Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

I had a dream about Joe last night. He looked the way he did when we were together the last time. In my dream, Mama, Dennis, Brian, Joe and I were all at some restaurant, celebrating something. I think it may have been my birthday. After some drama in the parking lot involving Brian and someone else's truck and a lot of blue paint, we all went inside to eat. Despite my best efforts, I ended up sitting next to Joe. Even in my dreams, he has that same magnetic pull on me. I know that I should stay as far away from him as I can, but I am still drawn to him like a moth to the flame. That's how it always was.

The first time I met Joe I was thirteen. He went to the same church that I did, and we both went to Youth Group on Tuesday nights. He must have been fourteen or fifteen when we first met. The first thing that you see when you look at Joe are his huge eyes. They are this blue-green color with flecks of gold that you can feel yourself falling into, like Alice down the rabbit hole. Absolutely mesmerizing. When I first met him, and for a few years after, he had longish hair, which frequently hid his eyes. Then he would turn and look right into my eyes and my breath would catch. The reason Joe grew his hair so long was because he had two complete earlobes on his left ear and he was embarrassed about it. I thought that it was cool and unique, and I continually suggested that he pierce them and show them off. This is important later. The second thing that you noticed about Joe was his height. Even then he was towering over nearly everyone.

Joe and I quickly became friends. There were a few other people in our Youth Group that we were close to, like Chris, Rachel and Rebekah, that changed over the years. But Joe and I were always the center. When we first met, I had a boyfriend (Ricky, who would soon move away to Virgina) and Joe was involved with a girl whose name I have forgotten. I disliked her intensely, that much I do remember, so I will call her Krystal. Joe was odd in quite a few ways, one of which was that he was home-schooled. His parents were very controlling and did not approve of their son having a girlfriend. So he and Krystal kept their involvement a secret, but they weren't very good at it and Joe was constantly getting into trouble with his parents. Through this time, I did my best to advise Joe without letting him know that I could not stand Krystal. They had a lot of intense fights and I eventually began to advise Joe that he should end their involvement. This sparked an argument between Joe and I, and we drifted apart for a while. During that time I dated a boy that I barely remember, and he and Krystal eventually ended things when he found out that she was calling someone else her boyfriend but still wanted Joe. After Krystal was out of his life, Joe and I became close again. We also became increasingly attracted to each other. I wanted everything to be open and honest, but Joe's parents still did not want him dating anyone, so he wanted to keep things secret. This didn't sit well with me, and I did my best to avoid becoming more involved with him, without much success. It's hard to explain exactly how I felt about Joe. It was like some part of my brain was completely attuned to him. Whenever he was anywhere near me, I knew exactly where he was. He was like a beacon, I could always sense his presence. So, even though I told myself over and over that we were just friends, that was far from true, and we both knew it.

One of the groups I was involved in with my church was the (aptly named) Drama Club. I convinced Joe to join it, since we badly needed a guy or two for some skits we wanted to perform. I'm not sure exactly why or how, but the Drama Club ended up going to Ensenada, Mexico to perform skits in parks around the city. The skits were bizarre, set to music and without any speaking. It was more like interpretive dance, really. Only not so much dancing as moving around. We spent a fair amount of time in the city center, eating tacos from stands and shopping for trinkets. There was a ring that I wanted, but I couldn't bargain the vendor down to the price I wanted, so I decided to pass. Later that day, Joe came up to me and handed me that ring. Things like that were what made it so hard for me to stay away from him. We would reach an agreement about the status of our relationship as friends only, and then he would do something incredibly sweet that would just shatter all of my defenses. He remains one of the few people who were ever able to break those defenses down. I was only able to finally leave him when he no longer had that effect on me. But whether that was due to the ways he changed or my heart becoming hardened against him, I may never know. Either way, it took years.

I started high school and met Amber, better known as Glytch. We became fast friends and I was invited to join her family on their yearly summer trip to some property they have in Mexico. It was the kind of place that is an hour from the nearest town and you absolutely cannot find unless you know where it is. I was looking forward to getting away from everyone at my church, especially Joe, who was again trying to have a secret relationship with me. It was an amazing place; miles of pristine beach that you could walk on forever without seeing so much as a footprint from another human being. It was the ideal place to ignore the world and sort out my thoughts without the influence of Joe's hypnotic eyes. It didn't hurt that the friend Amber's brother brought was very attractive. He and I flirted up a storm, much to the chagrin of Amber's parents, who have yet to forgive me my youthful transgressions. The third day of that trip took a strange turn. Late the night before, a large group had arrived and set up camp in the area. The next morning, Amber and I were walking down to the water to swim. I had taken out my contacts because I was paranoid of losing them in the water. As we walked along the path, two figures appeared ahead of us, walking towards us. I, being blind at that moment, was completely taken by surprise when I heard a familiar voice call my name. It was Kent, another guy from my church. The person walking next to him was Joe. It turns out that Joe had gone on a surf camp trip with a bunch of guys from church. They had been to two other spots previously that trip, neither of which had good surf. Someone in the group remembered going to the camp I was at a few years ago and somehow was able to find it again. So in all the miles of beach camps along the coast of Baja, Joe ended up in the same exact place I was.

Once I saw him, I threw a fit. I yelled at him that I had come down here to get away from him specifically. I told him to stay away from me while he was there. Amber and I went down to the ocean and I stormed about the unfairness of it all for a while. I decided that I was going to show Joe that we were just friends by ignoring him and becoming more involved with Kevin, Amber's brother's friend. I didn't realize it at the time, but what I was really doing was trying to make Joe jealous. It worked, and Joe talked to me about how he felt about me and that he truly wanted to be with me and that I had been right all along about not keeping our relationship a secret. I had thought that was what I wanted, but as he spoke, I found myself becoming angry. I asked him to stop telling me everything I wanted to hear, that I knew when we got back it would just be the same fears and restrictions again. He swore that it wouldn't. I told him I would think about it. Later that day Kevin told me that he had seen our exchange and that it was obvious that there was something between Joe and I. He asked me to choose either him or Joe. I have a huge stubborn streak, so I told him that since he was asking me to choose, I would choose Joe, who had seen me with Kevin but hadn't said a word to me about it. Yes, Joe understood me very well. He and I spent some time together the next few days, but I was still very wary of him and spent a lot of time with Amber or by myself. Amber was an incredible friend to me that summer. I was doing things that must have frustrated her to no end, but she was always there to listen to me and help me figure out what I was thinking, or to distract me from myself. She remains one of my greatest friends, in spite of a few years of asinine behavior from me.

Once the vacation ended it was time to return to the real world and see if Joe would live up to his promises. I soon found out that he would not, he was too used to his parents' control and, even though he chafed under it, he was unable to go against them for the time being. Joe began to change in other ways though. He met another girl whom his parents did approve of, and he openly dated her. I was bitterly jealous and dated a series of guy that I really cared nothing for. Joe couldn't exist without drama though, so one day he came to me with a problem. His girlfriend suspected that she was pregnant. There was a catch though. Joe confessed to me that, while they had some as closed as you physically can, they had never actually had sex. Once I gave Joe a proper biology lesson, he determined that she was a little too desperate and crazy for his taste, and they broke up. Shortly after that Joe was kicked out of the Youth Group after he was caught smoking weed. Amazing tactics at that church. A few months later I stopped going to Youth Group because I started working part-time after school. It would be two years until I saw Joe again. It was during this time that I met Jim, got engaged to him, and got unengaged to him.

To be continued...

Monday, September 10, 2007

One Fine Day

Every girl daydreams about being proposed to and how she most wants that moment to happen. Every woman who has ever been proposed to will remember that moment for the rest of her life. In some rare and magical instances, the girlhood daydream is transformed into reality by a man who cares enough about that dream to learn it and aid in its formation. More often, this event is a moderately close attempt at romance as re-imaged by a man being advised by at the very least four different people all at once (a friend of hers, a friend of his, a relative of hers, and a relative of his, all hopefully women). And then there are those who receive the type of proposal that is solely derived from a sense of obligation. I was one of those.

Jim and I met in high school through mutual friends at the beginning of my Junior year and his Senior. My high school had a few of the typical cliques, but it also had a fair amount of people like me, who were not associated with any one clique but tended to drift from group to group with friends in all of them. Jim was also one of these types; it seemed that everyone knew him and genuinely liked him. I'm not sure how exactly we ended up being "officially boyfriend-girlfriend", but we did and I quickly became known as Jim's Girlfriend. We did typical small-town couple activities, lots of movie watching and double dates and In-N-Out. We were each others first everything. We got each other into trouble with our parents. We went to Prom and Homecoming together. We were in love.

Jim enlisted in the Air Force.

I always knew he would, he was in ROTC and his father and his grandfather had been in the military. I didn't think that it was a fantastic idea, but I acknowledged that there were not many options open to a high school senior with mediocre grades and an average SAT score. I supported that it was his decision to make. We often talked about the future and being together through the hard times he would face. Then he found out that he was color-blind and would not, in fact, be able to become a military pilot. He would become a linguist, and his first language assignment was to be Mandarin Chinese. This meant that he would go to Basic Training (Boot Camp for all other branches of the military) for six weeks in Texas and then immediately start his linguistic training in Monterrey for six months, after which he would most likely be stationed in Japan. I would be graduating high school around that time, give or take a month.

One Sunday morning, Jim and I were discussing this very topic and I mentioned how difficult it would be to be apart for such a long time. He got an odd look on his face and fell silent. A few minutes later he said, "What if we weren't apart for that long?" I asked him what he meant, to which he replied, "If we were married you would move with me when I went to Japan." I agreed that this was indeed true, since being married meant living together and such. He asked me "Do you think we should do that?" I said I did and just like that I was seventeen years old and engaged to be married in less that one year.