me in the airport and held me, tightly, like he never wanted to let go. It was at that moment when I realized that I was slipping.
We rang in the New Year on the road…driving from STL to his parents house in Centralia. We nearly slammed into a black cow in the middle of a pitch black country road along the way, so we felt very blessed to start the new year off alive and in one piece. Riding with him in his home town felt so comfortable. Sure, I was completely unfamiliar with my surroundings, but it just felt right. When I finally met his parents, I instantly fell in love. They were so genuine, so hospitable and cheerful. They seemed so receptive of me and extended an open invitation to come back any time. I felt so at home in their presence that it was actually difficult to leave. Everything about the trip, the time with his family, his friends, the time with him felt absolutely perfect.
Sitting in the airport, waiting to catch our flight I realized that I had fallen. Completely. But, for as great as our ability to communicate openly had (seemingly) become… I did not trust that I was ready to share such a revelation. Not yet. (I am so grateful that I reserved that much of my dignity)
When we got back home, you could not slap the smile off of my face. For the first few weeks of the new year, it honestly felt like it was going to be my best year. Ever. We were inseparable, talking/texting/hanging out all of the time and life was like a fairy tale. Then one Wednesday night, after a Street Reach Ministry we stopped for dinner and I could see something missing in his eyes. I wrote it off as exhaustion from his ever-increasingly busy schedule since it was the start of a new year and he worked at a gym… have to love those new year’s resolutions. He did not say much and he seemed to be disinterested in anything that I said. I shrugged it off, we kissed goodnight and we went our separate ways.
I did not hear from the next morning like usual; I did not hear from him that evening either. By Friday afternoon, I called him out of concern that he was dead in a ditch somewhere. He answered… like nothing was wrong. And, I was flustered. I was not prepared for him to answer, did not know what to say and so I told him that I was glad he was not dead in a ditch and that since we had nothing to talk about I had to go, then hung up. He did not bother to call back and we did not talk again until the following Wednesday when we agreed to meet. I felt like a complete jerk, beating myself up for being so rude in that phone call- for not knowing the situation and not taking the time to care. I was literally sick with worry that I had ruined everything, had mentally prepared my speech and had gone over and over it in my head praying that he would forgive me for being so irrational.
We wound up parking next to one another at the coffee shop, and when he stepped out of the car he looked angry. He handed me the books that I had previously lent to him before we even left the parking lot to go inside; as I placed them in my passenger seat, my heart sank. I believed then that I had completely ruined everything because I was a panicky, pushy and utterly stupid girl. I was so nervous walking in that I fumbled my drink order and nearly dropped my latte out of nervousness. I still do not recall why I bothered to get anything; I was too overwhelmed to drink it.
We sat in a far back corner table where I immediately spouted off my apology like I had rehearsed, blaming myself for everything and subconsciously begging for all of this ridiculousness to be erased. I wanted things to be normal again. After I spoke, I helplessly searched his eyes for forgiveness. But they were cold, almost hollow. My heart was pounding and I feared the worst. Then he sighed, looked down and jerked his lips into half of, what I guess he thought would come across as, a reassuring smile. It cut right through me. He then proceeded to tell me that he would never, ever hold something like against me and that he accepted my apology. “OK.” I thought, “so… everything is cool then? What is the problem???”
(There’s always a but) He continued on to say that while he was home visiting his family and friends, he had coffee/lunch/whatever with his high school/college sweetheart in hopes of her forgiving him for one thing or another and she divulged that she still had feelings for him. He never once said a word to me about this rendezvous… and there I was thinking, and we both had at one point agreed, that we were completely honest with each other. He felt that it wasn’t fair to me or to him to leave the feelings that he realized he still had for her undiscovered. All I could ask was “why did you let it progress?” I mean really; I couldn’t make him choose me; I couldn’t make him want me more… there was nothing to fight for. And all he said was that he was sorry.
And that is when I lost it. I started crying. In public. I felt disgusting. I felt defeated, angry, worthless, cheated. I felt like I had finally put my whole heart into something that felt virtually effortless and it meant absolutely nothing. I felt like a fool and I was absolutely mortified. I really wanted to just punch him in the damn face! I mean really…he had the audacity to let me apologize, at length, for my “behavior” when I had (unknowingly) every right to be upset in the first place?! And then to tell me that YOU forgive ME for, ultimately, being concerned… the nerve of some people!!!
So, then by standard protocol, he tried to sugar coat the let down with “You’re an amazing woman…blah blah blah” which every girl knows is bullshit. There was NOTHING that he could say that could soften the blow at that point. No matter what he tried to say, it still sounded like “you’ll never be good enough. You aren’t enough. You didn’t really matter.” Anything beyond telling me that he was through with me was not going to make me feel any better about the situation or about myself. I finally just said “I forgive you. I wish you the best in life.” Got up and power walked out, trying my best to not run into any tables or anyone while keeping my head down so no one could see my tears. I never even touched my drink and he didn’t try to follow. I am still not sure that I even meant anything that I said, but I know that I was gaining loss with every step: losing my confidence, my esteem… losing my faith in most everything.
In fact, I wound up losing my friendship with H as well. I thought that I would give T time to share the details with H since he decided to end it all, but never heard from her for over a month after the parting. By then, I assumed that her loyalties lay with him and washed my hands of her too. Call it childish, but what was the point? T and H were friends long before I came into the picture anyway. The wound was too fresh; she’d remind me of him and hanging out with her increased the likelihood of seeing him. Good girlfriends are hard to come by, this I know all too well, but people come and go in life anyway. There is a reason for it all, so they say.