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.


Janet said...

You are so talented!

Ryan said...

I was fishing for more important things than trout that day.

Mike and Sonila Wood said...

Amie, I had to catch up on your love story and I could not stop reading, so I've been reading for an hour now:) I can't wait to read the next post and see what happens. Ryan, you bad boy:) amie you are such a great writer.

*Kelly Dawn* said...

My kids are tucked away, cozzy in their beds. My husband is very content to play his x-box game. And I am allowed my usually short lived, uninterupted free time. And what do I do?! Sit down to my computer and get my "love story" fix for the week :D Loved it Amie!