Enjoy Writing | Oh My My My | Part 14

"because some of us are pirates 
and some of us are damned.
but all of us, need all of us to ever find the land.
and though the passage of good hope may seem
like a needles eye
we're floating on tranquility
on this beautiful night."

josh ritter - beautiful night
There are varied and colorful reasons a person might decide to "be in a relationship" with someone else.   More than these, but these:

The together-ness of it.  "A lonely existence is fate worse than death," after all!  
The flattery of it.  The need to be wanted, the want to be needed.  
The game of it.  It's madness, and the human heart loves hopeful, spirited contention.  
The fear of it (or the fear of not having it).  The "what if's" and "could be's!" and "I hope not's" and "I'm scared's."   
The hard-to-get-ness of it.   The one you can't have, the bad boy, the challenge, the hide-and-seek, hunt-and-chase, the tag-you're-it, the "timing isn't right, but our love can make it work! It will survive!"   
The chemistry of it.  The "bam!" person (people?) who change the game once and for all.  Who actually drive you wild and… stupid.  The ones who make you forget or forego your standards.  The ones you "just can't say no" to.  The ones who introduce you to your, ahem, drive.  
The expectations of it.  What you assume or predict or plan to happen.
The bragging rights of it.  Being able to walk into a room with him  on your arm, and post bitterly-adorable-heaven-on-earth-special filtered phone photographs of you two, and to have someone to talk to all your gals about.  It's fun!   
The pressure of it.  "Everyone" thinks it's meant to be.  "Everyone" "knows" you are made for each other.  "Everyone" thinks you're an idiot to pass it up.   
The enthusiasm of it.  Like when it snows in October.  It's out of the ordinary, it's something to talk about, it's unboring. 
The "it's so perfect on paper" of it.  The lists.  Oh the lists.  Burn the lists.  (In the meantime, have personal conviction).  
The confusion of it.  Puzzles are confusing.  That's why it's so satisfying to put it all together.  Victory! Perseverance! Now we dance!  
The safety of it.  What is known is far less horrifying than what is unknown.  "There could be better for me, but there might not be."  
The imagination of it.  The soggy, schmaltzy, triumphant make-believe you do believe is on the verge of happening, of becoming  tangible.    
The idea of it.  It's quite a delicious concept.  Me and you, you and me, against the great, big, bad world.  The place you belong.  Being "more yourself with him than without him."  It pulses.
And sometimes, it's the "him-ness" of it.  He's not an illusion, trick, game, hoax, hole-filler, activity, chore, nest, or dream.  Maybe he comes with a side of deep ba-chow-pa-chow fireworks, or irresistible good looks, or arresting vocabulary, or charm that could hang off a dainty silver chain.  But it's himHe is who you want, and why you're together.

Anna brought confusing clarity when she said 
"I thought I understood it, that I could grasp it, but I didn't, not really. Only the smudgeness of it; the pink-slippered, all-containered, semi-precious eagerness of it. I didn't realize it would sometimes be more than whole, that the wholeness was a rather luxurious idea
I didn't know, don't know, about the in-between bits; the gory bits of you, and the gory bits of me."  
The gory bits of me and you.  The gory bits of him.  Before our comical Strong Mansion first date, I had gone on two other "first-dates" with a boyfriend (those other boyfriends, by the way? BOTH relationships combined didn't last four weeks.)  Caleb was my third actual boyfriend.  And the second "him."  I crushed on, and was fooled by, and pondered, and played the game with, and accepted the attention of others.  But on that Strong Mansion date, I was 21 and had made my way through a decade of middle school, high school, and "college age" with less hugs from males than fingers on my right hand, and without holding hands with a boy, having a first kiss, or saying "I love you."
But, I went to coffee, lunch and dinner (alone) with different guys (those are dates, right?).  I "talked" with guys.  I "tried" to see if there was anything there.  I "waited patiently" when something was there for me, and then… the guy dated and married someone else.  I was a strange combination of smart and clueless.  Of experienced and naive.  Of sharp and innocent.  

So when it came to Caleb and I, I knew I liked him.  I wanted to date him.  I wanted to fall in love with him.  (As opposed to "just wanting to fall in love.")  He, rather than the idea of he, had my respect and affection.  He was my good friend (so important so important so important).  He was a man of conviction, and action.  He lived and loved with a soothing and honest modesty.  He was excitable, but intentional.  He seemed to have the most perfect balance of "work hard, play hard" of anyone I'd ever met.  He was a gentleman and also a little boy and also a grandfather.  Honorable, energetically delightful and patiently reassuring.   He had a beautiful mind, but didn't give away thoughts easily.  "… these stories were't routinely told.  These stories one had to earn."  He had a nearly word-for-word identical vision for future, marriage, family and life that I saw for myself.  He was generous.  He listened to me.  He, in one sentence, could hush and challenge and inspire and affirm me.  He was tearfully real with me about his personal insecurities and fears.  He was flexible and content and faithful.  I felt like I had known him longer than I really had, I had feelings for him, I daydreamed about making-out with him.  He was my friend.  We were figuring each other out, and didn't know each other well yet, there were "the in-between bits" left to discover.  But I knew I had my sleeves rolled up and my work-boots on, and I was in this for the gory bits of him.  Not the thought of or fun of or flattery from him.  
(By the way, female readers, don't confuse "what he does to you" and "he."  Also, don't ignore "what he doesn't do to you" and "he."  I know that sounds complicated, but it's important.  You should feel something, but you shouldn't be willing to DO ANYTHING because of said feeling.  If it looks good on paper, but you have no desire… don't do it.  If you have more desire than you ever imagined, but have no/broken trust/meaningful-friendship… watch out. Seriously.  Beware.)

But here is what I did not know.  I didn't know if it was enough.  I didn't "know."  Which.  I know I know I know! You don't HAVE to "know" right away.  But I was aware that you can have a great friendship, and emotional romance, and sizzling fires… and it doesn't mean you should or will spend forever together.  And since I had been hurt, since I had relationships not work out, since Caleb himself had "broken up" with me once before, I was somewhat frozen in my square.  Like playing a board game, and genuinely enjoying it, but when it came time to roll the dice and move forward, I just… stayed put.  I didn't want to not play, and I didn't want to lose. Because he was so… good… I could talk to him about all this "stuff."  I told him that I thought he liked me more than I liked him, which was quite a flip from February.  I told him I was nervous, but that I definitely wanted to be in this.  When I was being silent, he'd force me to talk.  And when I couldn't shut up, he'd force me to be quiet.  Not "forceful" in a controlling way, but in an unstoppable way.  There were a few qualities of his that still were different from what I expected and hoped for.  Mostly it was this:  he wasn't the funny guy, the life of the party, the quick-witted, loud energy, "full of things to say" man.  He wasn't like my dad.  He wasn't like most of the other guys I ever liked or "considered" or connected with. He certainly wasn't the personality of the man I imagined for myself.  Was this okay?  Was all he was "enough"?  Was I okay not having that quality?  These questions were another reason I knew I liked him.  He was not my type - at all.  He wasn't what I would have picked for myself if you gave me a line-up.  And yet, in all of that, there was a wholeness I clearly couldn't deny.  Was it my heart fighting my mind?  My mind fighting my heart?  I don't know.  I couldn't let go, but I was scared to hold on.  A phrase I said often was "I want him to be 'it' but I don't know if he is."
These sentences are what, looking back, I wish I had understood a little better.  Or maybe they are exactly what I did come to understand.  
“I used to think that finding the right one was about the man having a list of certain qualities.  If he has them, we'd be compatible and happy.   Sort of a checkmark system that was a complete failure.  But I found out that a healthy relationship isn't so much about sense of humor or intelligence or attractive-ness.   It's about avoiding partners with harmful traits and personality types.   And then it's about being with a good person.   A good person on his own, and a good person with you.   Where the space between you feels uncomplicated and happy.  A good relationship is where things just work.   They work because, whatever the list of qualities, whatever the reason, you happen to be really, really good together.”  deb caletti - the secret life of prince charming
"He blessed them… and behold, it was very good.  And they were naked and unashamed."  [Genesis 1 +2]  Acting openly, without guilt, embarrassment or fear.  Without protection, defense or anywhere to hide.  Vulnerable.  Free.  It was good.  Ironically enough, feeling open and unrestrained with someone else is not a particularly exciting or "jazz you up" feeling.  It's not the peak and pinnacle of all sensation.  Like walking into your mother's kitchen, with her household famous homemade meal waiting for you.  Where she can already tell you had a hard day, and saved you a plate because you were home late.  You can take a deep breath and "Aaaaaah…" and relax.  Rest.  Savor.  Enjoy. Spill.  Not think.  Or think too hard.  Be.  

I had never experienced that with someone else, and I often wondered if that sense of comfort, home and total safety was a cop-out?  If it was boring?  If it was "normal"?  Is it supposed to "feel" like this?  I sometimes over-explain myself - which is probably more a sign of poor writing than misunderstood readership.  BUT. I'm not using the words "naked" and "unrestrained" in a dating relationship with the meaning "DO WHATEVER YOU WANT! ALL THE TIME! NO RULES! NO CONSEQUENCES!  NO WORRIES! HAKUNA MATATA!"  I'm simply meaning: I'm not faking anything with this person.  I'm not keeping anything from this person.  He knows ME.  And I'm learning him.  Not a game-playing him, or "yes-man" him.  The REAL him.  And the space between Caleb and I was uncomplicated and happy.  He was good.  And we were very true with each other.  And all of that didn't "feel" like things I had experienced before.  Not because these "new feelings" were louder and bigger than other ones, no, no.  That's what I was expecting, to be honest.  They were quieter and calmer. (And they were there.  I'll repeat until I die: they must exist.) This caused disharmony in me.  
Our dates were always filled with good food, cute outfits, special adventures, and happiness.  We saw each other every single day.  Because we both  wanted to.  I was quite thrilled when I was with him, but I'd wake up and start asking all my questions and have to talk myself off the ledge, and then - without fail -, when 4:00 or 5:00 o'clock rolled around I was anxious for that text that he was finishing up work.  I had to see him.  After a few weeks of double-dates, movie-nights at friend's houses, hiking trips, group church activities he had made some new friends in Maryland, but I realized he was with me all the time.  I felt bad, so I told him to go have a guys night, to go do something by himself.  He decided that he wanted to hang out with his new friend Josh, who is married with three young kids, and lived about an hour away from our town.  Caleb loved talking with Josh, and genuinely loved spending time with families and guys "ahead" of him in life. 

 I didn't see Caleb before work.  I didn't see him during work.  I didn't see him after work.  By dinner time, I was physically hurting.  I missed Caleb heaps and handfuls.  I was trying to be "good" and not text him 12 or 13 times.  I was trying to enjoy hanging out with my dad (he was in town and staying in the apartment with me.)  I made him dinner and we caught up.  Josh's wife was being wonderful and texting me the funny things they were talking about it.  Laughing at Caleb's drink choices.  Around 7:30 or so she texted and said Caleb had thrown up.  WHAT! Thrown up! "Yeah!  He was fine one second, and then the next he excused himself - quickly - to the bathroom.  And then he was puking!"  She told me he seemed to be feeling better.  Until.  He threw up again 30 minutes later.  "He's laying down on the couch now.  He says he can drive home.  But I'm not so sure…I'm sorry I poisoned your boyfriend!"  I immediately left.  "Tell him I'm coming.  Don't let him drive."  

I arrived after 9:15, and he was limp and sweaty on the couch.  It was all humorous (and the makings of a great story) but still so so sad.  He looked pathetic.  Not "man-cold pathetic." But actually really, really bad.  Slumped over we helped him to the car.  He ever-so-sweetly thanked Josh for having him (with drool slugging down his cheek.)  Every bump and turn caused a panic.  "Please drive slow!  Please be careful!"  We made it back to my house in the nearer-to-11:00-hour.  He had thrown up again a couple more times in the car (thank you, Kelley, for the bags you sent with us!)  He propped himself on me as we inched up the stairs and into my living room.  He wilted into the cute white couch and moaned.  I left to get him a blanket and pillow, then I heard scampering and awful heaving.  He slammed the bathroom door and had himself a time.  I brought him some ginger ale and crackers once he laid back down.  "Try to eat a little?"  He refused.  Ice-hugged-washcloths were the next need.  I held the cloths over his head and under his neck.  "Please try to eat something?"  He nibbled a cracker and fled to the restroom again.  While he was in there, I got a bucket for him so we wouldn't have to make "the run" every time.  Within the hour, he "emptied out" into the bucket.  I cleaned the bucket in the bathtub.  He was freezing now.  I hunted for a warmer quilt.  And Pepto-Bismal.  He exploded again.  He asked for popsicles and he was too hot.  His face was bright red and raining.  I sped to 7-11.  It was nearing 3 am.  I came home to him dry-heaving and pleading with God to "make it stop."  I tried to rub his feet to help calm his body down?  Relax him a little?  

In between his "sessions" he'd sort of fall asleep, only to be abruptly awoken.  I cleared and washed his bucket over and over.  By 5:30 am he had fallen asleep for real and at 6:00 am, I wrapped up in a sheet and slept under the kitchen table with a few pillows.  We both woke up around lunchtime.  I was in the same clothes as the day before, with various juice, medication, soap and puke dots all over me.  My make-up was mostly rubbed off, and the bags under my eyes were too big to carry-on.  I smelled salty and bloated. And that was the morning he "fell in love" with me.  My dad laughed at our appearance.  "Good night, huh?"  Perfect night, actually.
I, of course, didn't know what had happened that night for quite some time.  But for him, that series of events, caused him to "fall hard."  He was in love.  

The night before his disastrous food poisoning, we had whipped around Washington DC for a nearly perfect date.  He got off of work early and told me to "dress nice."  I had a dress I had been waiting for the right occasion to wear.  This was the perfect time.  We drove to the metro and took the train into the city.  After being captivated by the detail and grander of Union Station, we walked and talked all the way to dinner.  He had reservations at the restaurant I'd be talking about for months: Founding Farmers.  We agonized over the menu.  It's so hard to just pick a couple items!  We moaned with delight when our food arrived and we could finally taste it.  We spent most of dinner talking about his new plans:  his new "I'm not leaving Maryland" plan.  Though we had only ever talked about and agreed to him coming for 4-6 weeks, once he was here, I kind of forgot he wasn't staying?  The conversation was richly meaningful, but also, you know, scary ;)
He told me how he thought he could get more work here once he finished his project.  He talked about selling his house and land in Oklahoma if he needed to.  He didn't want to, but he was willing to.  I was almost alarmed.  His land? And house?  That place was his lifelong dream, and was half-way into being complete!  And… he would consider giving that up to stay here with me?  To make things work with me?  The idea shook me to the spine.  I felt honored and horrified.  We then talked about his house.  I asked him all about it.  He told me every little detail and plan and idea he had for it.  He told me why it was located where it was, why he didn't put the house in the original plan (on the hill), how he ended up getting the land, where he wanted to build a gazebo and stage to play music in the summer, about the deck for big BBQ's, about the tall ceilings for a 15-foot Christmas tree, the stone fireplace, the spiral staircase, the wood beams ("to wrap garland around at Christmas time!").  He spoke of these plans like he was telling me about the glory days in war, or recalling the night he met his sweetheart, Shirley, at the local bandstand.  He was lost in world, with swift movements and hungry eyes and animated descriptions.  He loved that land, and what that land meant to him.  It was the first night I ever thought "Maybe I could live in Oklahoma.  Maybe."  

After eating, we walked to the Capitol building.  In the summer there are weekly free jazz concerts put on by different military branches.  We sat on the white steps of the iconic building, and clapped and hoo-rah-ed and watched the sun go down, with the reflecting pool and Washington Monument in the distance.  Not too long after, we took our shoes off and walked around under giant trees in the soft green grass.  We found a spot to sit down, and I pulled out my favorite ND Wilson book.  He'd been wanting to read it with me, so I opened to one of my most cherished chapters and took off into the story.  I read aloud for a few pages, leaning my back on Caleb's shoulder, rubbing the grass with my none-book-holding-hand.  Then I noticed Caleb seemed really stiff.  He was fidgeting and not comfortable.  "Are you alright?  Am I hurting you?" "NO! NO. I'm good.  You're fine.  Yeah. Keep reading!"  I read on and he arched his back a little.  It almost felt like he was holding his breath under water.  I stopped again. "I can move!  It's okay… want to find a tree to sit against?"  "I'm really fine.  I promise!"  I picked up where I had left off and… a rain drop fell onto my hand.  And my dress.   Another one landed in the middle of the paragraph I was reading.  

I looked up at the clear, hot, summer sky.  Dry as could be.  I turned towards my date.  My literal hot date.  He was not a normal shade of flesh-color.  And he was sweating, big time.  It was a particularly humid night, and summers in Oklahoma are dry like never-used diapers in Egypt.  He was not used to dealing with this much perspiration.  "Oh my, that's disgusting.  I'm so sorry.  What a gentleman I am!"  I dropped the book and rolled around laughing.  "Take off your button-up!  You have a t-shirt underneath!" He was so relieved to hear me say that.  He didn't just have "pit-marks."  He had chest-marks, neck-ring-marks, wrist-marks and pit… pools.  Slightly cooler, and slightly more relaxed, he came nearer to me again.  As we were preparing to re-settle, he, um, cut the cheese, burned the bench, stepped on a duck, experienced some thunder from down under.  It was silent.  But venomous.  My first thought was that we had accidentally arranged ourselves into a nest of dog poop.  "Is this dirt?! Or is it… UM. CALEB. Did you just…?"  He leapt away from me and sheepishly apologized.  He, thus far, had been nothing but proper, classy and gentlemanly.  Well-spoken, clean and fresh-smelling.  And his image was unraveling at the seams.  I felt like I was witnessing Kate Middleton walk around with her dress tucked into her pantyhose.  This was not like him!  And his mortification only made it funnier.  He didn't play it off or make a joke.  He was in SHOCK.  He tried to wave his BO-laden J.Crew button-up around the air to fan the smell away.  While doing that, he let loose again.  

"CALEB!" I screamed, mostly teasing.  He looked so defeated and ashamed with himself.  I laughed and laughed.  "YOU!  You of all people!  Are sweating all over your date, and rubbing body odor on her!  AND FARTING!  In her FACE!  HAHAHHA!"  Once he saw my pleasure in his crudeness, he started laughing too.  I loved seeing him "come out of his box."  Not be perfectly groomed, cut and polished.  I loved seeing his reaction to embarrassment.  I egged it on more and more.  Maybe it wasn't all that funny, but the tickle-bug hit and we were stumbling around re-telling the story to ourselves, imitating our faces, roaring on the lawn.  
We finally sat down on a bench and tried to re-group.  He told me he was glad - "like, major glad." - he was staying.  He hoped I was too.  I was quiet for a moment.  

"Caleb.  What I'm about to say might seem ludicrous to you.  And I don't expect you to understand it.  But, I kind of really believe it."  I had certainly perked his attention.  "When I was 15, I had a dream.  And.  I don't know.  It was different than other dreams.  I had met this stranger in my dream and we were together and I fell in love with him.  But it all happened at this one moment.  Like, it was a specific 'thing' that happened.  Well, maybe I fell in love with him over time, but I didn't know it.  Until one specific time.  And I won't tell you any details of the dream, but I remember it perfectly.  I could draw it out for you right this second.  But when I knew, I knew.  And.  I think that's going to happen to me.  I think I'm going to KNOW.  And, I don't know yet.  And I want you to know that.  I really am happy and am loving all of this.  And we've only been together for two months, so I know there is no rush.  I'm not trying to speed anything up or put pressure on us.  But since you're staying, and saying very big things about how you feel about me, and what you'd give up for me… I just thought it was fair that you know."  

He was, rightfully, confused by my eloquent speech.  "So, you have to have 'this moment' like in your dream before you… marry someone?"  "Well!  Kind of!  I mean, I'm not even saying marriage, per se, I'm just saying… I've never KNOWN with someone.  Except that time in my dream.  And I want to have that sureness, that total 'Yes. I KNOW.' before I committed to something big, you know?"  He asked, rightfully, if I didn't have 'that one moment' if I'd maybe "know" another way.  "God works in many ways.  You might know with someone, but it might not be like it was in your dream."  I agreed.  And I had no biblical or conviction-al or even helpful support to back up my dream theory.  He could tell I was closing up.  "It's okay!  You don't have to know anything yet.  I don't know yet.  We're just dating.  We're having fun.  It's okay.  You're not leading me on.  Don't worry.  You can take your time, crazy lady.  There is no deadline for this.  I know what I'm risking, and I want to.  Don't feel pressure.  I mean it."  I got chills and almost cried, but decided to change the topic and take pictures instead. 
Just hours later, he was puking on my couch.  I couldn't help but tremor inside when the in-betweens of he and I made their way onto our stage.  Unpracticed, disgusting, raw, human us.  On display for the other to see!  It was good.  And June was telling the story of such goodness.  We'd come a long way since December.  We had a long way to go.  But I was starting to the CS Lewis sentence come to pass, "Real friendship will have naked personalities." 

And I had the gory bits of "him" very much in love with me.  Tale as old as time.  True as it can be.

to be continued...