This time on The Romatically-Inclined Survival Guide, we see more of the girl of my teenage dreams, as introduced in Part I. In fact, she and I go on a date.
Men, sometimes you have to pull out all the stops. Maybe they are fancy and complicated, maybe you only have four days to prepare, no money, and only a casual date to pull it off. In those circumstances, it is about showing who you really are. And the girl wants you to know who she is. Girls love honesty, and they can give it (as some may have experience) and sense it better than we can. Sometimes she and you are “all the stops.” Be genuine... Also, it never hurts to have at least one trick up your sleeves. This is part II of a story about hope, rejection, and the lessons learned from a pretty hard fall.
"Michael Hosea was a quiet man, but there wasn't anything soft about him. There was something in his look that made men treat him with respect. It wasn't just his height or the strength of his body, which were both impressive enough. It was the clear steadiness of his gaze. He knew what he was about even if the rest of the world didn't."
--Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love
It was 6:15 pm on a Friday night. I hopped out of the shower and drying my hair to Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September”. Twisting my hips between the towel to a beat, and such a funky one at that, was always more entertaining than silence. And I needed to get psyched up.
Why am I showering at 6:15 pm on a Friday night? Why do I need to get psyched up? Because tonight is my big night. Tonight is the night that I take the girl of my teenage dreams on a date! Or, rather, she takes me out on a date. But importance can be lost in the details. Grace and I are going out on a date! With the mantra “do you remembah?” increasing my mojo as the 70s song faded out, my ipod’s shuffle feature snapped me back into reality by blasting some of my sister’s Hannah Montana in my face. As soon as I could scamper, wet feet and all, and click the next button with gratifying punctuation, shuffle again did me some wonders. “Let’s Get Down to Business” from Mulan came on. “Ok,” I muttered. “Let’s do this thing.”
“Oh motherrrrr!” I yelled out of my bedroom door. “What the heck am I supposed to wear on a reverse-date?!”
When my mom finally made it over to my room, I had settled on what I thought was a perfectly acceptable pair of cargo shorts and a polo. I asked her what she thought. She did one of those things that every girl does when they don’t approve of something. She looked up up-down-and-up again. Then she squinted and wrinkled her nose, pursing and raising the right side of her lips. (Men, women don’t have to say anything- their faces tell all. Just look for the wrinkled nose. I promise.)
After trying what seemed like fifteen different outfits, which apparently isn’t a lot, we had our choice picked out. Pretty simple stuff: blue jeans, a pair of my dad’s Sperrys, and a casual button-up shirt on which I had to roll up the sleeves because they were too short. But hey, I didn’t look half bad for an awkward teenager with confidence issues.
She pulled up at 7:02 pm to pick me up on what turns out to be only one of three awkward reverse-date directives. Exactly two minutes late. “Is she perfect or what,” I thought to myself. I jumped out the front door before she could come say hello to my entire family, who were practically drooling to poke fun at me for my obvious crush and subsequent nervousness.
I opened the passenger door and almost tripped over myself getting into the car. She sat their smiling that stunning smile. Her hazel eyes seemed to shimmer in the evening sun. She is beautiful because she is genuine. An untainted beauty in a stained world. The slightest imperfection, invisible to me, must have been the only thing that could have confirmed her reality. “God did good on this one,” I thought as I climbed into the car. Country music from a mix CD was playing. A mix CD, a woman after my own heart. “You think you look beautiful,” I confessed. She just giggled sheepishly and thanked me as we pulled away. I looked over at her and told myself I had nothing to lose. This was our time, at last.
Chili’s is a classic high school first-date spot. It has a relaxed atmosphere, isn’t too expensive, and can be as long or as quick you want it to be. Well, we were there two and a half hours. Just talking, eating, and sipping on our drinks. Mostly talking. Two and a half hours! Much of the conversation revolved around our past together. The camp we grew up going to, high school drama, and favorite things we are going to miss when we go away for college. We talked about music, dancing, and movies. About the Spurs, our Alamo Heights Mules, and the UT-A&M rivalry. Where we had come from and where we wanted to go. What we wanted to be when we grew up and what our parents wanted us to be. I had no clue time was passing in such length, and I didn’t care. The best part was she didn’t either. We were honestly lost in one another’s eyes and words. I never wanted to break that eye contact, but after a couple of dirty glances from the waitress, Grace paid (the second awkward directive ) and we left.
“Wow, I can’t believe we were there for so long!” The way she said that made me think she was a little embarrassed. But it was hard to tell.
“It was so great to catch up after so long. Why don’t we ever see each other?” My plan was getting its feet under it.
“That is a great question. We will just have to change that,” she told me cheerfully. “What do you want to do next? It’s already 9:45.”
I wasn’t panicked. This was my chance, and I had come fully prepared. About a month prior to this happened, I had dreaming of this chance… “We could take a walk around Border’s, there are always funny folks in there.”
We headed over to Border’s, a giant book store in the same strip mall as Chili’s. We meandered around the store, she laughing at magazines with celebrities on the covers and myself making nerdy comments about Popular Mechanics. We meandered upstairs to the fiction section, and by perfect design, over the to the Christian-fiction section. I stopped at C.S. Lewis, muttering something vaguely intelligent so that she would stop and look at the back of the book. I continued on, glancing from book spine to book spine, searching for one novel in particular. Then my searching eyes caught it. I nonchalantly strolled over and picked a copy of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Thumbing through the romance novel, I looked up at Grace, her expression already a combination of excitement and anticipation.
“I read this about a month ago. Picked it up one morning and couldn’t put it down, just a really great story. Have you read it?”
She just looked at me. It was almost as if she was about to cry but then she started talking at light speed, the way only girls can. I caught the gist of the verbal burst of confetti. “- favorite book! - can’t believe a guy- oh my gosh!” All were some form of appreciation of my reading of the story of a broken heart being healed. And there was a lot of appreciation. I tried to look shocked through the whole thing. But let’s face- I knew it was coming all along. About a couple months prior, I overheard one of her friends say that Redeeming Love was her favorite novel. And it never hurts to get inside your crush’s favorites list. Playing clueless just seemed like more a fun way to play it, rather than spill my status as an expert eavesdropper. And boy, did it work. It was the card up my sleeve.
Don’t get me wrong. I really did enjoy the book. It is an amazing story, and I really couldn’t put it down. But what I loved more: talking about the novel and the storylines with Grace until the store closed at 10:30. She had some great insights and for the first time, I got to see the softer, inner heart of this girl. All I wanted to do was listen to her, and all she wanted to do was to have someone listen. That night, for those thirty minutes, I was that someone. I had broken that barrier. I knew, even if it was just a little, some of her heart. And for that, I didn’t think she could forget me. I knew I would never forget her. Most of the time, I’m told, those feelings are mutual.
Maybe this isn’t random. Maybe this is more than a crush.
The rest of the night was amazing. We couldn’t stop talking. About her, about me, about anything and everything. We stargazed in a sketchy park called “Blue Grass Park” that she didn’t believe existed. Then we ran to the car out of only-moderately-pretend-fear that we were going to get shot. We almost died from laughter in the car as my jokes were hitting just right. The girl of my teenage dreams was laughing my jokes. We went to Starbucks, where we both got Peppermint Hot Chocolate. We sat on the patio where we did one of my favorite activities. I don’t really know what it is called, but we simply asked each questions, one at a time. Each question is intentional, a personal question meant to get to know the other person in ways that you didn’t previously. We went back and forth for almost an hour. Then it was almost midnight, and subsequently, curfew. Just as I was suggesting, at my greatest hesitation, we should get back, she asked the last question: “What is your dream?” I froze and then irked out a smile. Then I paused for a couple of moments and said one more time that it was getting late.
I didn’t answer the question that night, but I promised her that I would some other time. She looked forward to it.
As we pulled back up to my house, she walked me to the door (final awkward directive of reverse-dates). As I was pulling out my keys, she just looked at me. Was it longing? I don’t know. But for the courage I was going to need for my next move, I pretended it was:
“I had a lot of fun tonight,” I said with slight exhaustion but full sincerity.
“It was a really great night. I am so glad we did this. I just feel like we never see each other anymore.”
“I know. We should really change that.”
“And I want to hear your answer.”
“And I have more questions for you…” There was pause.
“Well… good night.” We hugged for a solid twenty seconds. It was a strong hug, and I felt so good having her wrapped up in my arms. Her head was resting on my chest, and I’m certain she could hear my heartbeat.
As we parted, she turned to walk down the steps of our porch. “Hey! I would really like to answer that question after I pay you back for this evening. You know, do it the old-fashioned way.”
“I would like that, I think.” She gave me one last smile and turned to walk toward her car. I opened the door to my house, stood there until she made it safely to the car, and waved goodbye as she drove off. I closed the door slowly. And then I collapsed on the nearest couch. For a few moments, I was perfectly still. I was giving myself a firm reality check. Did that really just happen? ... Yep. I jumped up with more confidence that I had ever felt before. I sauntered to my room, threw on my pajamas, and brushed my teeth long and good. Then I slept the sleep of a satisfied man.
There was so much more than just hope.
to be continued…