Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 29)

Monday night. Yikes.

Despite my hopes that the earth would open up and swallow me alive before Monday night happened, the day had proceeded as mundane and usual as always. Whether it was God who told me to bring a friend or simply my desire to get through the meeting in one piece, I was monumentally grateful when a friend of mine (Rae) decided to come with me.

I do, however, firmly believe that it was God who sent the raccoon into my path on my way to meet Azalea in the University Center. It was too precious and random. Nothing calms me down like a close encounter with a wild animal. Call me weird.

Rae was eating a hamburger, and happily handed me a piece when I requested it. I sat down on the sidewalk and tapped the concrete to get his fuzzy little attention. It worked like a charm. He trundled over and happily took little pieces of hamburger out of my hand and sat on his haunches munching and staring at me lest I make any false moves.

When we ran out of food he carried on his way.

We got to the 2nd floor of the University Center and there Azalea was. She had a friend with her, too. Despite requesting that I come alone.

They had a tub of some kind of frozen yogurt and a bunch of spoons. After they finished explaining that they thought it would be fun to hand spoons out to people and see how many we could get to join in, I began excitedly telling them about the raccoon that I found on my way over.

I wasn't a 4th of the way through that story before I saw Azalea shoot her friend a look that said now.

Her friend looked bewildered for a moment and then her face said oh yeah, okay... and she interrupted my raccoon story to say, "So! Azalea! How are you and your boyfriend doing?"

They both stopped and looked at me.

"Oh, you mean Joseph? We're doing great! I'm just so glad he's not Ben! This is such a better relationship than that one was!"

They stopped and looked at me again.

I blinked. Was it hot in here? It was a little hard to breathe. I started to take my coat off. I slid off one sleeve and was halfway through sliding off the other when I saw (and remembered) the sharpie mural on my arm. I panicked and started trying to put my coat back on in a hurry, but in the process I looked up and saw that it was too late.

Azalea and Friend were staring at my arm.

I let my coat fall to the floor.

"Oh...", Azalea stammered, "I... he... you know, Joseph draws on me all the time too! Yeah, at contra a few weeks ago... you weren't there... he had drawn on me so much that one guy said he danced with me because he thought I had the most ink of anyone there. You should have seen his face when I told him it was just sharpie, and that my boyfriend drew it on me!" She and her friend were ... forcing laughter?

Azalea said she liked to draw too and took a huge smelly sharpie out of her friend's backpack, uncapped it, and started making a dot on her friend's leg. The dot grew into a giant black oval before Azalea realized the sharpie was too big and unwieldy, and it wasn't going to become anything else.

She gave up and asked me if I wanted to come to her house and see the kittens her cat had.

Oh sure. Try to lure me in with kittens.

"Um, no thanks... I have a lot of homework, ya know?"

"Would you like a ride back to your dorm?"

"It's a really pretty night, I think I'd rather walk. Thank you, though!"

Rae and I left.

Once we were halfway back and completely out of earshot, I begged Rae to tell me I wasn't crazy.

"Did that just happen?"

Rae confirmed, yes. Yes it did.

(Continued here)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 28)

Saturday. The first order of business was coffee. The second order of business was get my booty to the Hanwell's house and tell them about what was going down. I was in trouble. I was falling in love again. Is there no worse a fate than the terrible agony of being in love? I think not.

All that regular sort of trouble that I was bringing upon myself was compounded with the irregular trouble that Joseph was not the sort of guy I usually fell for. Non-Christian, pot-smoking, girlfriend- having.. Girlfriend?! I was a home-wrecker! No. No I wasn't. You can't be a home-wrecker if you have feelings for someone who doesn't have feelings back for you. Then you're just a girl who is falling for the wrong guy.

I moved the second order of business to third, as I decided that the true second order of business was to drive up to the parkway, put my face in the grass, and scream.

When I accomplished those things, I sat on the edge of an overlook by myself and just whispered, "Poppa? Please tell me what to do?"

I waited.


I waited some more.

Still nothing.

Okay then, on to the third order of business.

I drove down from the mountain and to the Hanwell's house. When I walked through the front door, I half expected the sofa to catch fire and tell me what to do. It was a bit shocking when it just sat there all ordinary and room temperature.

Genevieve, Banjo, and Scarlett were home. They heard me out, and then Scarlett put her hand on my shoulder and looked sincerely into my eyes.

"You need to talk to this boy."

"But! But it's haaaaaaaaaaaard." I whined and flopped face first onto the couch. The surprisingly non-ablaze couch.

Everyone agreed that I should speak up. I had to come clean. Joseph had to know all his options. Then he could make a decision about me. About Azalea. Or tell me that Azalea wasn't really his girlfriend. I was still only 88% sure, after all. But what if I puked? Jordan puked when I told him no.

I would definitely puke. I hate puking almost as much as I hate rejection.

My friends would still love me if I didn't tell him. So that settled it. I wasn't telling. I would just... get over him. Yep, that's what I had to do! Easy as pie! Just get over him, and never have to tell him that I was falling for him. Because I would stop falling. Then there would be nothing to tell! Perfect!

That evening I was walking through campus talking to my little brother (affectionately known as Weezle) on the phone on my way to the University Center cafeteria. I was explaining about my feelings and how I was going to stop having them and how Azalea was so sweet. I told him that she wanted to hang out and be friends.

I had just gotten those words out when I heard someone shout my name. I looked up the hill above the sidewalk I was on and saw Joseph careening down the stairs towards me. He caught me up in a great big hug and then said he had to go. He had just seen me and wanted to come say hi.

Azalea was standing at the top of the stairs with her arms crossed, "Joseph! Come ON! We have to go or we'll be late!"

I put the phone back to my ear. Weezle had heard it all.

"Was Azalea with him just now?", he inquired.


"Sarah, make no mistake about it. No matter what pretenses that girl is putting on... she hates you right now."

I thought it a distinct possibility that he was correct.

And if she hated me then, I gave her even more reason to hate me the next day.

Sunday. Church night.

I went to Joseph's room to pick him up and he was doodling on his shoes with a set of colorful sharpies. He had become rather well known for his sharpie artwork. I set my stuff down and sat on the floor to chat. At some point he moved from doodling on his shoes to doodling first on my leg,

and then on my arm. As our conversation progressed, so did the colors, shapes, and creatures. By the time the clock said we should be heading in the direction of church, I had a whole sharpie sleeve. It was beautiful. I really loved it. I decided to do my best to leave it on as long as possible.

Genevieve and Jim were taking a date night, so they weren't going to be back for a little while. Church was relatively short and then we all decided to watch Life is Beautiful, because Joseph had never seen it.

I was absolutely a villain that night. The fact that I did what I did was bad enough in and of itself. But I was at church!

We were watching the movie, and Joseph pulled the ol' yawn-stretch-drop-the-arm-around-the-girl's-shoulders move. I didn't scoot away. I was frozen.

Not scooting away wasn't the worst of it. I leaned in, leaving my hand precariously close to his. He then ever so sneakily took hold of my pinky finger.

Hand-holding action. 

I had to be hallucinating.

When Joseph left on his bike, I went to the bathroom and threw water on my face. If this was a dream, I had to wake up! But it wasn't. This was bad! I was meeting with Azalea tomorrow! If she was his girlfriend she would be totally right to feed me to the sharks right about now.

(Continued here)

The Restoration of All Things (Part 27)

The next day was Friday. I didn't lie to Azalea, I really was going to visit Grey, but she canceled plans with me because she had some pressing things to attend to.

This meant that my Friday guitar lesson was going to go forth as planned. There was no need to cancel with Joseph.

I met him under the tree with my guitar and we went to his room. Hadn't been there in a while.

I had a few new chords thoroughly memorized, and he was proud of me.

Honestly, though, with our powers of A.D.D. combined, it wasn't 45 minutes before we were distracted from the lesson. First it was with an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Next, he had a puzzle game that he just had to show me. Usually I hate board games, but this one was so different and fun! We played through it three or four times and then he asked me if I wanted to go outside. Joseph was the sort that started feeling claustrophobic if he stayed in for too long.

We went for a walk. I asked him where we were going and he said he didn't know. He asked if there was anywhere I'd like to go?

I thought for a moment.

I knew! Across the street from the campus there was a fancy building called the Center for the Advancement of Teaching or something to that effect. It sat on a piece of land with manicured lawns, a pond with a dock, and elaborate gardens. One of the gardens had a tree-house in it!  Okay, technically it wasn't really a tree-house. It was more like a really cool gazebo on stilts that sat in a grove of trees in the middle of a flower garden.

Behind the gardens there was a forest that I had heard a little personal airplane had crashed in years and years ago. I suggested we try to go find it.

We crossed the long walking bridge over the highway and stepped in to purchase snacks and chocolate milk at a gas station. Joseph was telling me how much he appreciated me for introducing him to contra and to my church. He said that he could already tell they were both becoming life changing things for him.

Half an hour or so of searching through the woods and we found the plane crash. It was a place shrouded in mystery to us. Surely somebody knew why the crash happened, if the pilot had made it out alive or, I shuddered, or not, if there had been a passenger, who they were and where they came from. Somebody knew all the facts, but we sure didn't.

As much as we felt as though we were standing on some version of hallowed ground, it was still clear that this crash site would be cooler if it included the presence of some sort of letter of long lost love.

We knew what we had to do.

I got into my purse and tore a page from my journal, thankful that I always carried a pen. Joseph and I sat in the leaves and concocted the sort of love letter that legends are made of. Satisfied with our eloquence and genius, we found a wine bottle (the site was littered with empty alcohol containers, making it evident that we were not the first college kids to find this wreckage), rolled the letter up, and gently pushed it into the neck of the bottle.

Joseph wanted to visit the tree-house next. Tree-houses are conducive to heart to heart talks, so we had several of those before migrating down to the dock to see if we could see any snapping turtles.

As it turns out, docks are also conducive to heart to heart conversations.

We stayed until we noticed flashlight beams mixed in with the other twinkling lights reflecting from the pond's water. COPS!

I had never actually run from the cops before, but it had become suddenly and abundantly clear that the Center for Education whatever whatever's gardens were not open for students to hang around in at night.

That is how Joseph and I found ourselves fleeing from the fuzz.

We were equally astonished when we made it back to campus that we had lost them.

Joseph walked me back to my dorm and said goodbye.

When I climbed up onto my top bunk that night, I realized what time it was. Joseph and I had hung out for 11 hours.

11 hours?!

That's a bit excessive if he has a girlfriend, I thought to myself as I dozed off.

(Continued here)

The Restoration of All Things (Part 26)

Joseph didn't like to see me hurt.

Knowing that I loved contra, and it being a Thursday, he asked if he would see me there. I figured a night of dancing would be good for my soul, so I promised him that he would and asked if he needed a ride.

He didn't need a ride; Azalea would be taking him. Of course.

I wasn't going to let that get me down. I was going dancing anyway and I was going to like it! So there.

I drove to Warren Wilson with the music of Josh Garrels reassuring me of the Father's Love, left my car in a church parking lot near campus, and marched myself to the dance hall with determination.

Part of me wanted to hide, but no sooner had I stepped in the door and paid my entrance fee, then an old friend I had known since middle school scooped me up and spun me around. Able. Silly, dear one.

I had arrived in the at the beginning of a waltz, which he drew me into with his usual comforting boldness and ease. Amidst our whirling and prancing, there was conversation. He had known me long enough to know when something was up.

"Oh, I like a boy, Able. You know that never goes well!"

"Is he here?"

"Yeah, he came with Azalea. I'm like 88% sure that they're goin' out or whatever it is that kids do these days"

"Here, you take the lead and show me where he is. Squeeze my hand when we waltz past him."

"Okay, let's go."

It took me a few spins, but we got there and I gave Able a squeeze.

"Ooo, not bad Sarah! So when are you going to tell him that you're into him?"

"Shhh! Able! I can't do that! What about inevitable rejection? What about Azalea?"

"Pshhh, if you want him, he's your's! And if he turns you down, you're too good for him anyway!"

"Thank you, friend, you're too good to me!"

At the end of the waltz, I was sitting on the floor talking to old friends and was unexpectedly tackled by Joseph who landed mostly on me in some kind of careening half hug maneuver. He took me away for a dance. And then another, and another.

Whenever I would meet Able in a Four Person Hey or some such, he would wink at me and nudge me closer to Joseph "accidentally".

I ducked out onto the steps outside to breathe. It was almost time to go. People were exchanging farewell embraces and walking out into the cold with their hands in each other's pockets. I went back inside to collect my purse and coat and shoes, hoping I could say goodbye to Able and sneak out before Azalea noticed me. I  didn't know what to say to her or what I was even feeling at that point.

Too bad for me, Azalea was standing in front of the door. There was no getting around her.

"Hi Sarah!"

"Oh! Hi!"

"So, I was thinking that you're one of Joseph's friends, and I'm one of Joseph's friends, and we should totally hang out sometime! Just me and you! Wanna?"

"Um.. yeah, sure.", I didn't totally hate the idea. She was really sweet, and besides, I still had her shoes.

"Cool! How about tomorrow night?"

"Tomorrow night? I have to go see my friend Yesica tomorrow night..."

"How about Saturday night?"

"I'm going to see another friend, Meriah, that night"

"Okaaaay...", she was looking a bit irritated at this point, "How about Sunday night?"

"Sunday night I have church..."

"Ugh! You have so many friends! Monday night?"

I was beginning to feel as if hanging out with her wasn't really something I had a choice about, so I agreed to meet her on the 2nd floor of the University Center on Monday night.

"Great! See you there! Oh, and... don't bring Joe, ok? Or anyone else? Let's just make it about us!"

And then she was gone.

(Continued here)

The Restoration of All Things (Part 25)

A few weeks passed, during which I still saw Joseph at the usual times. I tried to maintain appropriate levels of interaction, seein' as how I was about 88% sure that he had a girlfriend.

Star was moving to a different city a few hours away and she was getting married. It is another story that may or may not be told at another time, because it is Star's story, not mine. I had had a negative gut reaction to her betrothed when I had first met him, and I had told her how I felt as assertively as I could muster. She felt sure about her decision, though, and wasn't going to budge.

Despite my reservations, I wasn't about to miss the wedding of my best friend on the planet. I put Aquene in her traveling box and set off towards Chattanooga, TN, stopping along the way to pick up Christmas's sister, Grey. In the car, Grey let Aquene out to play and entertain us by running all over the dashboard and then hunkering down in a shirt pocket. My sweet little glider.

The day before the wedding, Star's house was all abuzz with family generally being overbearing, insisting that things be done their way, and ignoring Star's every desire for her wedding. Her grandmother purchased her a purple wedding dress because the existence of Adelaide (in the grandmother's mind) meant that Star could never wear white, or even off-white. I could see a sadness in Star's eyes as she complied without complaint. Who did these people think they were? Didn't they have a clue they were trampling over one of the greatest treasures in the universe?

It is possible that Grey sensed my unrest, as she took my hand and gave it a squeeze... which caused the father of Star's betrothed to ask Star if we were lesbians.

At nightfall, I put Aquene in her traveling box with some water and apple slices and then collapsed on the floor to sleep with Star and Grey. Having all three of us together is a rare treat, and a day's hardships could not squelch that fact in the least.  Precious conversation carried on until the last of us dozed off.

In the morning I woke up and went over to the piano to check on Aquene in her box. I was not prepared for what I found. Aquene was missing!

I woke up Grey and whispered to her that I couldn't find my glider and she leaped out of bed to help me look absolutely everywhere, but it was to no avail. The house was huge and old, with all kinds of crevices and hideaways - not to mention holes in walls that led outside. I took a deep breath. It was not the time to panic. I had to pull it together. It was my best friend's wedding day!

And so it went in the bittersweet fashion that life sometimes winds through. I didn't find Aquene before it was time to go, though Star learned she was missing and promised me they would keep an eye out for her.

Road again. Goodbye hug from Grey as I dropped her off. Back to Cullowhee. Back in my dorm room.

I opened the door and saw that Verona wasn't there. She was away at an overnight sorority trip. That meant I was alone with my thoughts and missings.

I sat down at my computer and tried not to think about Star being all married to this guy I was going to have to try to accept, and Joseph probably with this girl, Eddie just... gone forever or something. I started to stand up to go get... oh yeah... Aquene was gone. I had forgotten for a split second.

As silly as it sounds, that was my breaking point. Aquene being gone. She had been my constant companion for almost 4 years, and suddenly she was just lost? How was that even possible?! I couldn't help picturing her little furry self all snuggled down into my shirt.

I had no fuzzy fuzzy balm for my distress, so I tried to go to bed early and wound up just bawling and bawling. 

The next morning was a Thursday, which meant history class yet again. Was there no escape?

I confess, more than once I had taken greater care than usual with my choosing of clothing and the like before history class. Not this morning though. I was exhausted. Eyes puffy, hair a mess, and running late. I snatched up whatever I could find on the floor that seemed clean-ish and threw it on as I dashed out the door. 

The moment I sat down in class, I was ambushed by a cascade of Hershey kisses that Joseph was throwing at/to me. I couldn't help laughing as I caught a few and the rest bounced off my desk and myself in every direction. I thanked him as I ate one or two and put the rest in my bag. 

After class he approached me and asked if I wouldn't mind driving him to the bank. I didn't mind, so we made the hike to to my car behind one of the farther-away dorms on campus. Parking at our school was ridiculous. 

Once the errand had been completed and I had parked again, Joseph noted that I looked tired and asked if I was okay. I confessed haltingly that I had been rather teary the night before. 

"You were crying?", he asked with his eyes all intense. 

I looked down, "Erm.. yeah, I guess you could say that." 

"Oh Sarah!", he swept me into a bear hug, "You never need to be alone when you are that sad! Why didn't you call me?! What's wrong?!" 

The whole truth would reveal too much, so I only included the part about Aquene being gone. 

He reacted with a kindness that was almost enough to bring forth another tear or two... but not the kind that comes from sorrow. 

The Restoration of All Things (Part 24)

Once again, the yawning and stretching and eye rubbing that came with it being a new morning were mine. Tuesday. History class. This meant I would be seeing Joseph again. 

After class, in a booth at Einstein's, Joseph asked me about the painting on my guitar. He remembered it from church. It was a rough painting of city skyscrapers at night. The buildings had a moon above them, and roots that made a heart beneath them. I was a bit obsessed with roots growing into hearts at the time. 

I told him that I had been inspired by a doodle I had seen in a port-a-john at Cornerstone. I decided to put it on my guitar to remind me to pray for the two cities that I majorly had a heart for at the time: Chicago and Tokyo. 

He asked if I knew how to play that guitar. I blushed. No. Not even a little bit. It had been my mom's guitar, and she never had played it either. I told him that I would love to learn... someday. 

Doing his best to conceal his excitement, he asked if I would like him to teach me. I said that would really be great, and we should pencil each other in some time. 

He whipped out his planner and said, "What days are good for you? How about Fridays? When do you get out of class?" 

I blinked. I really didn't expect him to actually pencil me in. Um, okay... Fridays would be perfect. I got out of class around 2:30 on Fridays. 

He said that was splendid and asked if we could meet at the tree that was all blazingly yellow and orange just outside of the building we had history in.

With this new arrangement I really did practically see Joseph every day. Sunday and Wednesday for church, Tuesday for class, Thursday for class and sometimes contra, and now Friday for guitar lessons. 

He was an excellent teacher, drawing me little pictures of where the chords are to take back with me and practice. As the weather grew chilly, and I began to stay later, he would pinch the sleeve of my jacket before I left, say it wasn't thick enough to keep me warm, and offer me one of his to wear over it. 

One Friday guitar lesson, I sat in his computer chair, watching him play the simple little song I wanted to learn (from the movie Juno) and I was noticing how sweet his hands were. 

Maybe it could be okay to have a crush on a friend again, I thought. What were the odds I'd get burned again, anyway? 

Just then I was startled when the door opened and Azalea walked in. 

Wow, I thought, she really just walked right in, didn't she? No phone call? They must be on really familiar terms! 

She carried her knitting in with her, nodded hello to me, sat down on the bed, and started telling Joseph about her day. 

I knew my guitar lesson was over, so I got involved in the conversation. She was a fun girl! 

Joseph excused himself to the bathroom, and Azalea, getting straight to the point, asked me how my love life was going. 

Whatever very small part of me was taken aback, was thoroughly overruled by my relief that we would be talking about something real instead of endless, boring smalltalk. I gave her a brief sum up of the situation with Eddie Kindle and explained to her that I had never had a boyfriend, nor the wiles to get one, so I had almost completely accepted my fate to become an crazy old spinster making the walls in my house out of origami cranes and collecting kinkajous, sugar gliders, and coatimundi. I had planned this out, you see.

When Joseph returned, Azalea told him that she wanted to go star-gazing at the baseball field. I was invited along, so I bundled into my coat and we trundled down the stairs and into the night. Telling stories, and playing through the metal sculptures around the art building, we made our way across campus, past the Ramsey Center, around faraway parking lots, over a tiny bridge that spanned a creek, and into the baseball field.   

We lay down with Joseph in the middle of the pitcher's mound and commenced our diligent star watching. There was bonding. There were tales of woe and of joy followed by silliness and laughter. Then I got some kind of freak, unreasonable wild hair. I would try my hand at wiles, I thought. I could... oh I don't know... put my head on his shoulder? No. No that's too much. Perhaps I would just scoot a little closer and roll over onto my stomach and put my chin in my hands. Okay, that I could handle. 

I only got so far as propping myself up on my elbow before I saw it. 

Hand holding action. There was definite hand holding action going on. 

Azalea shot me a look and then chirped, "I could just sleep out here! Whadaya guys think? Wanna sleep out here?", she gazed into Joseph's eyes.

Competition. I couldn't compete. I wouldn't fight. An old friend of mine had once said, "That which you have to fight to gain, you have to fight to keep." 

I didn't know for sure if that was true or not, but it sounded wise. Besides, I could see that she really liked him, and I was kind of on the fence so... 

Oh, I forgot, I was supposed to say something about whether or not I wanted to spend the night here. That was tricky. I didn't want it to look like I was just bailing because I saw that she had his hands, but I didn't really want to stay and be a third wheel, either. 

Mercifully, at just that moment the sprinklers came on. 

Azalea looked at Joseph and implored, "Oh so what if we get all wet? It could be fun!".  

I smiled at them and said that just this once I think I'd prefer to sleep dry, stood up, and started heading for the bridge. 

Azalea and Joseph got up and followed. 

When we got to the bridge, Azalea stopped me to ask why I wasn't wearing shoes. I told her I just don't always like to. She said it was too cold out not to have shoes on, and began insisting that I take hers. 

"No, really, it's okay! I like being barefoot! I chose to leave withou..."

"Take them! Just take them!" 

"But what about your feet?!" 

It was too late. She had them off and was handing them to me. Putting them on the ground and saying that if I didn't wear them, she was just going to leave them there and nobody would wear them. 

I don't like borrowing things. Borrowing things means later I have to return things. I am a scatterbrained human who routinely doesn't keep track of my own things, much less anyone else's, and if I forget to return something, I carry guilt with me until it's either returned or I lose both it and touch with the person who lent it to me. 

But alas, she had pulled the ol' "take or it's gone" tactic, so I heaved a sigh and put them on. 

There was some talk of someone going back with Joseph to cut his hair, but I maintained my position that I was longing for a full night's sleep. 

I hugged them both goodbye and headed back to my dorm by myself, trying to process the last few hours. 

Hand-holding action? But if Joseph had a girlfriend, wouldn't he have said something in all our hours and hours of hanging out? I guess the truth was that our hangout time was purposed. It was class or church or guitar lessons. Maybe we weren't as close of friends as I had thought we were. 

Anyway, if I had been certain before that a crush on a friend was a bad idea, I was now thoroughly convinced that this was an undeniable fact. It was alright, I guessed. I would just have to stop entertaining the idea that he could be more than a friend.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 23)

For church on Sunday, we were going to all go up on the parkway, eat crackers and cheese, and read the last chapter of Job.

Joseph, Jordan, the Hanwell's, Lynday and I carpooled together in the Hanwell's van.

When we got there, it was suddenly very apparent that I had once again failed to dress appropriately for the weather. I had forgotten how cold it gets on top of the mountain! Fortunately, Genevieve has always been brilliant at thinking ahead and had taken throw blankets along. Everyone grabbed one and we sat on the edge of the overlook to watch the sunset as we read. 

The last chapter of Job is such a bombshell of glory, and when it was over, we all just sat in stillness, watching the sun go down in flames. Since I was wearing shorts, I put my blanket over my knees, but my shoulders were still cold with my no-sleeves. 

Joseph noticed. 

He came over ever so quietly and sat down next to me, tossing his blanket over both of our shoulders. 

We were sharing a blanket. Oh no! There had to be some kind of rule against this. 

In the van on the way home, when I put my foot up on Joseph's armrest, he took it under his arm and squeezed my toes to warm them up. 

"Are you a player?" Lynday asked. 

"What? No." Joseph said softly, with his concerned eyebrows on, "Why do you ask?" 

"Oh I'm just checking. Some guys are players, you know."

When we got back to the Hanwell's house, Joseph picked up my guitar to jam with Banjo, and Genevieve took my hand, whispered impishly for me to come with her, pulled me through the kitchen and straight into the pantry.

I climbed onto the washing machine and she climbed onto the dryer. 

"You shared a blanket!", she whispered excitedly.

"What! I mean... yeah I guess we did", I whispered as quietly as I could.

"Did he hold your hand?!" 

"No! No he didn't! Why would he do that?!" 

"You don't want him to?" 

"No! I don't... I don't know! Anyway I think he has a girlfriend!" 

"We'll kill 'er!" 

"Shhhh! Genevieve!", I was absolutely cracking up. 

And we gave up trying to talk through giggles and attempts to stay quiet. We agreed that we had to get out of the pantry before someone caught us. 

When I stumbled out into the living room again, Joseph beamed at me as he nodded along with the music he and Banjo were concocting. 

Oh clueless friend.

The Restoration of All Things (Part 22)

It wasn't a day or two more after the Night of the Pomegranate that Star and I decided we were long overdue for a visit.

Nothing sounded more appealing at that time than a chance to get off campus and see my dearest friend and her baby girl, so my Camry and I began the voyage as soon as I could muster. I don't think I even packed anything except a toothbrush. 

Star was renting the basement of a spunky middle-aged Asheville hippie who once casually excused herself (as we sat chatting upstairs in her living room) to go smoke some weed and then came back and asked us to continue our story.  We didn't agree with her all the time, but we enjoyed her company and she was a kind landlord for Star, which was excellent, given the close proximity in which they were living. 

Even mundane tasks like going to the grocery store are magical when you do them with a best friend. As we grazed through the aisles of Earth Fare, I stumbled upon a henna body art kit. Star and I looked at each other with glee. This was going to be fun. 

Oh, and it was! We got too carried away, after Adelaide had gone to sleep in the other room. Star hennaed a funky, non-traditional, masterpiece from my fingertips to my shoulder on my right arm, and from my toes to my knee on my left leg. Did we stop at that? Of course not! We then broke into Star's collection of MAC eye makeup and moved on to painting some kind of robot, Egyptian, fairy, space crusader style on our eyes and then faces. 

We finally fell asleep in her bed to the sound of Friends playing on the TV in the background. Her Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix puppy, Penelope, snuggled between us. Us, with saran-wrap around our arms and legs to keep the henna where we wanted it as it dried and set. We did our best to sleep with our faces away from the pillows so as to mess up the groundbreaking art on our faces as little as possible. 

Never have I loathed class so much as when it called me away from my dear ones. Alas, in the morning (after removing saran-wrap and rinsing off excess henna), I forced myself back into my car to go back to Cullowhee. A cup of coffee for the road and a hug from Star. Sweet goodbye kisses from Adelaide, and I was off.

It was an hour or so of a drive. I settled in and turned on the radio. About half an hour in, "Somebody to Love" by Queen came on. I was bopping and singing along, when all of the sudden, I did something that is just so embarrassing to admit. I hollered to my kind and loving Lord, "Yeah Poppa! What about me?! Can you find me somebody to love?!". I then threw my hands in the air (which, granted, is a terrible idea whilst driving) to show Him with my actions that I was having a big feeling about this. It was at this moment that I looked up from the road at the sky only to see something that I only wish I had had a camera for. Also, someone else in the car to take a picture would have been handy. 

Truly, though, it wouldn't have happened, had I not been alone. I wouldn't have been getting so embarrassingly honest, and I wouldn't have looked up and noticed. Another plain fact is that what I saw made me too annoyed to have even thought about a camera if I had been carrying one. Annoyed, exasperated, and the tiniest bit of playfully offended. 

It was clouds. Clouds that just happened to be perfectly shaped like an elephant. Beyond that, due to it being morning and those clouds being caught in the rays of a sunrise, it was a pink elephant. It was a perfect pink elephant. It was all there, the tusks, the trunk, four legs shaped as if it was running, ears, tail. 

And deep in my spirit rumbled, "Joseph".  It wasn't audible, but it kind of felt audible. I looked around to see where it came from, even.

"No!" I shouted, "Not Joseph! You are SO messing with me right now!" 

It felt like God had scrumfled my hair mischievously and ran away laughing. If I wasn't driving I would have crossed my arms. Part of me was stunned and amazed, another part was annoyed and offended, and still another part wanted to join in the laughter. 

Well, this was uncomfortable. I changed the radio station and tried to forget about it.  

Once at school, I begrudgingly found a parking spot as close to the building my class was in as I could. 

I hadn't time to go back to my dorm, much less do a thing about myself before class. The incredulous stares were par for the course, I supposed, suppressing grins to myself as I thought about how silly I looked, and what a sister Star was to me. Not thinking about pink elephants, of course. Not thinking about things left unspoken that grow into awkward glances. Nope, I wasn't even going there.

Child development in the context of their education would have my undivided attention that morning.

Oh who was I kidding? I could never focus in that class. How would I keep my mind off that morning's events? Oh! I know! I wrote a note and passed it to Kentucky.  

Thankfully, she was well acquainted with my trouble-making side, and was as bored with this class period's topic as I was. 

There would be no more obsessing over colorful clouds for me that morning.

(Continued here)

The Restoration of All Things (Part 21)

Joseph and I were becoming better friends every day. After history class, he would leap over the desks that separated mine from his and walk me to Einstein's.

He started coming to church regularly, even if it was with uncertainty. With his arms crossed, he would ask questions that he considered unanswerable and appeal to us to explain this God we claimed to know. 

"Defend Him!” he would insist. 

But his eyes, betraying him, said instead, "Please defend Him?"

After church, we would walk back across campus together. Often, we stopped and lay down in the light of the streetlamps on the steps of the Ramsey Center (where graduations were held) and continued our constantly ongoing discussion of things great and frivolous.

There was a spider who lived in the corner where the railing met one of the poles that held it up. Joseph pointed out that he was a pretty industrious little guy, building his web just exactly in the brightest puddle of light like he did, thereby catching more little bugs than he knew what to do with each night.

We gave him a long ridiculous name that made him sound like a distinguished, learned Viking and made a point to check up on him whenever our travels took us near the Ramsey Center.

One night, I ran into Joseph on campus and he informed me that a mutual friend of ours named Winnie was having a really tough day and was about to suffer back to back shifts in the University Center cafeteria regardless. With all the stress of classes and hours and hours of work ahead of her filled with rudeness from students as well as her boss, it seemed likely she would be feeling near her wit’s end in no time.

Due to his thoughtful nature, Joseph wanted to do something to make her feel better. He asked if I wanted to help, and if I had any ideas.

After some brainstorming, we decided to paint her a picture, and go to the dollar store for plastic dinosaurs and all manner of silly things. We were going for an explosion of cheerful goodness to show her that she had friends who cared that her day was awful.

Excited to execute our plan, we wasted no time in getting ourselves to the dollar store (where we purchased the plastic dinos, sidewalk chalk, silly string, and some star-shaped helium balloons) and then back to his room to work on a painting that we were just certain would turn out to be a masterpiece.

I had never been to his room before. I figured it would be like any other guy’s dorm room. Curtain-less, rug-less, barren walls save for a poster or two of a favorite band or movie.  

I couldn’t have been more wrong. This boy had taken great care to make his room as little like a dorm room as possible.

 It was warm and, dare I say, downright cozy. He had made the floor look like wood with a few faux-wooden tiles over the bare white tiles of the dorm floor and under tasteful rugs. Sensitive to lighting, he made sure the fluorescents were unnecessary by adding incandescent lamps, Christmas lights, and some kind of crazy multi-colored hippie lighting device with a million or so tiny plastic-y wiry thingies sticking out all over the place that changed colors every so often in a mesmerizing sort of way. 

His roommate had decided college wasn’t for him and quit a few days after moving in, so Joseph was the lucky winner of one free roommate-less room. He had made use of the second bed by turning it into a makeshift sofa, throw pillows and all.

There were even houseplants. I couldn't believe it. They were all alive, even. With the exception of my (very guided by professionals) work at the greenhouse, I had never been able to keep a single plant alive. I had once killed an air fern, for crying out loud! Aren't those things supposed to be totally indestructible

And then, I noticed his art. It was all over the walls. Not solely his own art, of course, but the ones I was most impressed with all turned out to be the ones he confessed were his work. 

When I was able to draw myself away from taking in my inviting surroundings, Joseph and I got down to business and did, indeed, create the masterpiece of a painting that we had anticipated. We were so proud of ourselves, painting and wrapping things, laughing at each other when it turned out all bejiggidy. 

As I was securing the very last piece of tape, the phone rang. I picked it up and handed it to Joseph. A little conversation, and then he put the receiver on his shoulder and whisper-asked me if it was okay if Azalea came over. 

Oh. Azalea. That caught me off guard and I wasn't sure why. I hurried to hide my confusing discontent and nodded yes, that would be fine.

It wasn't 5 minutes before there was a knock on the door and Azalea came in, all bubbly and holding a pomegranate. She asked me if I had ever eaten one before, and I said no, I hadn't, so she proceeded to show me how and decided to bestow the whole fruit on me. 

I didn't have anywhere to put it, so she picked up the gifts I had bought and wrapped for Winnie and followed Joseph (who carried our painting) out the door and down the stairs. Azalea wanted to take her car, so I scooted into the back seat and we were off on our way to Winnie's apartment. 

At Winnie's apartment, we discovered a locked front door and no Winnie. The three of us decided it best to break in through a window and leave the gifts on the counter to surprise her when she got home. We were in the process of writing her a note when we heard the lock turn and Winnie caught us being sneaky. 

There was a giant enthusiastic display of gratitude in which Winnie profusely thanked and embraced Joseph and Azalea for their kindness. I stood trying not to feel left out for a moment. After all, it shouldn't be important to me that I receive credit. The point was that our friend be cheered up, I reminded myself, and she was cheered. So. Yey, right? Success! 

Happily, before I could continue my argument with myself, Joseph put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Sarah helped too! We had so much fun!", and I was awarded a hug from Winnie, too.   

We piled back into the car and I picked at my pomegranate, thinking that I hoped I could hang out with Joseph a little more before it was time to go back to my dorm. It wasn't to be, that night though. Azalea said, "Joseph, I left my purse in your dorm, so I'm coming up with you. Sarah, I'm dropping you off at your car." 

"Oh", I said, baffled, "okay. Bye guys!" 

Joseph smiled and waved at me.  

I hopped out and headed towards my car. I was hitting a low point. Like an immature teenager, I thought, pouting because I was feeling ... just a tiny bit of rejection. Why didn't Joseph want me to come with them? Was there something going on that I didn't know about? 


I didn't want to go back to my dorm. My heart hurt and I didn't know why. I found myself heading straight for the Hanwell's house. 

I pulled into their driveway and knocked on the door. I hoped I wasn't being rude. It was awfully late for a family. But I didn't have time to get nervous that I was waking them up before the door flew open. They were all crowded in the doorway, laughing because Banjo had seen my car pull up and shouted , "IT'S SARAH!" 

I know this because he immediately told me while Scarlett stood beside him looking comforting just by existing. 

I didn't know what to say to explain my late-night drop in, so I just held up my half eaten pomegranate and said, "Azalea came over... she gave me a pomegranate. I don't know why and I don't know what to do with it." 

Since the very first time Genevieve and I ever conversed, I have been outrageously understood. There are very few people I've ever been acquainted with who speak my language. Who understand what I'm trying to say when I don't exactly know what I'm trying to say. 

Genevieve is one of those people.  

She invited me in. We talked. We prayed. Hugs from people who loved me, and I was okay to go back to my dorm. 

I wasn't sure that I liked what was going on, or that I even knew what was going on. One thing was for sure though. I was loved with a great love. 

The great love of my friends, and the even greater Love of the One who has given me such wildly wonderful friends. To go back to my dorm knowing that... well, I am chronically imperfect. So, it didn't make me feel as better as it should have. But it sure did help. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 20)

I dropped Joseph off at his dorm that night and hugged him goodbye.

The next morning after class, I called my friend Star and told her that I had a new friend who was like a Christmas present from God. After explaining about the day I met him in the snow and how I forgot all about him for a semester or so and then rediscovered him, class, Einstein's, and contra, she stopped me.

"Do you think he has a thing for you?", I could hear her raised eyebrows from 26 miles away.

"Oh no! No no no." I paused, "... Oh for the love of donuts! I hope not!"

"Do you hope not? Why?"

"I ... I don't know. He's younger than me, for one. Too young, probably. He's not a Christian, and I'm pretty sure he still smokes weed. Besides, it's just so glorious to have a friend on campus to, like, do things with again. Ya know? Oh, and it would be so sad to have to tell him no! He's so sweet. I don't want to bring on any more friendship awkwardness for a good while."

"Yeah, I hear you..."

Our conversation moved on to other things.

Joseph and I hadn't talked any more about church, so when it was time again for it on Sunday, I walked there by my lonesome with my no-shoes again. I liked the long walks there. It was pretty, quiet, and totally conducive to rabbit-trailing, A.D.D. thinkings to God.

I came through the door and saw that once again, footwear was missing from the outfits of Doogan and Jordan. They both looked rather giddy. Though I was a little weirded out, I thought maybe they were experiencing some kind of spiritual breakthrough, or they were doing really well in class, or they both won the lottery. At the same time. Who knows, right?

At the end of our meeting that night, in the middle of brownies and orange soda, I heard "Wagon Wheel" playing from the other room. Part of me thought oh no, I severely hope Jordan isn't playing that because I said I like it last week! and another part of me thought oh please, don't be so narcissistic. Then the sound of Jordan's voice broke through my thoughts.

"Hey Sarah, you like this song, right? Come sing it!"

I cringed. Everyone was looking at me expectantly. Oh fine. I'll sing it.

Thankfully Verona joined in so I wouldn't feel quite so awkward. When it was over, Jordan and Doogan both crowded over and began talking over each other with overdone compliments on our voices and inquiries about my whereabouts on specific future days. What was going on! I had to get out of there.

I excused myself and went outside to sit on the front step and stare at the pavement in confusion. I waved farewell to each friend as they left, and finally went back inside to say goodnight to Genevieve, Kentucky, Rosie, Josh, and Jim.

When I stepped in they all busted out laughing. I sat down on the couch half-smiling quizzically and said, "What?!"

Rosie caught her breath and said, "Didn't you see that Doogan and Jordan were both barefoot?!"


"Oh Sarah. They have crushes on you! Both of them!"

"No! No they don't! No way." I crossed my arms in defiance.

They were right though, I found out later. Doogan must have figured it out that I didn't share his feelings, because he quit coming to church a week or two later. He had only been there because I was there. It was a bit disheartening.

Jordan, on the other hand, was determined. He had it all planned out in his mind right down to the white picket fence. A white picket fence, that is, that surrounded a house. A house that I lived in. With him. And our 7 children. He would be a preacher, and I? I would be his wife.

To be fair, I don't think he expected this to come to pass. But his hope for it was practically tangible, it spent so much time oozing from his every pore.

Once I realized what was going on there, I knew what had to be done. In high school, my Bestfrienddavid (a hopeless romantic at heart, always falling in love with any pretty girl who batted her eyelashes at him only to get his heart crushed and toyed with repeatedly) would take my shoulders and look into my eyes and say, "If someone likes you and you don't like them back, the only kind thing to do is to let them know quickly and for certain. Don't leave any room for doubt or hope."

I called a meeting with Jordan at the Hanwell's house. We went into the kitchen and sat down. I have never been good at conflict, much less "ripping off the band-aid" harshness.

I panicked a little and looked around for something that might help ease the tension. Aha! The Hanwell's tiny Great Dane puppy, Abigail. Perfect.

I picked her up and put her in Jordan's lap, "Here you go. This is going to be a hard conversation for you. Puppies make everything easier."

He just looked at me and blinked.

I cleared my throat. "Um... I kind of ... have a suspicion that you might, ya know, have a crush on me?"

"I mean um, I can't ... I'm not going to lie to you. It's true. And I ..."

"No. I know. I'm so sorry. I really have to tell you that I have no plans for dating you," I tried to speak as gently but firmly as I could. I knew the next part would especially sting, "and I never will."

There was silence. Awkward, awkward silence.

"Ok," he finally forced out, "I ... I'm really glad you told me. Thank you."

"Sure thing."

I patted him on the shoulder on my way out the door.

He went outside and smoked a whole pack of cigarettes. After that he may or may not have thrown up.

I felt really awful for him.

The next time he came to church I was relieved to see that he was wearing shoes again.

Someone did show up barefoot, though. That someone was Joseph. I was surprised and happy to see him. It was so exciting to introduce my new friend to the Hanwells, Verona, Banjo and Scarlett.

Despite being barefoot, he had ridden his bike. We were outside that evening, around a bonfire in the backyard. He introduced himself and then sat down and began lazily strumming a sweet little melody on my guitar.

Once back in the living room, he brought up the problem of poverty with Genevieve and we talked about a documentary she had watched about people who live in a little village in Africa. One man from the village had moved to a city and gained material wealth. When he came back to his village he made a statement about how sorry he was for his poor former neighbors and how they lived with so little.

But later in the documentary, there was an interview with one of the villagers that he felt sorry for. The villager, while talking about him, shook his head and said, "Our poor friend. We feel so sorry for him. He thinks he doesn't need anybody anymore. We are blessed to have little, because we still understand that we need each other."

Now, that is not to say that I believe an accumulation of wealth is evil, if one exercises good stewardship over what they have. Also, it is not an answer to the question of extreme hunger and poverty and pain in which people can't care for each other's physical needs because they haven't even enough to care for themselves. But for that day it seemed like a good place to start.

When it was time to go, Scarlett hugged me and whispered into my ear, "You should keep him!", to which I hastily responded, "No no no!"

I wasn't doing a friend-crush again. Absolutely not. I was going to be a crazy old lady with too many sugar gliders, and I had accepted that fact.

(Continued here)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 19)

Thursday afternoon, I pulled into the parking lot in front of the University Center and was preparing to trot over to the bell tower to wait for Joseph, when I saw that he was already on his way towards my car. He climbed into the passenger seat and we were on our way.

The college that facilitated contra dancing, Warren Wilson, was a good hour and a half from our own college, so we had a bit of a drive ahead of us.

Once on the road, I became acutely aware of how alone we were in the car. I have always been one to find silence slightly frightening when I am feeling nervous or socially awkward. The natural reaction I have in that context is to fill the silence with lots and lots of words.

Our drive started out that way. I was staring at the road and battling silence with talking despite that prickly feeling that my audience was being bored to death. I was telling him about my church family and our Summer of Love, the birds, the greenhouse, and ... oh no, now I was telling him all about Eddie, my broken heart, my bad luck in love. I had to stop myself! I was about to cram my fist in my mouth, but one tiny peek over at the passenger seat left me astonished.

He was listening.

His blue eyes, engaging and glinting in the setting sun, looked somewhat enraptured.

"So what happened, then?", he inquired.

"You're not bored?"

"What? Bored? Why would I be bored?"

And so it went for the rest of our journey. At ease, I ceased talking nervously and carried on like a normal human instead of some kind of crazed hyena. We talked a little about Eddie, then about God, and his family. He wasn't a Christian, even though he had been raised Lutheran, but he was deeply interested to hear about my relationship with God. He wanted to know what I believed, why I believed it, when it started, and where I was in it now.

He pulled my testimony out of me like a sponge.

When we pulled into the parking lot at Warren Wilson, we sat quietly for a moment before making the trek to the dance hall. Wind rustled the branches overhead. I could hear fiddles, stomping feet, and joyful whooping.

Contra was like being transported to another country. The usual rules of social interaction don't apply. Personal space doesn't exist. There isn't a soul around who will judge any part of your outfit, hair, body, tattoos, or friendships.

Line dancing is like a roller coaster we make for ourselves.

No sooner had we paid our way in, then a girl I had encountered a few times in the past (we shared many of the same friends) by the name of Azalea came running up, launched herself into Joseph's arms and yelled, "It's so good to see you here! Want to dance this one with me?!"

He told her that I had the first dance, since I had driven him there, but that he would save the next for her.

I took his hands and did my best to show him the ropes of contra. I whispered quickly to him that the lady should always be on his right and gave him a quick rundown of as many important terms as I could think of offhand. Forward and back, promenade, balance and swing, allemande, and my personal favorite: the four person "hey".

That first dance with Joseph was a little halting, but overall he picked it up pretty swiftly, I thought.

Contra can be rather fast paced, and with all the keeping up and gleeful bounding about, it is likely that one will be quite sweaty at the end of a song. Joseph and I were happy, but also both sweaty and out of breath by the end. He caught me up in a bear hug and asked if I wanted to accompany him outside into the cool night air  for a break.

Collapsed on the concrete steps, rehashing the dance and encouraging each other, we were interrupted by Azalea. She came over, said hello to me, and then lay down on the step with her head in Joseph's lap to ask how he liked contra.

He grinned and said that he really loved it.

"Then quick! We'd better go!", she shouted, pulling him to his feet.

He looked over his shoulder at me and sort of half shrugged, following her in.

I watched them disappear into the fray, sighed, and took myself on a little walk down a trail to a rope swing that was hanging from a tree. It was peaceful just to be and swing there a while.

When that night of dancing had ended, I found Joseph and Azalea sitting on the wood floor looking engrossed in conversation. I hated to interrupt them, but we had to go back to our school if we were to get back at any decent hour. Azalea too, for that matter, since she went to the same school as us.

On the way home, Joseph said that he had only met Azalea once before, with the same mutual friends that Azalea shared with me. The next thing he said was that he was hungry. I was hungry too. Full of dancing endorphins and oh so hungry!

We decided to stop by a Wendy's and grab some food, but we didn't want to eat there... or in the car. Aha, a tree in a park. That's more like it. I parked the car and we commenced tree climbing.

Sitting in the branches, eating our fast food, small talk became real talk in no time. We were back to discussing things of consequence. Since I wasn't driving this time, I could see how intense Joseph's gaze was when he was listening. Sometimes, though, when it was his turn to talk, he would get shy and pick at the tree's bark, or find a twig to break into 800 pieces.

He confided that there had been a time when he thought smoking weed was the most fun ever. Once or twice he had tried mushrooms, but they sent him on a terrible trip that was like a horrific nightmare he thought he would never wake up from. Explaining how awful it was, he swore and then looked surprised. "Oh! I'm sorry!", he gasped, "Did I offend you? You don't cuss, do you?"

"Sometimes I cuss.", I blushed, "I try not to ... but I'm not offended. Personal choices and all that..."

He told me that he felt smothered by the way his family did Christianity and he just didn't know who God was. He didn't understand how there could be a God who loved, who was merciful, who longed to pour grace out on the raw weakness and imperfection of humanity, when there was poverty and suffering in the world. It was the age old question. The problem of pain.

I had so many things to tell him that they all tried to come rushing out at once and got so clogged up that I was rendered speechless. I tried again, "You know... that is a really huge question. I think it can't be answered in one night. It might be more of a process if you want to understand...", and I told him that he would be more than welcome to come meet my dear Hanwells some church night... if he wanted to. He was thoughtful for a few minutes and then said, "Yeah, that could be cool."

All that was left of our meal was paper bags and wrappings. It was time to go home.

Joseph fastened his seatbelt and then caught my eyes to say, "Thank you so much for taking me with you tonight, Sarah! It was wonderful. It feels like we've been friends for a really long time, doesn't it?"

I smiled in agreement. It did feel that way.

(Continued here)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 18)

Oh dreams. Tuesday night I tossed and turned. First it was Eddie's hands. We had never held hands in real life, but my subconscious did an excellent job of cooking up a believable tribute to hand holding. He was in a chair, and I on the floor. When I woke up, I was surprised to be alone except for Verona asleep on the bunk below me. My hands still felt held, but they were empty. I shook it off and went back to sleep.

Sleep was a trickster that night, though. The second I drifted off again, I was on my top bunk and an old friend from high school was making bold and unwanted advances. I looked down through a thick mist and saw Eddie on the floor. Pterodactyls were gliding around over his head, and he was planting giant prehistoric-sized herbs into the dormitory tile. 

In between defensive blocks against old-high-school-friend, I shouted down at Eddie, "Hey! Do you see what's happening up here! Don't you care?!" 

But he was oblivious. When he finally did look up and notice me there, all he did was yank a giant herb out of the ground. He held it up and shouted, "This one's parsley!" 

That was one of the very few times I've been grateful to hear an alarm clock go off. Why was I thinking about him? Stupid dreamland. I was doing so well until then! After I climbed stealthily down, I made myself a shower that was just a little too hot and stood under it blankly just a little too long. 

Even more grateful, was I, that it was Wednesday. 

Wednesday was a church night. I went an hour or two early because I wanted to be there before it got crowded. There were two guys that I was feeling a little weird about that had started attending. One, Doogan, at my own invitation. Doogan was in my group of friends Freshman year. He had claimed he had a crush on me one night online, but I kind of just figured he was drunk, told him no, and things had proceeded as usual. He was nice-ish, but really not my type. The other, Jordan, I had briefly encountered on a weekend class trip a few years back. They had both been acting funny around me the last few weeks and it made me awkward and nervous. 

I was the first one at church that night. Genevieve took one look at me and knew I was feeling off. I felt like a criminal as I told her about the dream. I should have been so far beyond this. 

She looked at me, eyes shining, and said, "I think it means that one of these days he will just be ancient history to you. It will be,'oh that guy I once knew', and not a big deal at all!"

Her words were like a verbal hug. I wanted to want her to be right. 

Suddenly the door flew open and Doogan was bounding in. Oddly, he wasn't wearing shoes. Not that I think absence of footwear is odd, given my adoration for neglecting to add it to my own attire, but in all the years I'd known him, I'd never seen Doogan shoeless. 

It wasn't 7 more minutes before Jordan came along behind him... also barefoot. They looked at each other's feet, at me, and then shot each other annoyed glances. 

What was going on? 

At church's end that night, we all stood around munching on cookies and chattering in the kitchen and living room. Someone started picking out a few chord's from Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show, and I mentioned that I really love that song.

And It's true. I do really love that song.

There were the usual hugs all around on our way out the door. I could hardly sleep that night for anticipation of contra dancing the next day. Contra was one of my favorite things, and I was going to get to introduce it to my new friend Joseph!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Restoration of All Things (Part 17)

Rosie and Kentucky wanted to attend a concert in the University Center with some other friends. They invited me along, and I was happy to attend. Any excuse to walk around campus without shoes before the weather got cold again was welcome to me. 

Usually walking around without shoes had only positive consequences. I feel surer of my movements, self, and life in general without shoes on a warm day. This day, however, I experienced one of the negative consequences of not wearing shoes when the pile of textbooks I was carrying back from the bookstore slipped from my hands, and the heaviest in the bunch landed, corner down, on my big toe in such a way that made losing my toenail inevitable. 

I limped a little as I headed towards the concert, but I continued on my merry, shoe-less way regardless. 

Rosie and I didn't waste any time getting down to our usual swing dancing and then squeezing closer to the front of the audience as if we were the falling blocks in Tetris. I was so involved in our inching forward that a tap on my shoulder from behind startled me. 

I was confused when I turned to see a short-haired boy who I didn't recognize. Tall with sandy blonde hair and soft blue eyes... I searched my data banks for any boy by that description who I might know. I thought of a few, but none who would likely be here and anyway none of them were this boy. I narrowed my eyes thoughtfully, trying desperately to stick him with a name. 

He grinned sheepishly, "You don't remember me, do you?" 

"I'm afraid I must have forgotten..." I confessed. 

"My name is Joseph. We met last year in the snow..." 

"Oh oh oooooooooh! I remember you! You cut your hair! I didn't even recognize you!" 

"Yeah, I did cut it..." He blushed and looked down, which caused him to notice my toe. "Oh! What happened?!", he exclaimed with his eyebrows going into a position that indicated concern. He got down on his knees and took my foot in his hands to examine my injury. 

Hopping on my other foot to maintain balance, I explained that I dropped a book on myself but I was fine. He touched the edges around the bruising gingerly and then placed my foot back on the floor with the greatest of care, stood up and said that he hoped it healed quickly.

The next morning, all bleary eyed in History class, I noticed him from across the room and waved. It was nice to see a friendly face in a class again. 

At the end of the class, Joseph caught up with me as I started back towards my dorm. We chatted almost all the way there, before he said goodbye and headed in the opposite direction. Hum, I noted to myself, it was out of his way to walk me back here. 

After that day, he began routinely walking me back. Eventually walking me back became prefaced by a trip to Einstein's where he would buy me a bagel and coffee and we would lazily talk over all manner of things. At first I thought it was a little annoying because my goal after an 8am class was to go straight back to bed. I even wore my pj's to class as a reminder not to fully wake up. 

Joseph would run up behind me on the way out the building and I would think to myself, Not again! I want sleeeeeep! 

But it wasn't long before I began to realize that breakfast and conversation in the morning instead of a nap was making me feel healthier and more motivated. It was kind of lovely. 

One evening in the library, I peeked over my laptop to see Joseph leisurely leafing through the pages of a textbook. His pants had sharpie graffiti on them that secretly made me smile to myself. He noticed me and waved. I motioned for him to come on over, so he picked up his things and sat down on the floor next to the chair I was in. 

As we talked about my adventures abroad, he quietly doodled a funky red robot on my forearm and sighed that he would love to experience culture shock someday. 

I asked him if he'd ever been contra dancing. "Contra-wha?", he scratched his head. I invited him along and he said he would love to try it out. 

Plans were made. I would see him next Thursday, at the bell tower.