This is a personal project of mine. 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. Part Five can be found here. Part Six can be found here. Part Seven can be found here. Part Eight can be found here. This is Part Nine.
After months of wondering and questioning, there it was, out in the open. Randy likes me.
The morning after Randy walked me down the pier on that chilly evening, I traveled to Arizona to meet my parents for a vacation in the sun. As I watched the turnstile for my suitcase to arrive, I mindlessly flipped through my instagram feed on my phone, thankful for wi-fi and a chance to do anything but think about Randy and what I was or wasn’t feeling. Outside on the curb, I looked for my parent’s familiar black truck and when I spotted it, balanced my laptop bag on my suitcase and my purse on my shoulder and crossed the street.
My mom greeted me with a hug, my dad with a wave from the passenger seat. I had texted them “the news” the night before and I knew they both wanted to hear more. We drove in the direction of the gated community their home was located and my mom prodded, “Sooo? How was last night?”
I sighed. “I don’t know. I mean. It was good. I mean, I’m glad I know. It’s good to know, y’know? It was nice. I don’t know.”
My dad laughed, “Sounds conclusive.”
“Okay. So basically, the evening started when he picked me up from our house around six.” I told my parents about the whole evening from start to finish. The drive to church. The awkward service. The drive to the pier. The pier walk. The conversation. His honesty. They kept quiet but I knew they loved Randy. Everybody loved Randy. There was nothing to not love. And that freaked me right now.
When we were settled back at the house and had finished dinner, Randy called me. I knew he’d be calling – he asked if he could and I wasn’t about to say no. He likes me, I thought I liked him, so this is what two people moving in the direction of a relationship do. I cuddled up under the blankets in the spare bedroom, door closed, staring at the ceiling fan as we talked for an hour. I was nervous. He was nervous. The conversation was slow and awkward… our one-on-one conversations could be counted on two hands and this was our first on the phone.
I wanted Randy to pursue me, really get to know me.
I wasn’t going to make it easy on him like all the other guys. Just because you call me doesn’t mean I’m going to start sharing my whole life with you. I waited for him to ask questions and sat through the silence as Randy tried his best to figure out what to say to this new girl on the other end of the line. When we hung up, I breathed a sigh of relief. Getting to know someone is a lot of work, I thought. When Randy asked about calling me again the next day, I told him, “I’m going to spend time with my parents tonight.” It was true, I was going to. But I mainly just wanted to be on vacation, “introverting” by myself and I didn’t want to deal with the silent phone pauses again.
I felt guilty and confused.
I needed more time. It was all too much, too fast. In between Randy’s frequent texts, he consumed my thoughts. No more than an hour could pass in conversation with my parents without Randy’s name coming up again. They knew better then to mention him – it was me. I’d bring our conversation on the pier up again, with another thought, another analysis. My mom coached me through deciphering my feelings. “Jamie, do you remember all the weekdays and weekends you’d spend at Randy’s house? Until after midnight? You loved hanging out with him. That wasn’t normal behaviour for you.“
It was true. I went from a lone little introvert at home with my family or with just one friend on most weekday evenings to finishing work and driving over to his place almost every day to play cards, watch TV, hang out, simply be around him. Mom finished one afternoon conversation with, “Please don’t think yourself out of a perfectly good man before you even get home to see him. Wait.“
She was right.
(Our Arizona patio where I did a lot of thinking…)
After a few days of thinking (a lot of thinking) I began to see “what we were doing” from Randy’s side. Randy was not my past relationships or interests. If I continued to project those fears onto Randy, this was never going to work. We were never going to work. It wasn’t fair to wait on the phone saying something only when being asked. I had to meet Randy halfway. I had to trust him. The next evening we talked, I worked hard to share. (Translation: I literally googled things like phone dating questions and questions to get to know someone and made a list of topics to follow along. I wish this was a witty line.)
When I began to put effort in, we had good conversation. It wasn’t anything thrilling, life-changing or even flirtatious but it was a solid, first date conversation. When Randy’s inevitable “I love talking with you” (or something similar) text appeared on my phone after our call I smiled a little. A big change from the once-felt fear.
Five days after Randy’s “I like you,” I wrote in my journal:
“Randy plans things. He’s not boring. He’s responsible. He takes charge. And he likes me, he really, really likes me. I think I could like him. I think I could like talking to him about my day, doing things with him, driving around on Sundays, going for walks, hugging him, eating dinner with him, hanging out with my family and him, learning more about his mom, meeting his sister and brother, I think I would like those things. He wants to know me and I believe he’ll put in the effort. If things emotionally aren’t ‘jiving’ right away there’s a lot of other things that make up for it. Some couples take time before they click. It starts as an interest and it builds. I want to let him lead me. I want to be pursued. I want to be wanted and cared for and paid for and ‘wooed’ and all of those things. I know Randy will do all of that. I know he will be an incredible boyfriend. I just have to figure out if I want him to be mine.”
My words spilled out on the page, a jumble of nerves and fears with small bits of anticipation and hopefulness in the mix.
We would be in different cities for the next three weeks and Randy and I talked and/or texted every single day. I thought about Randy for hours. I spent afternoons by the pool laying in the sun, listening to music and rewinding our conversations only to play them again and rewind once more…. remembering every word and detail. I verbalized my fears to my parents and later in my trip in Maryland to my friends Kristen and Caleb. There was a lot of “I don’t know what I fe-e-e-e-e–e-e-e-l.” Many of my days felt almost “out of body” as if I was removed from my own life and trying to pin-point my own emotions. Okay, I feel nothing right now… Oh! I smiled thinking about him just now! That’s a good sign! When he texted this morning to say “Good Morning” I was happy!
(Kristen and I at Starbucks, sharing a coffee date probably filled with talk about Randy.)
I arrived home in Vancouver two weeks later, only a couple days after Randy had left home for Haiti. He was leading a team of youth from our church on missions there for the next week, his fifth trip to the developing country. The next day, I happily settled into my routine of unpacking, laundry, cleaning and the start of a new work day. When I opened our front door on my way out to run errands, a white envelope fluttered to my feet. “Jamie” was written in the centre of the envelope in small, neat capital letters.
I smiled, thinking, This man is something else. I wonder who he convinced to do the delivery work? I opened up the envelope and carefully lifted out the card. A quote by Carl Jung was on the front. “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
Carl “The personality type theory I was blabbering about on the night he told me he liked me” Jung.
Randy was good. And I was impressed.
I began to read, ignoring the urge to skim and reminding myself to absorb every word. “Hey! Hope you had a good trip home. I saw this card in Bellingham and thought of you and our conversation the night before you left. My first thought was ‘Forge‘ and how two intense things can combine to make something crafted and strong.”
The card went onto say how much he had enjoyed our phone calls up to that point; different things he has noted and loved about my character, intelligence and passion. And that he had picked up a Carribean phone plan “for emergencies” and he’d “touch base at some point.” Also included in the card was a Woods Coffee gift card, my favourite coffee shop in the town of Bellingham, Washington. Randy had never been but he made the drive just to buy me the gift card.
Working long days in Haiti for the next week was no deterrent to Randy’s communication. The Carribean phone plan “for emergencies” was entirely used to call me, every other day, at the end of his day. Well, that’s not completely true. Randy mentioned on the phone one evening he used five minutes of his minutes to call his mom. “Mom, I have to go now, just wanted to say I’m good and I love you, I’m saving my minutes for Jamie.”
Finally, our three weeks apart was coming to a close. Randy and his missions team were on their way home and I was ready to see him.
Not that I was excited. Excited held too much emotion for me. I pictured a squealing girl jumping up and down for her boyfriend at the airport. No, not me. And he’s not my boyfriend. And there would be no airport scene. I was simply ready to figure out what “we” were. Three weeks apart without any new interaction “in person” to analyze could drive a thinker crazy.
At four o’ clock on a Friday afternoon, I parked my car on Randy’s street and turned off the ignition. I took a deep breath. In a minute, I’d see Randy for the first time since that evening on the pier. I knew he was excited as could be. He had texted me as much every single day of his time away. All I was thinking about was, How should we say hi? Quick hug, long hug? I want to get the greeting over with this is too much pressure. Too much pressure was also the reason I insisted meeting Randy at his house before our date. There would be no pacing around my house, one eye out the window on our driveway, biting my cuticles (a bad habit I have yet to break) expecting his truck.
I held my purse under my arm as I walked down the side of Randy’s house. Country music played loudly through the open door to Randy’s basement suite. I knocked on his door quickly and called his name above Randy Houser’s voice and walked into his familiar living room. A flood of memories: twenty people over for barbeque after a day of beach volleyball, movie nights with friends, playing Rook until midnight with just Randy and his roommate, warming up my ice cold feet in his kitchen sink, Randy offering me a green tea on the couch, checking if I needed anything, Randy being the gracious host to everyone who entered.
“Randy?” I called again. One, two, three seconds passed before Randy came out of his bedroom with a jacket in hand. He exhaled and smiled a huge grin, “Hey!” he said, wrapping me in a tight hug. He pulled away after a short squeeze and asked, “You ready to go?”
On the phone together two weeks before, we had planned an evening trip to Seattle. A favourite pastor of both Randy and I’s was speaking at a church in Seattle on Friday night at an event called “Nights of Generosity.” The event happened to be the same day Randy flew into the Seattle airport. Randy’s team arrived in the middle of the night from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti and Randy drove part of the youth team back from Seattle to Langley in the wee hours of the morning. I asked him before our plans were set, “Are you sure you’re going to be okay? That’s a lot of driving for one day. After ten days in Haiti. With twenty youth kids. We don’t have to go.” He insisted he’d feel great.
Sure enough, when I asked Randy on the way out to his truck how he was feeling, he smiled, “I got four hours of sleep, I’m great!” and opened the passenger side door for me to enter. We spent the next three hours driving down the I-5 and adjusting to conversation in-person. No more phone calls and no more time apart. I loved listening to Randy talk about his time in Haiti, his family and work. He was good at sharing and I was content to listen, something that took less energy for introverted me than sharing my own thoughts.
The Nights of Generosity event featured a handful of speakers doing amazing things in the world of missions, non-profit organizations, business and leadership. As we sat side by side in the auditorium, I was oh-so-very aware of where Randy’s shoulder was touching mine. The event was long, almost three hours, but it went by quickly with engaging speakers and Randy’s shoulder so near.
I didn’t know what I was feeling. I was almost scared of us…. whatever we were. It might sound silly, but I almost felt Randy and I were “too good” for one another. We both shared the same passions, many of the same skills and the same drive. I didn’t want to be with somebody because we worked “on paper,” we worked “in theory.” I wanted to feel “it,” whatever it was. I wanted to feel something, if I even could.
After our evening in Seattle, I knew Randy really, really liked me. He would see me every day if he could… and he could, because we lived only ten minutes apart. (Although, I doubt even an hour’s commute wouldn’t have deterred him.) We saw each other with a couple friends on Saturday afternoon, both of them knowing about our date, but nobody wanting to be the first to bring it up the open. (Okay by nobody, I mean me. Everyone else was just being kind.)
I was still processing my feelings. On Saturday evening, before seeing each other again the next day at the church we both attended, I sent Randy a text. “If it’s okay, I really want to be as normal as possible tomorrow. I’d prefer to not sit together because this is so new.” Not exactly what you want to hear after a first date but Randy, ever a patient man, said of course, whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.
The Sunday morning service passed slowly as I sat with a couple of my friends, both of them oblivious to Randy and I’s growing relationship. I noticed Randy walk in, we waved and afterwards, I walked out with friends. We had spent time together on Friday evening in Seattle and Saturday in the park with friends, that was enough for one weekend. I still had a full life, with friends, my own things to do and my routine! No guy was going to come strolling in and take all of my time away.
But when Randy texted me to ask if he could pick me up for a walk along the river near my house that afternoon, I found myself replying, “I’d like that.” Within an hour we were driving together drove down a long, slowly-winding road with country music playing quietly in the background until we came to a gravel parking lot. I liked being with Randy. Just us…. with no one else around to worry about or watch our interactions.
We walked the trail that afternoon side by side, my hands alternating between securely in the pockets of my shorts and hanging by my side. A few minutes in, Randy brought up my text the evening before about us keeping a low-profile in public. He turned to me, “Something you need to know about me, Jamie… is I have an all-in kind of personality.” He laughed a little, “I’m 100% in. Short term it can be kind of challenging with relationships… but I know long-term this is a strength of mine. I’ll always want to text and invite you into my plans and pick you up and drive with you but if you want your space, want to say no, I’ll never be offended. That’s just who I am. You just have to communicate what you want.”
I breathed out and nodded, “Okay,” my eyes alternating between the trees around us and Randy’s green eyes. I slowly responded, “Well, I’m 100% into…” I cleared my throat, “figuring out how I feel. But I’m not 100% sure I’m going to date you. We aren’t in a relationship so I really want to be careful to not act like we’re in one.”
I shyly looked back at Randy. His face didn’t changed at all. He assured me confidently, “No pressure from me at all. I don’t want to rush you. I am happy to wait for you. I’m just happy to spend time with you.” Great. It was settled. Spending time with each other was all we were doing. He dropped me off back at my parent’s home and we parted with a “See you later!” until friend’s birthday party a couple hours later.
We wouldn’t drive together. I’d go with a friend. A friend who didn’t know we spent the afternoon together. At the party, I’d try to focus on my friends, not the boy I was “seeing” in the other room. I tried to be aware of Randy’s feelings, joining a few conversations near him later that evening before parting ways. When I got home later that evening, there was a text from Randy. “I’ve never enjoyed getting to know someone this much. Thank you for being open, you’re incredible.” And when I woke up the next morning, another, “Being able to spend time one on one with you is the greatest. As I slowly begin to understand more about who you are, the more I appreciate and admire you.”
He was clearly falling for me fast and hard. His words were gentle and kind and how could any girl not be head over heels in love with a man like him? He was literally the stuff Nicholas Sparks movies were made of. He had assured me there was “no pressure” for me to figure out what I was feeling… but how could I not feel pressure? He was standing there, sharing his heart day after day, date after date, emotional text after emotional text and all I could do was express, “Yeah, I’m okay to keep hanging out.”
I didn’t feel anything for Randy. And nobody could guarantee me I ever would. I didn’t understand my own heart and it was frustrating. When I began to open up to certain close friends in my life about our “relationship” I would only leave more confused. Verbally processing what I was or wasn’t feeling was usually met with caring–but confused–looks. What are you supposed to say to your friend who’s with a great guy who’s crazy about her but she’s not feeling a thing? “Well, just because it’s perfect on paper… you really need to feel attracted to him. Maybe you should back off,” they’d tell me.
But then, “No!” I’d think. “That sounds awful! I don’t want Randy to leave! I don’t, I don’t. I just… don’t know if I like him.” I couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t interested in the “chase” I wasn’t interested in manipulating or hurting Randy’s feelings. I literally had to be true to my heart with him and my heart wasn’t communicating anything to my brain. For a few days, I wrote off any kind of communication with friends about Randy. It wasn’t helpful. It made it worse. Why couldn’t I be normal?
When the two of us were together I was happy! I loved being with Randy, never felt in a rush to leave… but when I’d be back in my bedroom alone I was confused and unsure. I liked what Randy was about. I liked his plans. I liked his hobbies. I liked his character, integral and honest. There was nothing about Randy I didn’t like. Maybe I needed more time. Maybe Randy was right, I don’t need to know right now. I could take my time. We could continue to hang out, be friends! We could grow together! I wondered if I could have fun with Randy. Not the kind of fun where I enjoy an afternoon walk with a cup of coffee (that’s a good kind of fun, too!) but the kind of fun where I could be my honest, hyena-laughing self. I couldn’t force that level of comfort… and I certainly can’t feel it after a handful of dates.
I couldn’t get over this thought, How did you get to know someone? No, seriously. How do you get to know someone? Randy had twenty-four years of memories and experiences and I had twenty-two years of memories and experiences. A collective over four decades of life without the other person. If dating was eventually to find a life partner… how would we ever know those parts of one another? We weren’t in those years. How could Randy ever get to know my past in the way I know my past? How would Randy ever understand how I think?
To Randy, getting to know someone came easy. He’s extraverted, a people person who thrives off of building relationships and connecting. Plus, he had been in long-term relationships before, the process of learning “how to get to know someone” wasn’t on his list of to-do’s. For me, everything was so new. I had always had a large circle of friends but on a daily basis, I worked by myself and usually only spend time with my family in the evenings. Weekends were for people, my day to day was quite solitary.
In order to get to know Randy, I knew we had to spend a lot of time together. To be honest, some of it felt really unnatural. Like I needed to make him my “immediate best friend.” Opening up was tiring. Finding new things to share about my day, at the end of every day, was tiring. Trying to figure out what I felt while worrying about leading Randy on or hurting him was tiring.
It was new and weird and tiring.
But somewhere, deep down, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had a good thing.
I wasn’t going anywhere.