This is a personal project of mine, one that will likely stretch for the next year. I want to write our love story, in detail, so many years from now I can remember what drew us to one another. The introduction of Forge can be found here and Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. This is Part Four.
I saw his name in my list of Facebook friends. Randy Watson. Hmm. Let’s explore. It wasn’t my first time on his profile, but it was my first time on his profile since I couldn’t stop thinking about him. Slowly, I clicked through his photos. It was so casual at first. Click, next one, click, next one, click. An email “dinged” announcing it’s presence in my inbox and I closed Safari to answer it. But a couple days later, I was back on Randy’s profile. Moving past his profile photos this time, I browsed his photo albums. Not too many photographs on here. Good. I like a guy who’s not into social media.
Randy’s amazing character qualities were easy to spot by both friends and acquaintances (the camp we fell into) alike. He was a hard worker, passionate about serving both in the church and internationally. He had traveled to Haiti and Mexico numerous times for mission trips. He loved his family and traveled home to visit his Mom lots. He was a gatherer of people and his basement suite was known as a “hangout” spot. He was a gracious host, cooking dinner for large groups of people almost every weekend. He was adventurous, he loved to be outside being active or exploring new places. He was generous, always picking up the tab at restaurants and bringing coffee to friends. He was resourceful, he owned a house in Courtenay and renovated it inside and out with his own hands.
It had been six months since Randy moved to Langley. He and I weren’t strangers but we weren’t friends. The only conversation I could recall (other than our brilliant lamp interaction) was back in August, at youth summer camp. He was working day and night as a counsellor and games co-ordinator. A group of us were in kitchen, poking tiny holes in eggs and blowing the yokes out into a plastic bucket. When the eggs were empty, we’d take a thin syringe filled with paint and slowly squirt the paint back into the egg shell. (The things we do for students.) I was growing frustrated at the ridiculously slow process, spilling paint all over the outside of the shells when I tried to squirt my syringe of paint too quickly. My friend Jenn looked over at my work and laughed, “Jamie. You need to fix that.” I started giggling uncontrollably and threw my hands up in the air, “I’m an 80% effort kind of girl. Good enough.”
Randy stood beside me, patiently and without a complaint, filling his shell with bright blue paint. “I don’t believe that for a minute.” I fired back, “You don’t?” “No. It doesn’t seem like your character to give 80%.” “Well, I do. Because the majority of people can’t tell the difference between 80% and 100% and my 80% is still dang good.” Cocky little thing, I was. “Okay.” He laughed. I could tell he didn’t believe me. “Okay, you build houses.” “Yes.” “When you build a house, I bet you install granite countertops in the kitchen and in the powder room and in the master bathroom and the guest bathroom but you know where you don’t install granite countertops? The basement. Because nobody sees that bathroom. Boom. Giving 80%.” He smiled, “That’s actually exactly what I do.” I threw my hands up again (I’m quite dramatic at midnight) “THANK YOU!”
Randy crossed my mind at least once a day. But I wasn’t interested. It took almost three weeks of this before I asked, Why? Why aren’t you interested?! Randy was generous and business-minded. He had a strong faith in God. He was tall–six foot two–and he was single. I don’t know. I don’t know why. I coached myself through the “I don’t know’s.” Maybe I should get to know him. Maybe I could ask him something about himself the next time I see him at church. About his work or Christmas plans or Haiti. He’s been there a lot. Yes, this would be a good start.
The next Tuesday youth night, I walked casually over to where Randy stood, chatting with a few other leaders and holding open the front church doors. Opening the opposite door to hold it, I said “Hi, how’s it going?” Incredibly self-conscious all of a sudden, I started picking at my nails. “Good!” “Great.” We looked out into the parking lot, smiling, waving and throwing out “How are you’s?” to the teens approaching the doors. Make conversation, Jamie. Say anything. “So, I heard you are going back to Haiti soon?”
He was, in a couple weeks. Was he going home for Christmas? Yes but he wasn’t sure exactly what day or how long he’d stay. “I don’t have that much time off of work. Even more so, with our Haiti trip so soon after.” We talked for all of three minutes before we were interrupted but the interaction felt like a personal victory. Great. We talked!
Every year our church organized a full-scale Christmas production complete with music. For all six showings over four days, the sanctuary was packed. Back stage the fifty-something people on the production and stage team scurried around to make all of the magic happen. When it was my family’s night to enjoy the production, I couldn’t stop myself from casually looking around for Randy throughout the evening. I know he’s on the stage team… he must be around here somewhere. When the lights were dimmed at the end of the show, people filed out of the sanctuary doors. In the hallway, I found a couple of friends and spent close to an hour talking. There’s always a “plan maker” in a group and I was determined to find out what and where that plan was, and who was going, of course. After a fruitless hour (except for a couple Randy sightings across the room) it seemed the Friday night crowd was headed home. I said goodbye to my friends, hung my purse over my shoulder and headed for the car, thinking about Randy as I walked.
Why are you trying so hard to be around his guy? I asked myself as I crossed the asphalt parking lot. There were few vehicles left and the winter night air was crisp, cold. When you did see him tonight, you didn’t do anything about it. And besides, you don’t like him. Of course I didn’t like him. I didn’t know him. I wanted to know him. Just then, two bright headlights and a diesel engine came roaring up behind me. I quickly jumped to the side and whipped my head back around to see the driver, my heart beating loudly in my chest. The truck came to a stop as the driver window rolled down. Randy.
“Hey! We’re headed to Megan’s for the evening.” He said, his left arm resting on the open window, his right hand firmly placed at the top of the steering wheel. I could see his roommate Jordan in the passenger seat. “Do you want to come?”
I smiled, fumbling with my keys, hesitating. “Ummm.”
“You don’t have to. I know it’s late. But I wanted to let you know you were invited.”
“Follow me!” He rolled the window up as he drove to the opposite end of the parking lot. Hastily, I opened my car door, started the engine and caught up to where he waited.
My only reason for being at the party was learning more about Randy. So I wasn’t going to let my chance pass by. Close to thirty people gathered in Megan’s kitchen, chips and drinks half-haphazardly placed out on the island. A movie was on in the family room – which meant people were texting in front of a movie in the family room. Some stood around the kitchen island, handy to chip refills but I watched where Randy would settle.
A small group sat down at the kitchen table (Randy and I included) and a few people lingered beside. To be honest, the crowd that evening wasn’t exactly my group of friends. I knew everyone’s names but knew very little about any one particular person. Most of my time was spent listening and laughing along to conversation. As the night went on, the conversation around the table grew more serious and the number of people interested few. I took note of how Randy answered questions, how he talked about what leaders he admired and what books he had read. He was never boastful – only offering information when asked. He was careful and gentle when sharing his opinions, especially when someone presented an opposite one.
He was amazing. But am I attracted to him? I didn’t know.
Midnight came and the group started to dwindle. The movie credits were scrolling and the empty chip bags were stuffed into the garbage can in the corner of the kitchen. My eyes burned with tiredness but I was no rush to leave Randy’s presence. The few of us still at the kitchen table pushed our chairs back and stood against the wall, small talking as is customary when leaving someone’s home. Randy leaned against the cabinet in a grey hoodie with his arms crossed, emphasizing his strong earned-from-manual-labour muscles. When I leaned against the cabinet next to him, my stomach flip-flopped. I think this means you’re attracted, Jamie.
“Thanks for coming with us!” Randy called out across the street a few minutes later as he climbed into his monstrous vehicle. (A one-ton diesel truck. Lifted. Black. With upgraded wheels. I would need a ladder to climb into that thing.)
“Thanks for inviting me!”
At nine o’ clock, my eyes finally decided to open the next morning. Midnight wasn’t my thing. With a yawn, I stretched out my legs and picked up my phone from my bedside table. Today was December 8th, Randy’s 24th birthday. I should text him… I barely know him. It’s just a text. You’re right, I should.
Opening messages, I typed R, a, n and selected “Randy Watson.” I started, “Happy Birthday! Hope you—“ No. Too generic. Nobody needs another birthday text. “Randy, I wanted to wish you—“ Too formal. I closed my eyes and put the phone down.
I got it. “Happy 24th Birthday Randy! I have a lot of respect for the man you are.” Yes, that’s a good choice, Jamie. Men want to be respected. I respect him. “I hope you have a great day celebrating.” I stared at my words, feeling my heart beating in my chest. Send it. You’re being ridiculous. Fine! I will. I did.
I was scrambling eggs fifteen minutes later when my phone buzzed. Fifteen minutes of torture. “Thanks Jamie! Really appreciate our friendship.”
Our friendship? Well. I guess “friendship” is positive.
My best friend Kristen, a fellow wedding photographer who lived across the continent in Maryland, was updated with every passing event, conversation, text or look. “Friendship is good,” she said. “You have had three real conversations. I wouldn’t call it a friendship.”
At church on Sunday I was anxious to see Randy again. We sat in the same row with a few mutual friends. We weren’t side by side but he was close enough to jumble up my nervous system. The “place to be” for lunch that day was Mongolie Grill, a fun, serve yourself at the buffet line with raw vegetables and raw meat before chefs cook your bowl on a hot-iron-grill kind of place. When a group of thirty young adults from our church descended upon the restaurant, I noticed Randy hung back. He didn’t rush to a specific seat when our table was ready, allowing others to go ahead. I decided to play my cards carefully… I wanted to sit beside him. Choosing the end of the table, my friend and I sat down. I watched Randy survey the tables before he pulled out a chair directly across from me and sat down. Oh my goodness, he chose to sit by me. Me! Out of 30 people!
Here he was, this intriguing specimen of man I “didn’t know if I liked” sitting across the table for the next hour. I wanted to be near him but now that we were, I went blank. Randy leaned over to talk to a friend a few steps away and I pretended to be wholly engaged with my friend not he right. The table went up to order and after weaving my way through the buffet line with the crowd, piling spinach, pineapple, broccoli, chickpeas, carrots, chicken and a little bit of stir-fry sauce into my bowl, I placed it on the counter near the grill. Back at the table, I attempted conversation, “How was your birthday?”
“It was really great!” In the morning, Randy said, friends arrived at his place and cooked breakfast before driving downtown to an outdoor skating rink. His team was needed at the church early afternoon for the final Christmas production, so it was a short celebration but an awesome one.
“So… what do you exactly do for work? I know you’re a contractor but like, what is involved in your company?” Nothing was natural about our conversation. Nothing flowed and I could feel it in my beating heart. After two boring questions, I was really making him want me by the third. “What are you doing for Christmas?” It left my lips and I was the world’s biggest idiot.
I’m recycling small-talk questions! Oh gosh. It was only the week previous, I stood beside Randy picking my nails and avoiding direct eye contact in the church lobby. I nervously asked the identical question. I silently prayed he wouldn’t remember. If Randy remembered, he didn’t show it. He answered politely, the same words to the same question. I decided to stop Jamie and Randy question hour and turned my attention toward the entrees starting to arrive, plate by plate.
When my phone buzzed a few hours later, I jumped for it when I saw Randy’s name. “Thanks so much for the lunch company today! ” My heart rate elevated. He was a kind, kind man… and a kind, kind liar. My “company” at lunch was nothing to text and thank me for. I could find him a kindergartener that would have asked better questions.
But somehow (in spite of myself) the friendship between Randy and I began to grow. We saw each other for a few minutes at church once or twice a week and when I didn’t see him, he was often on my mind. Our polite small talk turned into small polite texts – initiated by him. Randy was a social creature, it was easy to spot from across the room. He seemed to know everyone. He seemed to be involved in everything. He seemed to always have people around him. I wrote off his “How is your day going?” texts to friendliness, although they irked me inside.
Randy didn’t strike me as the womanizer kind but the walls around my heart didn’t care how sweet he seemed. Boys had walked on my heart too many times before. Texting is easy. It is non-committal. It is instant gratification. And it made me suspicious. I replied to Randy’s texts politely, with warnings ringing through my ears. Don’t text him more than once, Jamie. Don’t let another guy do this to you. I was surprised to find Randy was always the one to end conversations. “See you tomorrow at church,” He’d say. The best part (a novel concept!) when tomorrow would arrive and Randy saw me – he’d walk over, look me in the eye, open his mouth and ask more than he ever would over text.
Maybe this guy would be different.