I was dating.
I was dating a man named Randy. He was amazing and I was his girlfriend.
Friends could “officially” be told about us as a couple and finally, finally, we were settling into a rhythm. For the time being, our conversation in Bellingham seemed to be the “final hurdle” I needed to jump over before my heart could rest. Randy and I enjoyed seeing each other almost every day – texting throughout our work days, hanging out at my parents home (where I lived) in the evenings or going out for dinner and walks alone.
Nearly two months after Randy first said he liked me, he reached for my hand on a walk by the ocean in the city one evening. I truly enjoyed every part of the man Randy was… I just wasn’t sure I “loved” Randy yet.
One Saturday morning, I wheeled my photo suitcase out to the driveway, mentally preparing for another long summer wedding day ahead. A piece of card stock taped was taped to the driver’s side window of my car.
I smiled, picking up the note. “Thinking about you. You’re beautiful. Have a great day today,” in those small, neat capital letters of his. Later that day, in between wedding portrait locations in Vancouver, he texted: “Check your glovebox. Not sure if you’ll have time to stop for a break today – but just in case.” My friend Candace was beside me and she saw my open mouth, “What!” I said, motioning to the right, “Open it up!”
She reached into the glovebox while I drove and found a gift card to Booster Juice, a smoothie chain. I couldn’t believe him. I had mentioned once, weeks ago, how much I loved to treat myself with a smoothie on wedding days. They are expensive but so refreshing mid-wedding day and if there’s one on route… I love to stop.
He remembered. And somehow snuck a gift card into my car.
When the wedding reception wrapped up later that evening, I texted Randy to say I was on my way home. We weren’t planning on seeing each other – wedding days were long and usually the last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone (after talking all day!) or leave the house again!
Maybe we’d talk on the phone for a bit, catch up about our days, fill in the places our text messages missed… but when I pulled into my driveway at 9pm Randy texted, “I want more than anything to be with you right now.”
I looked down at my iPhone and bit my lip to keep from smiling too widely. “Well…” I typed back. “Why don’t you pick me up in ten minutes?” Randy lived ten minutes away. “You sure? I know you just got home.” He responded immediately.
“See you in 8 minutes.”
I dropped my camera bags in my office and in a flurry of activity ran up the stairs to my bedroom. “Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Randy’s picking me up in a few minutes we are going to go for a walk.” I caught their smiles as I turned the corner. “That’s nice,” Mom said. “Look at you on the go.” “Yeah,” I answered. “I figured why not right?! It’s summertime!”
I pulled off my dress and in it’s place a pair of blue jeans and an oversized sweatshirt I picked up for $9 from the men’s clearance rack. A furiously fast teeth brush and floss and I bounded down the driveway as soon as Randy’s truck pulled in.
“Hi!” I waved, using the handle to lift myself into the truck cab. “How was your day?” Randy asked, his eyes glimmering. “It’s so good to see you.” I exhaled as he held my hand on top of the console and we headed east to Fort Langley. We walked for an hour that evening, zig-zagging our way through the quiet dark streets, sometimes hand-in-hand, sometimes hands by ourselves.
It was all so new, holding hands. Feeling so comfortable close to him. As we walked, we talked about the wedding day, his Saturday with a friend, how he managed to sneak a note onto my car door.
“I couldn’t fall asleep last night… I was up thinking about you. So I thought, I might as well do something for her! I taped the note to your door at 2am.” He said. I hit his arm, “You didn’t! What if my parents’ dogs barked or somebody heard your loud truck in the driveway?” He shrugged, “Nobody did.” “Well, thank you.” “Oh and the smoothie gift card? I put that there Thursday night, the last time we were in your car together. I’m glad you didn’t see it until today.”
We rounded the corner and found ourselves under the cover of thick, tall trees in the dark summer air. Randy pulled me towards him, grabbing my other hand and pulling me close. I felt my heart beating in his all-encompassing hug.
“You are so beautiful,” he said, a phrase I heard almost daily from Randy. There was something in the way he said it though. It wasn’t like how I had heard it before… from other boys.
There was no motive behind it, no manipulation. He felt it and he wanted me to know. I was slowly learning these truths about Randy.
I smiled, too nervous (in a good way, more like jittery) to say anything back except to squeeze his back where my right hand rested. Randy leaned forward and I felt his breath near my neck and my ear before his lips landed on my cheek. He kissed my forehead and I wanted to stay there forever.
His lips, my face. His hands, my back. His breath, near mine. He let out a breath, “We should go,” he motioned the direction we were parked. “Mmhmm.” I followed, gripping his hand tight.
Back in the truck, parked on an empty street, we looked at each other over the middle seat. “I don’t want to drop you off yet.” He said, his hand already shifting the truck gear from park to drive.
I met his eyes, “Then… don’t.” He popped it back into park.
Randy played with my hand, moving his fingers in between mine, “Come here.” He lifted up the console and I slid on over the bench seat until our bodies were next to one another. His arms wrapped around mine and for the next hour, we stayed there, wrapped up. Elated to be near one another, with no need to talk or fill in the silence, only wanting to be close.
Before Randy moved to Langley, he was living in Courtenay, BC. He was very involved in his church as a youth leader and built strong relationships with many of the teenagers during his years there. One of the family friends Randy had spent time with was graduating high school and we were invited to her graduation banquet. We decided to make the trip over to Vancouver Island as it would also be a great chance to spend more time with his Mom who lived there.
After a two-hour ferry across to Vancouver Island from Vancouver, we drove another hour north from Nanaimo to Courtenay. It was my second time to the small town (the first being a year and a half earlier when I first met Randy) but I had never seen Randy’s Courtenay. I wanted to know where he liked to hang out, what his youth was like here and most importantly, experience the home where his mom lived.
Within a couple minutes of coming into town, we pulled left onto a back road that didn’t look like a road at all before turning right onto a long gravel driveway. Randy’s mom was at the back door of her basement before we could open our car doors, practically bouncing with excitement.
“Hiii!” She said, the same bounce in her step while she hugged Randy. “I’m so glad you’re hereeeeee!” She hugged me tight, reminiscent of my first meeting with her daughter, Randy’s sister, only the month before.
Inside the house, Randy put down our two suitcases and we slipped off our shoes. “So what’s the plan?” Randy’s mom, Jackie, asked us.
“Well, we have Mercedes’ grad at 6pm… and it’s 1pm now, so we have a few hours. I thought the three of us could hang out, whatever you wanted.”
Jackie looked my way for approval, “Sounds good to me! I’m fine with whatever!” I said.
“Good. You two take some time to get cleaned up. Then we’ll go for a walk.” Jackie turned and started walking towards the stairs with a huge smile and a wave, “I’ll just be upstairs.”
When Jackie disappeared around the corner, Randy reached over and pulled me towards him for a hug, “I’m so glad you’re here.” My body felt his closeness and I smiled, overwhelmed by his affection.
Courtenay is a beautiful city, right on the ocean with a beautiful protected inlet. The three of us walked down by the calm water across from Jackie’s home that afternoon, Randy and I hand in hand. “How’s everything going, Mom? How’s work?” Randy asked as we kept up a steady pace.
Randy is the eldest of three children and when his parents divorced, he quickly became the man of the home at the age of ten. Even when we were just friends, I knew Randy and his Mom were close, regularly talking on the phone when he moved away. I could see the love and respect Randy had for his mom, by how he spoke about her, how he spoke to her. She was a strong, capable, intelligent woman and he valued her opinions.
Jackie was also light-hearted, like I had seen in Randy’s brother and sister. She was quick to laugh at herself, didn’t take life too seriously, always thinking about other people – there were more important things in life than her own needs.
“Randy, have you seen in the newspaper about that pipeline they are putting up North? I think it’s called ‘fracking.'”
“Yeah, kinda. I don’t know much about it.”
“Well, everyone seems to be so mad about it.”
I spoke up, “Fracking? What’s fracking?”
Jackie reached up to her hair, adjusting her long black ponytail, “It’s this system – this oil system where these places – they – basically, in the article – I think it’s…” She stopped. “You know what? I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.”
I laughed out loud but she wasn’t laughing.
I couldn’t stop giggling, wondering if I had just made a fool of myself, “I just… like your honesty there.”
She smiled wide. “You ever have those moments? Where you open up your mouth and you are saying all this stuff and you’re just thinking ‘I have no clue what I’m talking about’?”
“Yes, I do” I answered.
“Yes, me too. Sometimes it’s better to own it.”
By the end of our walk, my nose was running, my eyes were itchy and my throat felt like it was starting to close up. It was June, height of my allergy season and try as I might to have a good time in the “great outdoors” it was not in the cards for me. When we got back to the car and dropped Jackie off, Randy asked, “Are you okay? You don’t look okay.”
“I’m fine, I just… my throat feels like I can’t breathe. It’s okay, it happens. It’s June. There was a lot of tall grass there and tons of things floating around. It happens.”
“We shouldn’t have gone for a walk, I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry, I should have been thinking.”
“It’s not your fault! It was my choice, it’s fine.”
“What do you need?”
“Kleenex,” I said, wiping my nose on the back of my hand. “And Halls cough drops, they usually help open my throat up a little.”
He pulled into the nearest gas station and ran inside to purchase both items and handed them to me along with a water bottle, “Because you are always thirsty.” (It’s true. I drink a lot of water.)
I sniffed and blowed my nose as quietly and as attractively as I could, thinking about my earlier subtle wipe of snot on the back of my hand before the kleenex. (Question: snot wiping on your hand, relationship deal-breaker… or cute? I’m so low maintenance I don’t even need tissue…) It is what it is, I thought, as I balled up another wad of used kleenex and stuffed it in the door.
In the spare hour we had before the graduation, Randy drove me to a couple of his favourite beaches and lookouts. I loved seeing Randy back in his town… places that meant something to him. Nothing in Langley had any history for Randy. It seemed so natural to be finally learning his world in Courtenay. “There’s a beautiful walk right up the hill from this beach. I was thinking we could go see it, but now I’m thinking we don’t.” Randy eyed the kleenex pile.
I sniffed and rubbed my eyes, “No, no, let’s go! We can still do it.”
“I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Okay, Oh no, oh no, oh no” I scrunched up my face, catching a sneeze in between my fingers. “You’re right.”
Randy rolled down the window to throw out his gum.
“What are you doing? Close the window! The air is poison!” I dramatically held my breath. “Close all the windows forever!”
He laughed and grabbed my hand. “You’re so beautiful, Jamie.”
Quite the transition… ;) I never understood why he chose the moments he chose to compliment me, but I smiled and squeezed his strong hand as he began to drive.
While Randy lived in Courtenay, he worked for a building company as a general contractor. He knew little about building when he started the job at 18, but quickly worked his way up to a manager position by the age of 21. Under Randy’s supervision close to fifty single family homes were constructed. Randy drove me by almost every one of them in town, pointing out different features he loved about each one. I was captivated by Randy – his talent and drive and passion. He was rare and I knew it through and through.
The graduation ceremony and dinner brought new faces to meet and hands to handshake but most of all, more time with Randy. Randy knew my hesitancy with public displays of affection and still found ways to let me know he was “there.” He’d touch my hand underneath the table at dinner, if only for a moment. He’d rest his hand on my lower back while we talked to friends at the table. He seemed to always be aware of my every need (more water? are you cold? are you feeling tired?) and was there to fulfill it.
Later that evening, after coffee and appetizers with Randy’s mom and brother at a nearby golf course, we pulled back into the gravel driveway. Randy turned off the car, but didn’t reach for the handle. Instead, he reached over and grabbed my left hand with his right.
“Tonight was amazing. I’m trying to hold back all of these things I’m feeling… I know you don’t like to hear them. But Jamie. I have,” he adjusted in his seat to face me square on, “I have… never been so sure, so intentional or so serious about anything in my life.”
I sat frozen.
I wished I could feel what Randy was feeling.
I wanted to reciprocate his words, I wanted to give Randy more than a smile… but I couldn’t. Once again, I didn’t know what to say. “Okay.” I smiled on the outside, but inside I was thinking, How? How do you know that? How do you know me? How could you be so SURE of this, of me? It was a big statement. So sure, so intentional, so serious. That’s a lot of so’s.
Randy’s heart scared me. Everyday, he made it clearer and clearer I held the keys to it. Randy wasn’t going anywhere.
Our relationship seemed to be in my hands. I felt paralyzed by the control. We quietly walked into the house and found Randy’s mom and brother sitting on the couch, talking and laughing over a bag of gas station sour keys. We made small talk but I couldn’t wait to be alone, processing the events of the day.
Randy walked me up two flights of stairs, to the front bedroom on the top floor of his mom’s home. He placed my suitcase on one of the two single beds and hugged me. With both of his arms wrapped tight around my upper back, I started to cry, feeling scared and vulnerable and comfortable and hopeful at the same time.
“I love you, Jamie. You’re so beautiful. Have a good rest.” I nodded and held him close. He loosened his arms and said one last “goodnight” before turning his back and closing the door behind him.
And as soon as he left I wanted him back.
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. Part Twelve can be found here. Part Thirteen can be found here. This is Part Fourteen.