During our guitar lesson, I thought I might tell him.
"So... you said you had a dream that I was in? Ya know... I had a dream that you were in, too..."
"Oh yeah? What was it about? How did it go?"
I thought I might just tell him, but I locked up. I couldn't. What if Azalea came in? What if I puked? What if I puked and Azalea came in?! Oh no. This wasn't happening.
"Um... Ya know? Never mind."
"You can't just give me a lead in like that and then say never mind!"
"Yes I can! I just did. Too bad. Never mind, forever!"
He looked a little saddened.
"Come on", he said gently.
In that moment, I devised a plan. I would make him make me tell him. Step 1 was already executed. I had told him that I had had a dream about him. Who doesn't want to know what it was about when someone says they had a dream about them? Step 2 would be to tell him I would divulge about the dream at a later date, when I was ready. It would further interest, and he would pester me into telling him. Before I could tell him about the dream, though, I would have to admit that I liked him. And it would be done. Go me! I was brilliant!
I stopped myself. Every time I'd ever started congratulating myself before attempting a plan, it had ended badly. I should keep this in mind and proceed with caution.
"Okay. How about this? I'm not ready to tell you about it. But I will be. Eventually. I promise. Just... keep reminding me, okay?"
He gazed thoughtfully into my eyes, "Okay. I'm not going to drop it, though!"
A few days passed. Sometimes I saw him for a moment during the day and sometimes not.
There was a double waterfall outside of Cashiers (a town close-ish by, but still a little bit of a drive) that he was in love with and wanted to show me.
I agreed to go with him, but the first time he invited me along, he mentioned that Azalea and her friend would be coming with us. Panicking, I told him I had to work that day and took a rain-check.
It wasn't true. I didn't have to work that day. I was a little shocked that he bought it. Never was I good at lying, and it was very unusual for me to attempt it.
The next time, though. The next time he called and asked if I wanted to go, I said yes. I didn't ask if Azalea was coming or not because I didn't want to be avoidant or anti social. If it wasn't time to tell him, there would be another time. After the swiftly approaching Christmas break, of course.
I did hope they wouldn't be all kissy or anything, though. I couldn't imagine that not completely taking the wind out of my sails.
When I pulled up at his dorm to pick him up, I was relieved to see that he was alone. I asked if we needed to go get anyone and he said no, that they were all busy working and studying. Excellent.
We talked and talked until we were there and I parked to the side of the road. This place was hidden. Joseph said he would show me how to get there, so I followed him. Down a mountain and across a river. We balance-beamed over the water on a log while we shared our deepest fears.
Mine was that God as I knew Him might not exist. Not that I had that fear anymore, but I admitted that it had been a fear a few years back that I had to seriously grapple with. I couldn't imagine anything more terrifying than if I had discovered that He wasn't real instead of that He is.
Joseph's deepest fear was that he would go crazy. The idea of being insane was completely unnerving to him.
We hopped off the log when we got to the end and I told him that if he went crazy, I would still be his friend. He stopped short.
"Of course! Why would I walk away from you and our friendship just because you lost your grip on reality? That wouldn't be a very good friend. I mean. It wouldn't be the same, obviously. But I would still care about you."
He looked at me with gratitude mixed with dismay. I blushed.
Under a dead-fall, over a root system, down a boulder, through a leafy, hanging branch and suddenly we were there.
For the record: It was summer when this picture was taken. This part of the story was in the winter.
It was our obvious mission to climb up to the top of the higher waterfall so that we could look down from above. Once we reached our goal, I went a little too close to the edge for Joseph's comfort. He took hold of my jacket and held on, telling me that he couldn't live with himself if I were to fall and get hurt.
I promised him I would be fine.
We sat on the rocks with our feet hanging over and talked until the sun started to go down. It began to get chilly, so we tried our hand at fire building in one of the deep holes in the rock that had been hollowed out by years of water erosion.
We high-fived when our fire took off, we were so proud of ourselves. That wasn't enough, though. This fire was hug worthy!
"I'm so glad you're my friend!", Joseph crowed jubilantly.
"I'm glad you're my friend, too!", I managed, through the bear hug.
It was getting dark when we suddenly realized that we had forgotten to bring flashlights. Neither one of us thought we would be staying this long.
There was an animal cry in the distance as we responsibly made sure the fire was fully squelched. It was time to go.
Joseph walked ahead of me and held onto my jacket sleeve so we wouldn't lose each other. It was rather magical going back over the log across the river in the moonlight.
Our woodland adventures ended happily at my Camry. Joseph wanted me to listen to one of his favorite bands, Sigur Ros, before we headed back to our respective rooms and beds.
I opened my car's sunroof and put my seat back while he put the CD in. We watched the stars and just listened for a song or two. It wasn't really my absolute favorite style of music, but I could appreciate the talent that was there.
When we had heard a few songs, he turned it off. We put our seats up and started on the way home.
"What do you want?", I chuckled. It was an inside joke of ours to pretend to be rude.
"How about that dream?"
Oh no! There it was. This was a perfect opportunity to tell him. If I chickened out now, who's to say that I would ever tell him? No. I just wouldn't tell. Never, ever. Ever.
"Come on Sarah, you know what I'm talking about!"
"No I don't."
"Yes you do."
"Fine. I know I promised I would tell you about it, but I would have to preface it with a disclaimer... And I don't... I decided that it's irrelevant because...I just don't want to.... "
"Sarah, can you pull over, please?"
I begrudgingly pulled over. Secretly I was a little grateful because pulling over meant I could cross my arms.
He caught my eyes and softly stated, "You know that I value you and our friendship, right?"
"Yeah... I know..."
"And there's nothing you could ever tell me that would change that. Did you know?"
"Are you sure about that?"
"Yes. Yes I am. Now go ahead and tell me, it's okay, I promise!"
Oh crap. Words were coming out....
"Ihavefeelingsforyouthatgobeyondthereachesoffriendship!" There. I said it.
"I have feelings for you that go ... beyond the reaches of friendship.", I was staring at the steering wheel.
"Drat!", he exclaimed, "I knew it!", There was a pause, "... Wait a minute, what?!"
"No, I know. I'm so sorry. Worst timing ever. You're with Azalea, I know, and I just felt like I had to tell you because, you see..."
"No! No! Stop! I mean, I feel the same way! I .... feelings for... I like you too!", he scrambled.
"Drat! I knew it!", I paused. I let it sink in a little, "Wait a minute, what?!"
I looked up.
We sat in awe staring at each other in silence, started talking at the same time, and then stopped again.
"What ... are we gonna do?", I wondered.
He was quiet. "Well... first I have to do something about Azalea."
"Are you with her?"
"Yeah. I am. But I ... I have some explaining to do."
We decided to go get something to eat and talk.
On our way to get food, we found a seriously explosive display of Christmas lights that we decided to get out and walk through. He didn't explain anything there, though. We just reveled in it being almost Christmas and what a sweet night it was shaping up to be.
At a little Mexican restaurant, we sat in a booth and Joseph filled in the gaps for me. Everything started to make a little more sense.
It is a long story, but the short version is that Joseph, who rarely drinks, had had a few too many at a party months and months ago, after reconnecting with Azalea at contra. Needless to say, Azalea was at said party. She kissed him, and he let her.
The sad part is that he didn't really want to. It just kind of happened, and somewhere along the line, Joseph had failed to get the memo that guys don't have to kiss girls they don't like just because they're pretty and aggressive.
After that, it snowballed. Azalea fell into deep like with him, and he thought he would be a jerk not to go out with her. He had kissed her, after all.
"But ... you liked me? How is that fair to her?", I asked.
He said he supposed it wasn't. But he thought he could never have me. I was out of his league. He was in the friend zone forever. I had never had a boyfriend and he thought there was no way that he could be the first.
So he tried to be a good boyfriend to Azalea because he didn't want to hurt her.
I told him that if my boyfriend was with me just because he didn't want to hurt me, it would hurt. He looked thoughtful and confessed that he had never thought of it that way.
We voiced concerns over queso dip and tortilla chips.
By the end of the conversation, though, we had decided to give it a go. We were going to "take it slow", even though we weren't really sure what that means, and he was going to break up with Azalea first thing in the morning.
Not quite ready to call it a night, we stopped by the Hanwell's house to borrow something from Banjo. A green laser pointer that he got Scarlett for their anniversary that made such a strong beam that one could actually point at individual stars with it.
Banjo handed it over with a nudge and a wink.
Joseph and I and the green laser drove up to the parkway. We stopped on one of the highest points, a place called Waterrock Knob to laser point at the stars and bask in the glow of the night's revelations.