Friday, September 9, 2011

The Boy

As with any great story, mine has romance.  This blog is about two things, libraries and love, and I promised last time to sit down and write the story of my love.  Possibly the cutest part about it (and one of the reasons it fits so well into this blog): I met him at a library.  When we were 4.  During storytime.

The way my mother tells it, one of us convinced the other to climb under a table and not come out.  Our poor children's librarian, Teacher Dan, could not coax us out from our new hidey-hole.  So he made our mothers come in and get us.  And for her, evidently, it was very embarrassing.  I remember a very different version.  I remember that we both wanted to play with the same puppet, and we were fighting over the decision (and we each thought we so richly deserved to be the sole master of that puppet).  In the end, hoping to bring about a positive end to our quarrel, Teacher Dan made us share.  I remember thinking, "Yuck, he has a sweaty little hand."  But then we came out after storytime, me convinced I never wanted to see him again, and our moms had inexplicably become friends.  So, I decided to give him another look.  And now, I can't stop looking at him.

We were friends for quite a few years when we were little.  We recently found a home video of his fifth birthday party, whereupon my arrival he ran over to the camera and promptly introduced me to the camera as "his girlfriend".  Little did we both know that he was to be my first and last boyfriend, and I was to be his first and last girlfriend.  He was a fun playmate, always entertaining and fun, even if his little brother tagged along quite a bit.  I didn't mind.  He lived in a different city, however, and even though suburbia does tend to run together, he was in one school district and I was in another, and we began to see less and less of each other as the early years of elementary school whipped by.  Finally, we just stopped hanging out.

Years passed and I didn't think about him.  I was a junior in college, home for the summer.  I was depressed.  I had just spent six months going out with a guy I knew I had no future with, simply because for some sadistic reason I enjoyed it.  I say sadistic, because this boy was borderline abusive.  He never complimented me or was affectionate, he was vindictive, petty, and cruel, and he didn't really want to be tied down to a girlfriend.  He was fine with having someone to spend Saturday nights making out with, but he wasn't so okay with a label that might have kept him from dating someone else.  Should something else better come along.  Finally, when he told me we should break up for the summer because two hours travel was too much between our vacation cities (but that we could try again in August), I finally saw the light all of my friends and family had been trying to shine in my eyes for the past six months.  It hit me like a high-beam searchlight in a dark cornfield, and I was ashamed.  How could I have let him treat me like that?  I was smart, independent, and attractive, and I was going to go places.  I had decided on my career path, and I was taking steps toward it.  He had blinded me and allowed me to give up on myself.  He had systematically crushed the real me under the boot heal of some person who vaguely looked like me but in no actual way resembled me.  I broke up with him, and we have not spoken since.  Mercifully.  I went home that summer with my tail between my legs, hurting, vulnerable, and angry.  I dedicated myself to finding myself (for about the fourth time).  Maybe refinding would be a better word.  I was rediscovering what I had lost along the way, courtesy of the person my friends and I all referred to as "the Douchebag".  One night, I decided I was going to be cavalier with my heart, and I was going to flirt my way all through the small town I grew up in.

Enter Eric.  Vaguely dirty-hippie looking, elementary school reprise in a surprisingly cute package.  I ran into him casually at a tea shop at the local mall (which nevertheless has its own Wikipedia page. . .welcome to my hometown).  He recognized me (instead of the other way around), and spoke to me as if he was interested in what I had to say.  This was a bit of a novelty, and I used to know him in, like, third grade, so I thought "what the heck".  "Maybe this is just what I need this summer".  However, he proved to be unreliable on the setting up and keeping dates front (we never actually had one, he was so bad at it), so I discarded that option fairly quickly.  Now, don't go getting the idea that I'm a callous wench who dates around like it's nobody's business and I am a heart-breaker.  Nothing of the sort.  I was ungainly and chubby in high school, and it took me a long time to realize I was cute and fun and had something to give.  Even now, I still struggle with self-esteem and body image issues almost daily.  I guess it just comes with the territory of being a girl.  Anyhow, my mentality this summer was to just date around -- don't get serious, don't break any hearts, don't get your heart broken.

Enter Adam.  Also a friend from elementary school, he was balding (ever so slightly), rough-and-tumble, and sweet.  I was in the Ace Hardware near my house, picking up some oddity or other, with my hair all tousled and my grimiest sweat pants loosely hanging around my waist.  Truth was, I had just rolled out of bed and decided to tag along with my parents.  There he was, enthusiastic and eager to ask me out.  We exchanged phone numbers, and unlike Eric the eternal procrastinator, Adam set up a lunch date.  I had a nice time, we talked, I enjoyed his company.  I thought perhaps there was something lacking, but he certainly was charming.  Maybe this could be a little more?  We went on a second date, and decided to put a cautionary label on things.  Then, my family and I went on vacation for two weeks to northern California.  I got a case of the blues, and though he tried to handle it, he in no way, shape, or form helped me out at all.  I decided two things on the way home: I was going to break it off with Adam the first chance I got, and I was going to look up more friends from elementary school.  Riding across some god-forsaken stretch of southern California, my feet propped up awkwardly on the seat in front of me, I asked my mom, "What was Philip's last name?"  The boy from storytime.  My friend, my companion, my partner-in-crime.  She answered with a long and heinous German last name that I instantly thought, "I can find that on Facebook."  A week later, I had friend requested him.

Enter Philip.  Philip.  I went out on a limb to find him.  There were several Philips who fit the bill, and I didn't know where he went to high school, just the general area where he lived, and though there was one likely candidate, his profile picture gave nothing away about what he actually looked like.  So I messaged him, with a hesitant note asking if he was the same Philip all those years ago.  He replied that he was!  And he wanted to meet.  How was Monday?  11 AM?  And did I like coffee?  WHOA.  Who was this guy?  He already knew I like coffee (wild but possible. . .it is Facebook) and he was setting up a concrete time to meet.  I was in.  We met at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf by my house, and that's when it happened.  I was standing at the counter, talking to yet another boy whose name will be forgotten by the long erosion of time, and he came up to me.  He had short hair, a plaid shirt, and glasses.  He was cute.  But I didn't want to judge to quickly.  And he caught me off guard.  So I took my time getting a good look at him.  We both got a cup of coffee, and we sat down to talk.  And we talked.  And we talked.  And we talked.  And I thought he was simply wonderful.  I began to get nervous, and to laugh weirdly, and to have the little sweats when you meet someone you like and hope they like you back.  But there was nothing I could do but desperately try to be myself.  And apparently he liked who I was, even though at one point, when I was playing nervously with my bracelet, I absentmindedly launched it across the coffeeshop where it clattered loudly.  I slunk up to retrieve it, but he was laughing and I couldn't help laughing too.  It was just too ridiculous not to.  We talked from eleven in the morning until four in the afternoon with only one five minute bathroom break.  He was so absorbing -- and adorable.  And I actually accused him of spying on my Facebook for information about me -- it fit so perfectly with who I was.  We both loved coffee, we were band geeks in high school, we had both come out of long relationships with crappy people, and we both wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest because we loved rain and trees and new places.  He dropped me off at my house, and we hugged goodbye.  And then the next morning he left on a three day camping trip.

But we didn't stop talking.  It turned out he was going on this trip with a new friend. . .that I went to high school with.  That kicked off a three-day text conversation that didn't end.  And along the way, we flirted, we talked about each other, we learned new things, and it started.  On Thursday, the day he was set to get back, I was a busy beaver.  I had just found out that I needed to have emergency gum surgery the next morning -- they were going to take part of the roof of my mouth and surgically attach it to the bottom front gum, to prevent further recession.  Yikes.  And I was spending all day with my aunt and cousin, making aprons.  I sent Philip pictures of my print, my process, and it was very exciting.  Then we decided to meet up that night -- and I was a mess.  I had been working all day long, I hadn't put on any make-up, and I was a sweaty August pile of girly goo.  I asked my cousin what I should do -- I really liked this boy and I thought maybe it could go somewhere -- should I put on make-up or not?  And she told me that if he really liked me, he'd still think I was pretty and would like me.  That clinched it.  Al fresco face for me.  Even more surprising to me was that he didn't mind at all, and even thought I was pretty.  He picked me up, again in a plaid shirt (little did I know this was all but his uniform -- how hot!), and I felt the sparks start to go.  We went and had coffee, and then around eleven or midnight went back to his house.  We watched silly videos on YouTube (that were actually funny, which is not something I experience on all my previous dates), and talked and laughed and fell for each other on his comfy bed.  Then, he kissed me.  And it was the most amazing kiss I'd ever had.  "I've been wanting to do that all evening," he whispered, "I've just been waiting to get up the courage."  "I've been waiting for you to do that all evening," I whispered back, exhilarated and thrilled.  He walked me to my door, and we kissed, and he promised to come over right after I got home from my appointment the next day.  He left, and I went to bed, barely able to sleep before my 8 AM appointment.

The next day, when I fresh from the doctor's, my mouth numb in ways I didn't think was physically possible and with a wad of cement the size of a quarter attached firmly to the roof of my mouth, he came over.  And he brought a plant (I love plants) and some jello.  My mom left for work, and we snuggled down on the living room floor (the couch being difficult for a 6'3" man like him to negotiate sometimes), and we watched all my favorite girly, feel-good movies, namely Music and Lyrics and Help! and he loved them.  And we kissed a little, and we snuggled a lot, and somewhere between all of that I decided that I had never felt this way about anyone before, and I wanted him to stick around.  So when we were lounging out on his car, in the way that was to be our signature move for the rest of my time at my parents' house (so still today), I asked him to be my boyfriend.  And he said yes.  And, to date, it was the best day of my life.

Just when I had decided not to look for love, it hit me smack in the face.  I was blessed with the most kind, compassionate, smart, cute, funny, and thoughtful man on the planet.  He helped me find who I was, he is supportive in every way I could want, and his snuggles are the best I could ever hope for or want.  I went home to find myself, but really, I found more than that.  I found my other half.

Stay tuned for further installments -- he's still adorable, and I love him more than life itself, so there will be further installments.  Just wait.  :)

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