Monday, September 26, 2011

My True Love Story

He’ll Be Somewhere in the World

Day 1,972ish

I’m travelling home from college, but I’m not really behind the steering wheel of my car. Really I’m travelling through the years of my life. Most of the roads have nothing but golden fields on both sides, and few other cars to distract me so there’s nothing but time for quiet contemplation, for my life’s soundtrack to pour out of the speakers, for questions about what the future holds.
My mind flashes back to a week ago, to a conversation that could change the past and the future. It was a conversation bigger than, “Who was that guy you were with?” Bigger than “Will you write to me?” Bigger than “Can you forgive me?”

It’s another weekend of shuffling around dates with two boys back home. I spend a sunny Saturday with Ryan, still amazed at how his apparent sincerity is holding up. In the back of my mind, I keep waiting for him to blow me off for some other girl. I steel myself against it, making sure the walls are strong enough that it won’t hurt much if he does it.
“Aim, there’s something I need to tell you about.”
His voice has an anxious quality to it. It’s different than I’ve ever heard from him. I can’t quite predict what’s coming, but my caution meter is in the red zone.
“You know how when you’re getting your mission papers ready, you have to go in for a physical?”
“Well… they found something unusual when I went in for mine. There was an abnormality and there’s… well, there’s a possibility that it could be cancer.”
This is not what I expected. This isn’t even in the realm of anything I could’ve predicted. Ryan’s too strong for fear, too untouchable for sickness. My eyes grow small, the world grows too big in an instant, and my heart grows tight in my chest.
“Don’t worry! It’s gonna be just fine. It’s in a place where they can operate. There’s a surgery scheduled and uh, they’re just gonna get rid of it.”
“Get rid of it? But they don’t know that it’s cancer?”
“No, they can’t really know until they remove it and test it.”
“I don’t see any way around explaining it to you. I mean, you need to know, but it’s kind of a forbidden topic.” He sucks in a breath, an almost embarrassed breath, and I find I’m blushing a little and don’t know why.
He says, “They suspect… testicular cancer. Do you know what I mean?”
“Oh man. In my family we don’t even say the word ‘cancer’. We call it ‘the C-word’ when we’re forced to talk about it at all, and now here we are putting the C-word and the T-word together,” I force out a quiet, nervous laugh.
“I know that this is awkward,” he says. “I know that we don’t normally discuss anatomy and you may not be familiar with my unmentionables, but… they’re pretty familiar with you.” Okay. Now he’s being shocking and funny and now I really am blushing.
“Oh! Ryan. Don’t deflect right now. Please do not deflect right now! I’m worried about you!”
“I know. That’s why I’m deflecting,” he says with a confident smile.
“What does- Is- is your family okay with all of this?” I ask.
He’s quiet too long before he says, “Yeah, they’re fine. The doctors are gonna take care of this.”

I pressed for more information after that. I was able to coax him into admitting that his family is worried. That his Mom has shed some tears. Moms can’t avoid tears when they think of their babies and the C-word. Families can’t avoid falling to their knees and sending up desperate and fervent pleas when they think of their loved ones and the C-word.
I’ve been sending up some careful requests since then, myself. Ryan has been the subject of my prayers for a long time. Somewhere around 1,972ish days. First I was a young, foolish girl, trying to get some sort of reassurance that he was my future husband. Then I was a heartbroken girl, pleading that I could get through one day and then the next. And then of course, there was a time when I bitterly forced myself to pray for my enemies, to find some forgiveness for the boy who spitefully used me and persecuted me. A little dramatic, but totally the way I felt. Now, no sooner have we come to a tenuous truce, a cautious understanding, than I’m on my knees again, pleading for his health, for his safety, for his life.
It’s almost dark when I pull into home’s driveway. I go inside and greet my parents, call Ryan to tell him I’m here.
“I’ll walk over and meet you,” he says. The plan is for us to watch a movie at his house tonight.
I don’t ask about the surgery yet. It took place a couple of days ago and I still don’t know the outcome. That’s how distant I’m still keeping things between us. I’m torn between being this supportive person that, maybe, he needs, and being this jaded girl that doesn’t plan on ever getting hurt again.
I catch up with my parents for a few more minutes and then tell them goodbye and head out to meet Ryan. I get to the front lawn when I see his dark figure, drawn up straight, but limping just a bit as he nears. The supportive person that, maybe, he needs comes out in me and I run up to him and throw my arms around him. He stiffens in my embrace and I pull away to find an almost hidden grimace of pain at the corner of his mouth, followed by an attempt at an appreciative smile.
“Ryan,” I breathe, my concern stealing my voice away, “You’re in a lot of pain.”
“Nah. Not too much.”
He turns for us to start walking back to his house, but now I can really see how carefully he’s walking.
“Are you even supposed to be out of bed?” I ask.
“I wanted to walk over here and meet you,” he says.
“That didn’t answer my question,” I say, leaning toward his waist and wrapping my arm around it for support. The pain must be really bad because he accepts the help by wrapping an arm around my shoulder and leaning some of his weight on me as he walks.
I’m more afraid now than I’ve been since I heard about the possibility that he might have cancer. Now I see that he’s masterful at hiding things to protect the people he cares about from worry. Now I see that sometimes it’s so bad that he can’t hide it. Now I see that he can be vulnerable.
So as we walk carefully down the lamp lit street, I start pelting him with anxious questions. “How did the surgery go? Did everything go as it should?”
I see anger darken his eyes as he practically spits out the words, “Oh yeah, the surgery went great if worthless surgeries are the goal of the medical world.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean they found out that it wasn’t cancer, and I’m going through all of this for nothing.”
I balance my relief with sympathy and I cast my next words out to him the way he casts out the line when he’s fly fishing. “Isn’t it a blessing that it wasn’t cancer? That you’re going to be okay? I know I’m really happy to hear it…”
His anger dissipates, leaving him to respond in the right way, but with deflated words. “Yeah, of course. It could be a lot worse. My family is extremely relieved that it wasn’t cancer.”
I smile. “I bet your Mom has been pampering the heck out of you.”
That coaxes a genuine smile from him in response. “Almost enough to make it worth it,” he says. “She cooks me anything that sounds good, I have a supply of my favorite candy, and she has a cushy bed all made up for me on the family room floor in front of the TV. Right now it’s really calling my name.”
“Well then let’s get you back to it,” I say, helping him up the stairs of his front porch.
Once we have him leaned back against a plethora of overstuffed pillows and covered in soft, colorful quilts, hand quilted with lots of love by his Mom, I cuddle in next to him and we start the movie.
I’m not watching it though. I’m sneaking looks at him, still so shocked that any of this is happening. I realize that even when I was trying hard to forget all about Ryan, it was still so good knowing that he was somewhere out there in the world. That he was out there making people laugh, delivering the perfect line, being enthusiastic about a football game, feeling passionate about a book, believing in himself like nobody else I know can do. I’m realizing how empty the world would be if he left it. If we don’t end up together, if we marry other people, if he spends the next two years in… in… Cambodia for crying out loud- at least I get to know that he’s out there somewhere making this world a brighter place.
He looks over at me then. “If you keep looking at me like that, your promise to green lid guy is going the way of my recent cancer scare,” he says.
I giggle. “I don’t have any more promises to keep,” I say, “The next two years are going to be absolutely promise free.”
It’s abrupt the way he turns his face toward me and his expression holds a little bit of a question and a lot of a purpose. I look back at him. “I talked to him,” I say. “We’re still seeing each other, but no more promises. I can’t do the next two years with the pressure of promises.”
Then Ryan’s hand is at the back of my head, his lips are pressing against mine, and the world is turning into a brighter place indeed.
The kiss is something new. It’s got a drop of familiarity, but it’s got loads of new excitement, new possibilities, fear and thrill and passion and caution and restraint. Restraint. Ryan pulls back, blinking the heat out of his eyes and taking a deep breath. He looks at me and nods, like his mind is listing reasons to end the kiss right there. Then he deflects one last time. “Well, my unmentionables still recognize you, so I guess the doctors didn’t ruin me completely.”
I gasp, and my cheeks heat up like a furnace. I smack him in the shoulder and he laughs.
“Hey!” he says, “Be careful! I’m delicate!”
“Please, you haven’t been delicate a day in your life,” I laugh, and after that, it’s safest if I stop watching him and watch the movie instead.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My True Love Story


Day 1,958ish

The very next weekend, I find myself on that date with Ryan. He packs a picnic lunch, picks me up at my door, and drives in the direction of the mountains. We pass fields of wildflowers and forests of dense pine trees as the road gets thinner and rockier, but I hardly notice the view. He’s asking me questions and listening with genuine interest, his blue eyes alight when he sneaks a glance at me from the driver’s seat, the corner of his mouth turned up in amusement at what I’m saying.
We stop at a stream and I watch him cast a fishing line in and reel it back, slowly. The fish don’t seem to be fooled this morning. There’s a difference between bait and the real thing. I stand further back on the bank and watch. He turns often to get a look at me and send me a smile. There’s a softness around his eyes that hasn’t been there for a long time. It lands on me as gently as glistening wings would land on the surface of the water, sending a gentle ripple over my surface, but not alerting my insides to any danger.
After a few attempts with no bites, he shakes his head and laughs. He shows no frustration over the failed fly fishing, it isn’t the real reason he’s here.
He leads me back to the truck, and takes me to a glassy lake that looks like the sky came down to the ground for the day so that we could sit beside it. He spreads a blanket on the bank and we eat sandwiches and drink sodas. He casts another line into the water and props the pole up on a rock. I walk along the field beside the lake and gather wildflowers of purple and yellow and bright orange. I sit on the blanket, braiding long stems and weaving the flowers into them. I form them into a circle and place them on top of my head, like a halo.
“What do you think,” I say; laughter about to bubble up from underneath my smile, because I’m sure my hair accessory doesn’t look anything like the fair maidens’ from the story books.
“You look pretty enough to make me sneeze,” Ryan says.
I pretend to be offended, grab an extra bloom of bright orange Indian paintbrush and tickle him under the nose with it before he can stop me. He grabs my wrist, laughing, and we scuffle around a little. My laughter dies off and I grow still when I notice he’s frozen over me, pinning one of my wrists to the blanket and looking into my eyes with that same patient, gentle, un-alarming look. I grow stiff, my face closed off. He good-naturedly releases my arm and rolls into a sitting position. I sit up too, my shoulder just brushing his, and make an awkward attempt at explaining myself.
“I’m sorry… I,” I take a deep breath. What if he wasn’t even going to kiss me? And how weird is it to apologize out loud for not letting someone kiss you? And how quadruple weird is it to apologize and explain the reason when the reason you have is the reason I happen to have? Nevertheless, I’ve started the sentence and so I plow forward. “I… promised him that I wouldn’t kiss you.” We both know I’m referring to green lid guy.
Ryan sputters and chokes a little like he’s been dunked into the cold lake unexpectedly. “You pr- you promised him? Him?”
I rush into more explanations. “I’ve been seeing him for awhile, and he’s never done anything to hurt me.”
“That doesn’t make him good enough for you.”
“Whoa. That’s harsh. What better criterion is there than he’s never hurt me?”
“Plenty.” He tosses his head down and away for a second, and then relaxes his body, leans back on an elbow, seeming to calm himself. “Amie, I’m fine with not kissing you. Really. I’m having a great time just being with you, but someone ‘not hurting you’ is not a qualifier for staying in a relationship with them.”
“Convenient opinion coming from the guy who has hurt me repeatedly,” I say.
“You need somebody who challenges you, who respects your opinion but isn’t afraid to disagree with it. You need somebody who can tell you when you’re acting crazy and who is confident enough to take it when you tell him he’s being an idiot.”
Those things sound pretty good to me, but so does not ever being hurt… or not having to forgive and learn to trust again. “Well,” I say, “I guess that’s what the next two years are for. I’ve got awhile to figure out what qualities I really need in a person.”
“So you will write to me? You didn’t promise anyone that you wouldn’t?” He smiles a teasing smile and looks at me from the corner of his eyes.
“Yes, I’ll write to you. I really want to write to you, but listen- I’m not making any promises. We need to have an understanding that I’ll be dating people, having relationships, whatever I feel like doing as if you weren’t even there. I have to figure out what’s right for me.”
“Yeah, I get that. I think it’s a good idea, but uh- I think it’s best if you don’t write to me about the dating part of your life in those letters. I think… it would be a distraction to read about it.”
I’m more than happy to agree to this addendum. I don’t want to pour details of my dates with other guys into my letters to Ryan. “Okay,” I say, “So I don’t have to feel like I’m being dishonest with you. You will know I’m going to date with no promises made to you, and I’ll be doing you a favor by not confessing all about it in my letters.”
“Confessing? There’s a nice, calming word.”
I giggle. “Sorry. Just trying to understand our arrangement.”
“I think we’ve got it mostly figured out,” Ryan says, and then dons a mischievous look. “Maybe we should seal it with a kiss.”
This is Ryan. He doesn’t intend to get me to break my promise, but he doesn’t intend to tuck his tail between his legs like a scolded puppy either. He doesn’t intend to back down.
I won’t outwardly break any promises today, but already it’s disconcerting trying to shuffle boys and feelings. I can promise not to kiss someone. I can promise to write a letter, but my heart can’t make promises about the way it will feel. Someone is going to get hurt, and it makes me jittery and sick when I think of it. Yet if there was ever a time for me to be selfish, it’s now.
Oh fish, swimming deep in the lake, what a dangerous little game you play when you nibble the cheese on the end of a line. I feel a little like you right now, afraid, confused, and unsure of what to try and what to stay away from. Only there’s one big difference. My biggest fear is getting thrown back.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Little Piece of My Own Personal Heaven

I have a place where I learned about friendship. A place where I had birthday parties. A place where sometimes my bike was a horse and I loved feeling the wind blow through my hair. A place where sometimes my scooter was a car,and the sidewalks around the church were streets that led to imaginary stores and gas stations. A place where a shed was the "Laugh and Play Fun House". A place where the trees were a thousand different mystical worlds.

I have a place where I learned about tradition. Where I participated in track meets and came home with my chest covered in blue and red ribbons. A place where, on the last day of school, kids lined the fence outside and everyone sang together and let go of balloons at the same time.
A place where I wore ruffly dresses to school almost every day of elementary... and people still liked me. :)

I have a place where I learned about boys. Where I first held hands with one, and it was SO scandalous. Where my husband to be was in my sixth grade class, standing just a few feet away from me in our class picture and we never would have guessed that one day he would throw pebbles at my bedroom window, we would go on our first date, and he would eventually propose to me, all in the same little town.

I have a place where I could always escape. Always relax. A place where I could always be me. A place where I learned who I am.

I have a place where my kids learned country values. They fed neighbors' horses, they waded in dirty water, they picked wild flowers for GG and found deer tracks with Grandpa. They played on the same playground that I played on in elementary school. They ran around the school where I went to Junior High.

I have a place where half an hour's drive can take you to deserts where indians painted their art, where we "hung out" around bon-fires as teenagers, where rock formations whisper of a creator and remnants of people who came before whisper of the things important enough to pass down.

I have a place where half an hour's drive in the other direction can take you to lakes like mirrors with heaven's reflection in them. To mountains where there aren't designated camping spots with man-made everything, but where there are little stolen places to build your own fire pit and tuck yourself in under a million stars.
I left Ferron without an official goodbye. We did all of the same, wonderful things. I told Mom that I wouldn't think about how this could be the last time. As I pulled out of town, I stopped and filled a cup with mulberries. I've been eating them straight off of Ferron's trees since kindergarten. I ate them all of the way to Price, not watching too carefully for bugs or leaves. I tasted their sweet juice on my tongue, I crunched their tiny seeds in my teeth, I watched as they turned my fingers purple and that was my quiet, happy, delicious goodbye to Ferron.

I have a place that holds my first and last memories of my Dad... and so many other memories too. Turns out, that place isn't in Ferron. It's right here in my heart and always will be.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My True Love Story

It Involves Pen and Paper

Day 1,951ish
It’s funny how I’m not afraid. Ryan had such a terrifying power over me when we were in school. I felt real fear then. He had the ability to hurt me, to wrap his hand around my heart and squeeze until I doubled over and couldn’t breathe. I don’t feel that vulnerability as I walk to his house a few minutes before six o’clock. I don’t feel a docile calm either. I feel a surrounding force field of reassuring strength, with just enough anticipation humming inside it.
He greets me at the door, having let go of the anger I had heard earlier on the phone. We make meaningless small talk as he leads me through his house to the deck built onto the back. The wood is painted dark brown, built up to six feet off of the ground, with a quaint, matching awning above our heads. Sometimes Ryan would spend the night in a sleeping bag out here in the summertime, and I would come over to whisper bedtime stories and “I love you”s before he fell asleep. Another hundred memories are a part of the backdrop we can view from here, amid the lush landscape and colorful blossoms in his backyard.
He offers me a patio chair, almost formally, and he sits on another, facing me.
“So. Who was the guy?” he asks.
“Wwwhhhhhat guy?”
“Ha! The guy you were making out with on your couch last night.”
“Ah! I was not making out with him!”
“You mean the giant, matriculating him/you blob wasn’t the two of you making out?”
“No. No it was not. We weren’t kissing. I was facing the movie. If we had been kissing how would I have seen you at the window?”
“Well,” his mouth lifts in one corner, and he lowers his voice to a teasing tone. “I, for one, know that you sometimes open your eyes while you’re kissing.”
I break eye contact with him to steal a very important glance at my own hands in my lap, and then around the yard. Anywhere but back at him.
“Remember? Sometimes I’d open my eyes to find you looking at me, then I’d give you a bewildered look and we’d both start laughing. But I liked it… because then I got to see your sparkly eyes.”
His voice has lowered to the tone of an intimate song as he finishes the memory, and he’s leaning forward, focusing on my eyes until they can’t help but rest back on his.
Then I’m sure I see the memory of last night reinsert itself into the forefront of his mind. He sits up straight again, runs a hand through his hair and asks, “So who is he?”
I tell him.
He seems to like the information. “It’s him? Oh man! I thought it was someone you met at college, which, by the way, I’ve predicted all along. But him?” he shakes his head, almost laughing at himself. He grows serious again and says, “I could totally take him.”
So, he’s happy to know who he’s up against. Happy to have inside information. The confidence he gleans from knowing who I’m dating, and the implications of his comment light that familiar fire in me.
“Ryan! Why am I even answering your questions? Yes, I’m dating him. No, we weren’t making out, but we very well could’ve been and the last person I would have to explain myself to, is you! Now, if you don’t mind, it’s my turn to ask the questions around here. Why did you come last night?”
He looks out over the lawn, the trees, out into the setting sun for just a moment and then he looks right into my eyes and leans close again, a commitment to tell it to me straight regardless of the outcome.
“I turned in my mission papers,” he says. “I could get my call anytime now.”
“You’re kidding me! Oh, Ryan that’s--”. I light up with so much surprise and long awaited happiness, but words fail me. It doesn’t matter, because he waves the congratulations and the praise away and continues.
“I came to your house last night because…” his blue eyes bore into me without fear or shame or hesitation, “Because I wanted to ask you to write to me. I wanted to ask you to wait for me.”
Well, it’s clear what’s happened. I’ve entered an alternate universe. My eyes grow as wide as they’ve ever been, and I try to decipher what is clearly a foreign language he’s speaking.
“W-w-wait?” I ask.
“Yeah. You know, wait. Like in no ring on the left hand, red exes on two, twelve month calendars, elevator music gently playing in the background with an operator’s voice breaking in once in awhile to tell you she’s sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience?”
I don’t think I’ve blinked for awhile… and my mouth seems to be interminably hanging open. Ryan waves a hand in front of my face with caution, testing for brain activity.
Now I blink rapidly, lower my eye brows and angle my best hearing ear toward him, silently asking him to repeat himself.
He intentionally raises his voice to a comedic, unsure, higher pitch. “Mayyyybe just the writing. It involves pen, paper, and hopefully an… occasional… encouraging… sentiment?”
His mix of easy confidence and admitted vulnerability disarm me and I allow a reluctant smile to soften my features. It’s a smile that says, “You’re funny, but ohhh the nerve of you.” I stand up, turn my back to him and walk over to lean on the railing of the deck.
“This is so like you,” I say, “to just come strutting back into my life.”
He walks up next to me, watching me, reading me like he could always do so well in the beginning. He places his hand over mine with just the right amount of caution. “I wasn’t aware that I ever left your life,” he says, and the nerve endings in my hand remind me that he never really did.
Then he removes his hand and exhales, blowing the air out over the backyard. “Besides,” he says, “I wouldn’t say I managed to ‘strut’ back. I didn’t strut home from your house last night after seeing you in the window.”
My head whips toward him too quickly, and I sound a little too gratified when I ask, “What did you think when you saw that?”
“Like I said, I thought you met some guy at college already. I thought I’d lost you.” This, he says while looking at me, but then his eyes fall to his feet and he kicks at the wood beneath them. “I gotta admit, when I got back to the solitude of my room, I might have even shed a tear or two- something I swore I’d never do. I was like, ‘What’s this wet stuff coming out of my eyes?’” He elbows me playfully and I smile, without sympathy. He says, “So… yeah, thanks for taking my man card from me.”
I laugh. “Oh you did? You shed a tear or two huh?” I add my casual confession. “Yeah, I’ve shed a couple tears over you too. They now refer to them as Millsite Reservoir.” I call up thoughts of what our local reservoir looks like right now, water bursting over the spillway with the force that could kill.
“I know,” he says, “I know. I did some things that need to be forgiven, but come on. They’re not unforgiveable, are they?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
“Listen, I’m not going to give you a speech because you know I’m good at speeches and I know you’re good at rebuffing them. Just let me take you out next time you come home…. and… make it soon, would you?”
From the time I saw his silhouette in my window last night until now, there was never even a fraction of a second when I would’ve said no.

Monday, September 5, 2011

My True Love Story


Day 1,950ish

I’ve been looking at college bedroom d├ęcor, brightly colored, happy little boxes, shelves and drawers stacked in tidy, airtight order. They make compartmentalizing things look so darn cute. Too bad when we compartmentalize our lives we can’t top it all off with fluorescent pink and green Tupperware lids. No, no. The closest we come to that is putting things in a box and burying it in the back yard, having it dug up, and then stashing it in a cobwebby corner. It isn’t cute… but it seems to do the trick.
I didn’t intend to develop feelings for a new boy. I just went to work every day, and he was pretty much the best of all of us at the job, and that was attractive. So, yeah, attraction led to sitting next to, sitting led to talking, talking led to flirting and eventually flirting led to dating. Dating started out rocky. I was gun-shy, overly cautious to the point of having to explain myself.
“I’m not ready to be in a steady relationship,” I told him one night, sitting under the stars at a park. I told him all about Ryan, told him that it was over and that I was bound and determined to forget about him and move on… but it would take time.
I guess if I had the cute fluorescent green lid, it was the way he comforted me about the whole thing, the way he told me that he’d be patient, and the way he reassured me that he would never hurt me that way and couldn’t believe anyone had.
Ryan was long gone, and I knew I had to forget him, and it came to a point where I didn’t have to make a conscious effort to do so anymore. There’s an old cardboard box, wrapped in silver and black, torn and tear-stained, with a bit of loose dirt caked on and a bit spilled inside. There’s also a new box, a nice, clean, clear plastic box with a stylish fluorescent green lid and in my mind, as time passes, the two have less and less to do with each other.
So I’ve become very comfortable in the box with the green lid.
I’m sitting with green lid guy in my parent’s basement. It’s my first weekend home from college and I couldn’t wait to see him. He’s resting his back against the arm of the couch and I’m resting my back against him. His arms are wrapped around me and we’re watching a movie. It’s so comfortable. It’s so closed off. There isn’t anyone else in our box with us. We have our own little world, built somewhere in the transition between high school friends and college ones, almost secret- and because it’s almost secret, it feels so safe.
Just behind the big screen TV, there is a window. It sits right below my bedroom window, the one Ryan used to toss rocks at to get my attention at night. The basement window, in our line of sight, is barely illuminated by the orange glow of the front porch light. Green lid guy and I are 35% engrossed in the movie, 60% engrossed in each other, and suddenly the peripheral 5% of our interest is peaked by a movement we see outside that window!
I see the form of someone about our age, the dark figure looks masculine. He’s standing tall at first, but then crouches down, probably noticing the changing and moving light of the TV. I see his form crouch, then pause, then look closer as though he can’t believe his eyes. These things happen so quickly, but implant themselves in my mind to be replayed over and over in rewind and slow motion.
After the figure takes that closer, stunned look at green lid guy and I, cuddling on the couch, his form straightens like it’s snapping to attention and he disappears from the window with two fleeting steps.
Green lid guy says, “Was someone just looking in your window?”
“You saw it too,” I say, stiffening. I don’t know what green lid guy says after that. I push away from him and hurry over to the window. I can’t see anything past the small area of lawn that is obscurely lit by the front light. The onlooker has made his escape into the darkness, but I don’t need to see him to know him.
“It was him,” I say, more to myself than to green lid guy, though he has come up to look through the window behind me.
“Him? Him who? Wait. You mean Ryan?” He asks.
I nod, still staring out the window.
“How do you know?”
“I just know.”
I guess the reason I know is because who else would be lurking outside my window. I think he came to throw pebbles at it the way he used to. I think he came to, I don’t know, amuse himself by spending his free time seeing if he could still woo me… except that it’s been a whole summer and I’m not sure that even he could be so flippant as to think we could just casually flirt our evening away for old time’s sake.
The green lid is suddenly blown clean off of our box. I let that happen. I know that I should try to sneer, try to talk about the nerve of Ryan coming to look in my window. I should laugh it off, go back to cuddling on the couch, and tell my date that he’s the only one that does or has ever mattered. I should lie. But I can’t.
I walk the few steps back to the couch and sink down on the edge of it. I sit there with my hands folded in my lap, staring into empty space. Green lid guy comes over to me. He’s asking me questions, but it’s honestly like he’s trying to communicate with me from a thousand miles away. Instinctively, he knows not to pull me close. He sinks onto the floor at my feet. We have a quiet conversation, though I’m not sure how I’m even forming sentences. All of the contents from the cardboard box with the black and silver stripes are being emptied into this box that I’m in now. All of the old, crumpled notes, the pictures, mixed with dirt from my backyard.
Finally, my date tells me that he thinks he should leave for the night. Can we go out tomorrow, after I’ve had some time to think? He’ll plan a date. He’ll come and pick me up in the early afternoon. I pull myself together enough to agree.
If we hadn’t bonded, if we didn’t have memories and moments of our own, I know green lid guy would probably never call me again. He’d think, “So long, crazy chick that has uncanny premonitions about ex-boyfriends who hang around outside her window at night!” He’d run, not walk, to his vehicle and speed away… and it would be no less than I deserve.
That night I do something I haven’t done for months. I look out my bedroom window and down the street to Ryan’s. His window is dark, but it doesn’t stop me from staring out at nothing, waiting for more nothing to happen. Somehow, I finally fall asleep.

With the light of a new morning, I’m thinking a little clearer, but I’m still determined to find out what Ryan came for last night. I wait until nine o’clock to call, and then I sit on my bed with the phone to my ear, staring at myself in the mirror on my wall. Phone calls are terrifying, and this one might just top all. What in the world do I think I’m going to say to him?
“Hey. I’ve got a random question for you. Did you happen to creep over to my house late last night and look in my window? Did you happen to see me on the couch with another guy, a tough to decipher tangle of intermingled arms and legs? Did you care? Do I care if you care?”
“Is Ryan there? …Thanks.” I take a deep breath. I’m stronger than that silly, heartbroken, insecure girl I was a year ago. I need to remember that.
“Hey Ry. It’s Amie.”
“So you are in town.”
“Did you happen to come by house last night?”
“I thought I saw someone outside my basement window.”
He exhales; like he’s forgotten to since I asked that last question. “Yeah,” he admits, sounding like he wishes there were some way around it. “Yeah, I did. I’m sorry. I came over to talk. I didn’t know you’d… be… busy.”
He sounds hurt. Angry-hurt. He’s too confident and strong to sound sad-hurt, and he knows he doesn’t have a right to be angry, but his voice has a growling, clipped quality to it.
“So… what did you want to talk about?” I ask.
“I don’t know if it matters anymore.”
It’s all I can do not to gasp. He has something real to talk about, something specific at least.
“Well, let’s find out if it matters,” I say, “What is it?”
“I don’t want to talk to you about it over the phone,” he says.
“Okay, let’s get together today.”
There’s another wary pause.
“I could see you this afternoon,” he says.
Now I’m the one pausing, still watching my own reactions in the mirror. My reflection and I share a half apologetic, half amused smile. I already have a date this afternoon. The humor of Ryan, the player, getting a little bit played isn’t lost on me.
“Actually,” I say, confiding a silent giggle and guilty look at my reflection, “I already have plans for this afternoon.” I shrug. “I could get together tonight though.”
“Oh just forget it,” Ryan says.
“No! No, if you really have something to talk to me about, let’s talk! I do want to hear. You’re not above waiting until I’m free are you?”
My reflection bites on her lip, and looks at me with wide, conspiratorial eyes.
“Oh fine. Come over to my house whenever you’re… free, I guess.”
“I’ll meet you at six o’clock,” I say. “You’ll be there? You swear?”
“Whether I’ll be here or not doesn’t seem to be the thing in question,” he answers.
I giggle just a bit. “I’ll see you at six.”