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."
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.