I go way overboard. I cannot stop my mind from whirring, returning always to you. I think about you constantly, agonizing internally about whether you are developing a crush on someone new (like me? Or not me?). I wonder, what you might be doing right this second: making a quesadilla? Watching an art film? Making sculptures in your basement? Visiting the Briargate library to pick up a stack of comic books after work? (I take to going to the library you go to – even though it isn’t the closest branch to my house – because I think, maybe I’ll run into you completely by accident and without pretext!) I want to slam my head against a wall to disrupt the obsessive, dizzying thinking. I do not at all take to heart the passage from Mark 4 that we discuss at bible study the day before: “A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29, NIV)
I ignore the truth it screams at me: growth is slow, imperceptible, out of my control. A seed can’t be rushed into a stalk into a wheat germ. I cannot prod it along with my tears and anxiety and journaling and library stalking, not even a little bit.
Even so, I am desperate for signs of change. Which is probably why, when your teenage sister texts – she got my number from you, and she wants to know if I’d like to come over to hang out with her – I think, sure, why not, and by the way, maybe I’ll just happen to see you while I’m at your house hanging out with your high-school aged sister. Surprise!
The whole drive, I consider whether I should perform a screeching u-turn, and I don’t; I sullenly ignore any voice that might take me away from you. I tell myself, it’s like mentoring. I’m a mentor to your sister. I’ve mentored plenty of youths – after all, I even spent a summer as a youth ministry intern, working with the youth pastor at my parents’ church. Surely, she needs a mentor, right? That must be why she reached out to me. That’s why I’m driving to your house. But I can’t meet my own eyes in the rearview mirror.
I park my car across the street from your driveway, and my stomach jumps when I see your red truck parked beneath the pine just to the right of the driveway. No big deal, I tell myself. I’m here to see Kim, not you. Right?
I ring the doorbell, Kim opens the door, and I walk inside your house, crossing the tile threshold, hoping and fearing your notice. Your sister opens the door to her room, just off the living room, next to the bathroom reserved for company use – it has beige carpets, beige walls, and a purple tie-dyed bed spread. We sit on her bed talking.
“So, um, how’s school going?” I ask.
“Not so good,” she says. “I don’t really like school that much.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” she says. “It’s just… complicated.”
I nod, knowingly, distracted by being in your house.
Then I hear something – you have walked up from the basement to raid the fridge upstairs, and you hear a voice you recognize. You walk toward the open door, and I turn and see you, and stiffen, wanting to hide beneath purple tie-dye, but knowing it’s too late.
You say, “Hey! I didn’t expect to see you here. Do you come here often?”
I let out my breath and allow a tight smile. “Kim invited me over to hang out,” I say.
You nod. “Cool,” you say. You turn to Kim, grinning: “So, that’s why you were asking for her number?”
“Duh,” Kim says and rolls her eyes.
“Well, don’t let me interrupt then,” you say to us.
Miraculously, you stand in the doorway and we resume our conversation, Kim telling me about her friends at school, about her love of animals, and about the time when her dog, Jack, survived a rattlesnake bite. All the while, you keep rubbing your eyes, which look bloodshot.
“Are you okay?” I finally ask you.
“It’s allergies,” you say.
“Bummer,” I say.
“Your eyes look weird,” Kim says.
You sigh, then say, “I think I’ll head to bed early tonight. You two have fun. I’ll see you when I see you, I guess,” and you walk out.
I raise a hand after you and say, “See ya,” like it doesn’t bother me at all to be staring at your back. After another fifteen minutes pass, I decide to head home myself.
“Thanks for coming,” says Kim.
“Thanks for having me,” I say. “Really.”
“I like you,” says Kim. “You know, Jeremy’s a really great guy.”
I laugh and say, “Oh, I see what’s going on here,” and I smile at her, feeling gratitude as I realize what was behind all of this: the tiniest sprout, poking through the soil after a long winter.
“Well, goodnight, Kim,” I say. “I hope school looks up,” and I give her a hug and walk out the door.
I am writing and serially publishing scenes from my falling-in-love memoir, about the anguished, beautiful, and spiritual way that my husband and I met, fell in love, and married. Read about my plans for this in-progress writing project here.
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