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. Part Nine can be found here. Part Ten can be found here. Part Eleven can be found here. This is Part Twelve.
Randy spent his childhood in the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island before moving to Courtenay for his teenage years. When he moved to Langley for his job the year before, Randy often talked about how much he missed being closer to the ocean and the wide open spaces of both his hometowns.
One Saturday morning, a couple weeks into spending time with each other, Randy told me to be ready by 6 o’clock in the morning. Sharp. At five to six, he was at my front door with a big smile and a hug. I greeted him, fresh and pale faced in my comfiest sweatshirt. (I have a no makeup before eight o’ clock rule.. I’m joking. But seriously though, who likes putting on makeup first thing in the morning? It’s a bad feeling.)
To travel to Victoria from the “Mainland” (as us Vancouverites refer to anything not on Vancouver Island) you drive an hour from Langley to the ferry terminal and after waiting for the ferry, you drive on the boat and travel another hour and a half.
Being with Randy so early in the morning felt easy. We sat beside one another in contented, comfortable silence on the ferry, Randy reading his phone, my eyes half closed as my head rested on his shoulder. When the ferry arrived in Victoria, we drove around the streets he used to play as a child, specific landmarks prompting stories. (“See that home? I used to babysit there when I was ten years old. They paid me crazy cash! I spent it all on candy for my friends!”)
Randy took me to an area called Ogden Point where a long walkway led out to a lighthouse on the ocean. He parked the car and I considered taking a few minutes to change before our walk into the “nicer” clothes I had packed… y’know, to hide my five o’ clock wake-up call. But I shrugged it off remembering Randy’s admiring glances from the driver’s seat as we drove. No makeup and old sweatshirt seemed to be no problem in his eyes.
We walked by a street busker singing a cover of “Wagonwheel” and towards the lighthouse, side by side. The wind off the ocean blew, creating a wave in my straightened hair as we walked. We talked about everything and nothing underneath that lighthouse, leaned up against the railing looking out at the waves. The wind continued to blow but I felt the chill on my skin quickly warmed as Randy’s body moved closer to my own.
We had been talking for almost two hours when Randy turned my face towards his and pulled me closer for a hug.
I had missed the week without his arms around me.
Closer than we had ever been, his often-green-sometimes-brown eyes locked with mine and he whispered five little words: “I want to kiss you.”
His hand gently rubbed my shoulder in an effort to keep me warm. My eyes left his as I laughed nervously, saying nothing in return. Please don’t try, I thought, Not yet.
He must have perceived a change in body language because he didn’t. Randy held me for another minute that felt like seconds with my head rested against his shoulder before he pulled away, looking at his watch, “We should probably get back downtown to meet my family.”
On our way to lunch in the city, we stopped to meet Randy’s sister at her workplace, a beauty salon for tween girls. Randy opened the salon door for me and I walked in and hesitated, waiting for him to catch up and lead the way. Randy walked up to the front counter and immediately wrapped a bubbly, blonde girl in a huge hug. She giggled loudly and said, “It’s sooooo good to see you!” I stood off to the side while they greeted, smiling because I didn’t know what else to do. Randy’s sister turned her attention to me, “And you must be Jamie! I’m Gina! It’s sooo good to meet you,” wrapping me in the same hug she had given Randy.
I loved watching Randy in any new setting. He radiated care for Gina as they small-talked about her day, “Has it been busy today?” “Oh my god, it’s been insane. Somebody didn’t show up for their shift. So there’s that. Anyway, enough about me – what are your plans after this? What time did you come on the ferry? When are you going home?” We left with another round of tight hugs and a “Hopefully see you soon!” from her smiling face.
At the restaurant, I met Randy’s brother Tommy and Randy’s Dad, his wife and their two children. I said little during the meal, not wanting to interrupt their family time and content with my own thoughts. Having just met Randy’s sister, I looked for similar mannerisms between the three kids and found plenty. They were a “hugging” people, full-hearted and big-smiles people, a caring people.
Although I didn’t share much, I instantly felt welcomed rather than a “new feature” to be questioned. Randy touched my leg under the booth near the end of lunch. “How are you doing?” he whispered quietly. “I’m good! I’m happy to listen!” I assured him, feeling the touch of his hand long after it left – my insides jumping.
Out in the fresh air by the waterfront once again, we started to walk. Without direction or plans, we talked and walked for almost an hour. I loved walking beside him, his hands tucked in his pockets and I noticed how his light grey hoodie fit, drawing attention to his strong back. The ocean breeze continued to blow and we wanted the ships come in and out of the harbour.
“Do you want a tea?” Randy asked, motioning to the coffee shop on our left, a few steps from the waterfront walkway. “Yeah, that would be nice,” I smiled. “I’d love a green tea.” After ordering and pausing to use the washroom, I found Randy outside with a patio table, my green tea in hand. “I put two honeys in there, I think that’s how you like it.”
“Mmm.” I took a sip and settled into the plastic chair, feeling the warmth of the tea on my hands and kicking off my shoes. With a break in conversation and happy to be seated after hours on our feet, my mind began to replay the morning’s events at the lighthouse. Randy’s eyes focused on mine, his hand on my back, his lips saying, “I want to kiss you.” Flashbacks to other relationships and conversations played through my own mind.
I had never kissed anyone.
I wasn’t waiting because I thought I should or because my parents or other some other spiritual authority said it was the right thing to do. I had never kissed anyone because I hadn’t met anyone who deserved it.
I wasn’t waiting to kiss until marriage or engagement or any extreme thing… I simply wanted to wait. And I thought a man worth having would be willing to wait. If I didn’t want to be kissed for six months of dating, then dangit, I wouldn’t be kissed for six months.
There was nothing magic about that number but it felt safe to me: a buffer of time. I had always supposed it wouldn’t take much longer than six months to “know” whether or not I wanted to be with a man forever.
I had seen so many relationships consumed by physical attraction and it seemed to “cloud” proper judgment and decision making. Within half a year, I’d surely know how I felt about Randy and be ready to start the physical aspect of our relationship. If something happened and we broke up after the six-month mark, that would be fine. I had no problem with kissing more than one man.
I just wanted him to respect me enough to wait.
“What’s on your mind?” Randy asked, startling me from my chain of thoughts. He always seemed to ask that question at the best and worst moments. “Well. I’m just thinking about… the lighthouse. When you said that… well, it’s just… Okay. In past relationships I never really felt respected in my physical boundaries or my right to even have boundaries.”
I shared that I had never kissed anyone and I hoped to wait at least a while. It felt awkward to share, I mean, what were we anyway? Randy wasn’t my boyfriend yet, we hadn’t even held hands and the topic felt out of place. Randy listened carefully, nodding as I shared more in depth… when I was done, I breathed a sigh of relief.
At least he knows now.
I was fiddling with the string of my tea bag when Randy said, “Do you want to walk again?” He started to push his chair back from the table. I looked down at my comfortable bare feet and my half-full cup of green tea. “Not really. I still have some tea left.”
“Okay, that’s fine.” I took a sip and watched Randy from across the table. His legs were bouncing up and down in his chair. “Are you restless or something?” I laughed when he didn’t answer. “Okay, okay, we can go. I’ll finish my tea while we walk.”
We continued on our way, down the familiar ocean walkway until we came to a park bench. “Do you feel like sitting?” he asked. I nodded, slightly thrown off by his sudden movement from the coffee shop only to sit down once again. We sat side by side facing the water, our shoulders a few inches apart.
(Here’s the exact park bench where we sat. However, I took this photo 1.5 years later in January… so I promise it was a nice Spring day.)
I wondered if I came on too strong, sharing my opinions as quickly as I did… all those fears and hesitancies. Maybe that stuff would be a deal breaker for him. Randy started to talk. “I figured out why I was so restless back there. Hearing stuff about your past relationships and hurts… well, it hurts me. I care for you so much. I want to fix it all and I can’t. It makes me feel helpless. I value who you are so much.” He was talking quickly and not making eye contact… which was unusual behaviour for him.
I smiled and caught his eyes when he continued, “I really want to get to know your family more and know more about you but I don’t know if you want me to. I want to be sensitive to what you need and not rush and respect you and I want to make sure I’m doing a good job.”
I shifted my shoulders towards him. “Randy, you can get to know my family. That’s not a ‘big thing’ for me to let you into. Learn about them! Hang out with us! It’s okay!”
He sighed. “Okay. I know, I’m probably over-thinking. I just know you’re unique and so special and incredible. Jamie, I love you and value you and I want you to know I value you.”
My eyes darted down to my hands on my lap, where my fingers picked the skin around my cuticles. Did he just say…? He did. No he didn’t. Yes he did.
I couldn’t say anything. Randy kept talking, I’m assuming more about how much he likes me, how wonderful I am, etc., but I have no idea what came out of his lips next. Scenes from every awkward movie where one character says “I love you” and the other says “thank you” or “cool” or nothing were flooding my mind. Say something, Jamie, say something!
My lack of response didn’t seem to phase Randy. “Are you okay,” he asked? I swallowed.
My head was spinning. I didn’t know where to look or what to say, all I could think about was my first boyfriend who told me he loved me after three days and I had to break up with him and he was so sad and I was so crushed because I crushed another human being and I cried for days and just wanted to eat chinese food in my favourite sweatshirt because broken hearts are hard.
Why did Randy have to RUIN IT. Why did he have to do this? We had been “hanging out” for two weeks – we weren’t even boyfriend and girlfriend.
“Um. Thank you.” I said quietly. “It’s just… hearing things like ‘that’ (‘that’ referring to those three little words I didn’t even want to say in quotations) make me feel a lot of pressure. I’m not there yet and it’s stressful. I’m trying to get to know you the best I can.”
Randy’s face was studying mine. Jamie, stop tearing up, I thought. He’s going to see. Don’t crush him. But I couldn’t help it – my eyes filled with tears. Randy touched my face, “You feeling pressure is exactly the opposite of what I want! There is no pressure from me, whatsoever, no pressure at all.”
“Okay, but it doesn’t matter what you want. You say those things and it makes me feel pressure. I don’t always need to know what you’re thinking sometimes you need to keep that inside.” I took a deep breath, still avoiding eye contact.
He nodded, giving me the silence I needed but never making me feel alone. He whispered in my ear after a few more minutes of quiet. “Do you want to keep walking?”
“No.” I said with my arms crossed. “I want to stay right here and think.”
I turned away from Randy and faced the water, blinking away the tears in my eyes. Four thoughts replayed in my mind over and over and over. 1) I’m really scared. 2) I’m terrified. 3) I don’t know what I am feeling. 4) I like Randy.
After a few minutes, Randy asked. “What are you thinking now?”
I’m really scared. I’m terrified.
“I need a few more minutes.” I scooted my body closer to his. Our shoulders touched.
I don’t know what I’m feeling. I like Randy.
Randy rested his arm on the bench behind my shoulders and said, “I really wish there was something I could do to help you.”
“Okay.” I let out a huge sigh. “I’m thinking four things. I’m really scared. I’m terrified. I don’t know what I’m feeling. I like Randy. Those are literally the only thoughts in my brain right now and they are repeating at a very fast speed.”
He let out a soft laugh as I relaxed into Randy’s shoulder, feeling the weight of my body shift on his. My body felt safe there – while my mind struggled to process what had just happened. When we were ready to get back to the car for dinner, Randy’s hand rested on my upper back the whole way home. I was shivering, a combination of the setting sun and exhaustion from the intensity of my thoughts… but I liked his hand there.
I just wanted to forget those words were ever said.
We dined at a gorgeous restaurant with water views all around. I felt completely out of place with my pilling black sweatshirt (I never changed, after all) but I felt at peace with him. On the ferry home, our feet up on the chairs in front of us, shoulders pressed against one another, I pulled up my Twitter account. I read out my list of hilarious “favourite” tweets from comedy accounts and struggled to make it through reading each one without giggling, snorting, slapping my knee or a combination of all three.
Tweets like “Taking a long walk on the beach with my sweetie. No I’m serious, it’s long, please send water.” I had read them all at least twenty times but they never failed to make me laugh. Randy humoured me watching my face and laughing at my enjoyment more than the actual jokes. I laughed so hard I almost cried.
In the car on the way home, we listened to John Mayer’s “Continuum” and I rested my head against Randy’s shoulder, my eyes closed. Somewhere in between awake and asleep, I didn’t want to move or say a word – happy to stay right where I was.
Randy pulled into my driveway after eleven o’ clock and he walked me to the door, hugging a quick and simple goodbye. I fell into bed thinking, Today should have sent me running.
But all I can think was, “That was a good day.“
Maybe if we don’t ever mention the “I love you” again… it will go away.