It's Either There, Or It Isn't
Still Day 2,685ish
Still Day 2,685ish
We’ve eaten the welcome home cake. Ryan looked through, and thoroughly appreciated, the scrapbook I made. He was eager to talk about the pictures and tell us the stories. I highly recommend the scrapbook approach, missionary writers... and I highly recommend the last minute compilation of it because it wouldn’t be awesome to work on it for two years and then have the wife he ends up with throw it out. Aaaanyways….
Ryan’s older sister, Tasha is the last person in the family who is still awake and talking with us. She is the kind of person who can make conversation with anyone. I don’t think I can imagine an uncomfortable silence in her presence. She is also capable of making anybody laugh. In other words, she’s a fabulous safety net. Only problem is that I’m still in desperate need to impress mode. So safety? Not feeling it so much.
“Let’s go down to the den,” Ryan says to me. I start to walk that way and glance back to see if he’s following. I see Tasha give him a look that says, “Are you sure?” He nods, and she goes the opposite direction, up the stairs to bed. Had he been asking her to stay awake with us until now? I smile to myself at the idea. Don’t leave me alone with the scary and tempting female.
The den is one of the most unique rooms in the house. The walls are covered with book shelves, books here are treated as a valuable treasure. Where built-in book shelves are not, there are acquisitions from Ryan’s parents’ travels. Wooden masks, foreign looking swords, things that would almost be scary, if you didn’t know what kind and caring people collected them, but are certainly intimidating considering that this room mostly belongs to Ryan’s Dad, and it’s where he conducts the family interviews.
I walk in, my hands clasped behind my back, and I look at the familiar, yet still so curious, décor. Ryan sits in an office chair, but faces it toward the comfy sofa. I sit across from him. We make some more small talk and then Ryan gets out a thick, black planner. The planner has handles and is square, almost like a brief case. He tells me that he has carried it everywhere with him for some time now and that it contains his daily schedules as well as his future goals. Just when his blocked out and penciled in scheduling system begins to threaten doldrums, he tells me a funny story about how he and his companions once named their planners. Ryan’s planner is “Bully”. The other planners had nice names like “Chum”, he claimed, but Elder Bye had insisted that Ryan’s planner didn’t play well with others, thus “Bully” stuck. Nice to meet you Bully, and to realize that while Ryan has become grown up and focused, he hasn’t lost his energetic enthusiasm or his crazy sense of humor.
“Amie, I have come to whole-heartedly believe in goals. If you make them, if you focus on them, and work toward them, I just believe you can achieve anything you want to, anything at all!”
I smile at him, nod in wonder. The whole world is at his feet and he isn’t going to hesitate before climbing.
“So, all of my goals throughout the past two years,” he says, while flipping through pages of dates and quotes and numbered lists, “have been to do with missionary work. Due to those goals, I had all of the success I could’ve hoped for as a missionary. Now I have to figure out how to make that system work in this new life.”
“That sounds like a great way to go about things,” I say.
I know this isn’t a normal conversation that’s taking place. I’ve been dating, remember? I know that normally you talk about what music you like, or what movies you’ve seen recently. I know that I sound like a doofus when he talks about sophisticated things like “making goal systems work” (said in deep, professor voice) and I say, “Sounds great,” (said in voice of twenty year old, with blonde pig-tails, licking a giant lollipop). It’s okay though, because he recognizes that he has been out of touch with the “norm” and I recognize that the “norm” isn’t all that fabulous, so we make allowances for each other.
“Maybe you could help me make some goals,” Ryan says, flipping to the current date, followed by some frighteningly empty lines. He writes the words, “Things That Amie Needs from Me” at the top.
“Oh my… Ryan, I don’t know if I feel quite worthy to… fill in your… empty goal lines,” I say. “Give me an example of what it is you’re looking for here.”
“Well, what sort of things do you want in… a person that you date.”
“Oh!” Well this, I am an expert at. Are you kidding? I’ve been making lists like this since I was fourteen, backwards, alphabetical, by order of importance, and in my sleep. The genius goal maker has met his match in the jeopardy category of “qualities you look for in the opposite sex”. There’s only one problem.
“Alright, while I could fill this page with characteristics like: Shares my beliefs and values, confident, funny…” Ryan jots these down with grave attention, despite my hesitation. I reach out and lay my hand on the corner of Bully. “It might not be the best use of our time since, you know what all of them are,” I say, and then I pause and I feel my face get warm, “and you know that you already are those things.”
I take a deep breath, draw my hand back into my lap, but continue leaning forward because I’m about to address my biggest concern about Ryan, and I didn’t think I would ever speak it out loud. “There is one thing though, and it isn’t something that can be made a goal. It isn’t something that can be spelled out on a piece of paper.”
He continues to hold his pen at the ready as though he seriously doubts this.
“I want someone who is wowed by me.”
Ryan’s eyes narrow. He doesn’t understand, but he wants to.
“I want him to look at me and think ‘wow’, I want him to listen to me and be wowed by what I say, I want him to be amazed that he gets to be with me, because when he’s the right person for me that’s exactly how I’m going to feel about him.”
He knows. This isn’t something that a person can work toward. It’s either there, or it isn’t. It’s a scary thought, but I think people actually get married without being wowed. It’s something more than just love. Gosh, it’s almost like worship, and maybe it’s wrong for me to want that from someone… but who’s perfect? You don’t have to be perfect to be wow-worthy, and dang it! I want someone who is wowed by me. Ryan either is or he isn’t. Or he will be, but if he’s not- he’s out. That’s what I’ve promised myself.
Out of respect for my sincere desire for the wowage, Ryan writes three letters underneath the previously listed characteristics. “WOW.”
It is way too early for us to proclaim our wowed feelings, or the lack thereof, so we read some quotes from his planner. Then he tells me some specific experiences, amazing stories, about how he set goals that seemed almost unattainable and in the end, they were reached. We mix our acquired knowledge, mine intangible and full of emotion yet so real and important, his solid and built on experience, faith and work, tested and tried. We’re encouraged. This is what relationships should be. Differences shared and understood, taking each other by the hand, and achieving more together. There has been no actual taking of each other by the hand, mind you. No, we’re still a safe arm’s length apart.
I feel like Cinderella, but more attentive, because I’m ever aware of the clock ticking toward midnight. Ryan soon offers to walk me home. We walk under a clear, November sky. In our small town, we have ever appreciated the view of a million stars, not blocked out by city lights. We walk the same street we’ve walked together so many times before and it feels perfect. At the doorstep, we say a quick goodbye. I think there’s another hug in the future, but for now, it stays in his eyes. I do see it there, but it’s not the thing I’m looking for. I’m not searching his eyes for intentions, for the memories or the future, for the connection between the letters and this person, I’m searching for something indefinable that we have summarized into three little letters. I’m looking for WOW.