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. Part Four can be found here. This is Part Five.
“How is Seattle?”
I read his words on my phone walking into a Whole Foods in a Seattle suburb. Why must you be so kind? And why must you text me? The month before, I was invited to travel and share my story to a youth service on a Sunday morning. Two of my friends, Kelsey and Bethany, volunteered to road-trip with me and we made a weekend adventure out of it. Seeing Randy’s text made my heart beat faster… and frustrated me. I wanted Randy to be interested in me but if he wasn’t interested, I wanted it to stop. I know he’s sitting in church right now, surrounded by people. Why would he even notice, even care to ask? Doesn’t his interest communicate something?
I opened up to Kelsey and Bethany over dinner about Randy only the evening before in the restaurant of our hotel. “So, there’s this guy… his name is Randy.” They pulled their chairs closer. “Yes. Tell us more,” Bethany said. “JDP! Yes, more!” Kelsey chimed in.
I started at the very beginning, the first day we met in Courtenay over a year ago. “I never thought anything of him. I was interested in other guys back then. He was simply a friend of a friend I met once. But lately,” I smiled, “I’ve been considering him. I don’t know… but I think we could work.” After ten minutes of listing all of the reasons why we would work and every single positive quality about Randy, I was smiling ear to ear. “Look at you all happy!” Bethany remarked. “Yeah,” I tried to tone down my smile, “Yeah. It could be good.”
I tried to guard my interest carefully but the potential of what could be was often on m y mind. During an afternoon hanging out with Kelsey–a high school friend of Randy’s from his hometown–I hinted at my interest in Randy. I could feel my heart beating in my chest and I hugged my cup of coffee tightly. “What’s the deal with Randy? He seems to be a pretty likeable guy. He’s surrounded by friends. I’m sure there are a lot of girls who would be interested in him…” She nodded. “As far as I know, Randy is being pretty careful right now. He wanted a year after moving here to grow friendships, not to pursue a relationship. But from the little he’s told me, he’s definitely pursuing someone right now.”
“Oh, yeah?” I tried my best to keep my face void of expression. It was casual conversation, as far as I was concerned. “Yeah. Randy’s making something happen with Brooke ASAP.” With Brooke? “Oh, awesome.” I replied, spilling words in agreement. “I thought it may be coming. I noticed something between them, that’ll be great. We all are friends, that’ll be so great,” There was a twinge of disappointment in my heart but I wasn’t out-right lying. I was friends with Brooke. I enjoyed both Randy and Brooke as people. So he’s not into me. So I read everything wrong. It’s fine.
And it was fine.
Until the evening when I was alone in my bedroom, all of the emotion and thoughts of the last few weeks replaying in my brain like a pathetic video reel. He’s like all the other boys you’ve ever been interested in. He didn’t mean anything by his texts, anything by hanging out with you, anything by your conversations. You are just his friend and he’s got a girl on the side. I hate texting. I hate small talk. I hate wasting my time.
Tears were forming in my eyes. I was annoyed. In a shining moment of adult maturity, I flung my pillow across the room until it hit the bedroom wall. I am being dramatic, I thought. I need to get it together. Randy is a genuine man. Did he ever flirt with me? No. Did he ever ask me out on a date, offer to pick me up? No. Did he ever text beyond a couple friendly words? No. He’s a connector – he loves people and he loves learning people. This isn’t his problem. It’s yours. And you can’t let this bother you. Now wipe your tears, pick up your pillow and stop the hissy-fit.
If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.
Randy wasn’t interested in me. Perhaps this was for the best. I mean, we couldn’t even carry a one-on-one conversation without a handful of awkward pauses scattered throughout. Chemistry, it seemed, was next to none. Maybe we dodged a bullet. (Because after all, I had heard conversation was an essential part of relationship…)
The Christmas season passed with cheer and New Year’s Eve arrived. I hosted a party at my parents home, inviting over eighty people from our church circles. The first two people to arrive? Randy and his roommate Jordan. Soon, the house was filled with people and Randy was simply one of the crowd. But after midnight, when the group was thinning, only six people stayed behind to play cards until after three in the morning. Randy was one of them.
In January, Randy invited me to come along for a day trip to Seattle. I didn’t know who else was going along and I didn’t care to ask. I loved weekend adventures, seeing anything, seeing something new. I was happy to have a new friend who had a love for making fun plans. When we met at Randy’s place and jumped into (read: scaled the side of) his giant black pick-up, there were only four of us. Randy, his roommate, his roommate’s sister and myself. Interesting, for a guy who’s supposed to be pursuing someone…. lately, she’s nowhere in sight.
Our first stop after entering the United States through the Canadian border was Cabela’s. What’s that? Great question, same thought I had as we pulled off the I-5 and in front of a hunting and fishing megastore. The boys were in their glory, walking through rows of guns, camouflage shirts, fishing rods and… whatever else they sell at Cabela’s. The sheer amount of camouflage and neon orange sent my head spinning. The middle of the store held a half-glass enclosure, the ground staged to look like natural habitats. Fake taxidermy was everywhere – eagles, mountain lions, gophers, deer, elk – the whole animal kingdom.
This is a foreign world, I thought, while thumbing through pink camouflage hoodies in the women’s section mindlessly, thinking, What do you DO with all this stuff? I’ve never held a gun in my life. When I asked “What the heck…?” holding up bright small feathers, Randy explained, “Fly fishing.” I rolled my eyes. “But why the orange feathers? It’s an eye sore.”
There were small moments that day in Seattle with Randy, little moments of connection – a mutual interest, a shared laugh. When we visited one of my favourite used book stores in the University District, Randy walked with me from aisle to aisle. Our other two friends grew tired and bored after ten minutes (like most sane people would, ten minutes of dusty pages is enough) but not Randy. “What are you looking for?” He asked. I leaned up against a nearby wall of books using my left hand to count categories, “Either business, sociology, psychology, management, theology–current collecting all C.S. Lewis books.”
“On it.” He walked away from me, turning the corner to the next book aisle. I watched him. Not even twenty seconds later, “Have you read this? This is a good one.” I joined Randy’s aisle and saw “Good to Great” by Jim Collins in his hand, “Sure have! It’s awesome.” And so the conversation repeated for the next five books he held out. He was impressive. I was impressed. When we struck a C.S. Lewis gold mine (three copies I didn’t have at home) he volunteered to hold my growing stack. When I was paid up and the cashier held out the kraft paper bag over the counter, Randy grabbed it. “I’ll carry it for you.”
(This is me on a couch much too large for my short legs in Restoration Hardware. Randy took this picture.)
Little things Randy said over our day together, kept triggering the thought, Do you like me? But every time, I shoved them aside. Jamie, don’t do this again. A guy doesn’t like you until he says he likes you. Simple as that. You’re friends. Finding shelter from the cold January air, the four of us stepped into Chipotle for lunch. I dug into my purse, pulled out a hand-knit wool hand band and fit it snugly around my ears for warmth.
“I feel like I’ve seen that before,” Randy looked it over.
“I was saying I feel like I’ve seen that headband before.”
“Well… I only made it yesterday. So I don’t think so.”
“I thought there a photo on your website like that.”
“Oh. Um. OH! Yeah. In my promotional images from three years ago… I was wearing a beige one.”
He nodded. “That must have been it.”
By the end of our Seattle adventure, my respect and appreciation for who Randy was had grown in leaps and bounds. I was impressed with his ability to navigate, both in his truck on the highway and downtown and on foot, providing directions for our group in an unfamiliar city. Even after dark, with thick, hazy fog settling over the highway, through the mountain passes, rain beating down, he was in control. I was impressed with how he cared for every person he was around. Before every food decision, he’d consider my allergies and ask if the restaurant would be okay. In the evening, when my stomach was causing me pain, I excused myself from the group. When I returned five minutes later and slid back into my seat, I noticed a text. “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”
The hours on the highway cultivated plenty of conversation between the four of us. I loved getting to know everyone better that day – but I especially hung onto every word out of Randy’s mouth. I learned about his family – when his parents got divorced, what it was like to move to a new city, switch high schools three times and grow up watching the stress and pressures of being a single mom. Our conversation ranged from business to books to entrepreneurship to missions trips to family to travel. He was fascinating.
I wanted him! We would be amazing together. I listed every reason why to my mom over coffee that week, with dramatic hand movements. “Mom, he’s so smart. And talented. And business minded. And generous. And a MAN, I mean, he takes control and makes plans and cares for people! WE HAVE EVEN READ THE SAME BOOKS. WE ARE BASICALLY MEANT TO BE. How come he doesn’t see how perfect we are together!?” (#controlfreak)
Only a few days later, Randy texted. “I’d love to meet for coffee to pick your brain on a few business and/or non-profit ideas sometime. Would you have some time?”
Um. Yes. I would have some time.
I texted back. “Sure. When?”