Well hello. Are you new here? I'm currently sharing pieces of my memoir every day. You can go here to read from day one.
At the end of the year, I decide to transfer to Oklahoma Baptist. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t all because of the boy, but there was a small percentage of truth in the fact that I just hadn’t found my tribe yet. I wouldn’t find them for another year, my hold on the boy and his friends a viselike grip in a reality I was constructing. I was determined to fit into his world. I would be irreplaceable.
So while my reality was slowly crumbling around me, Russ and I stayed in contact through AOL Instant Messenger. While my boyfriend told me he wanted space, Russ told me he had found someone and was fairly certain there were wedding bells in the future. I covered my ass and told him, “oh yeah. Me too. Doesn’t it feel great?”
Six months later, we were both single, but we didn’t start talking until junior year of college.
It starts in November. The ex just yelled at me over the phone, calling me all sorts of names because I had the audacity to believe that sleeping with someone else was, you know, a deal breaker. I sit in front of my computer one night and see Russ log on. It’s been months since we’ve talked, so I decide to say hi.
We talk that night for hours. Back and forth, back and forth, we play 20 questions until we can’t stay awake anymore. We do this almost every night until the end of the semester, and then he mentions something about coming down to visit over the break.
“Sure,” I say, noncommittal. I hope he follows through with the plan. But then the old roommate and I go to the lake with some of our friends from high school instead, so he stays on campus. I’m chatting with him one night at home and he asks for my number.
“Would that break some time barrier?” He asks, and I chuckle at how adorable he is
— how unpretentious. I call him a nerd, but end up giving him my number. When I do, something happens inside my gut. A movement.
“Stop by on your way through town,” he says. “Call when you’re on your way so I know when to take a break.”
It’s a good plan. He knows I have to drive through town on my way back to school, and for a few days, I tell him I will. But then I get in the car and press on the gas and my stomach starts rolling around and I can’t stop. I can’t pull over. My breath catches and I drive even faster, the college town and where he lives a blur as I pass them. Normally, it takes about nine hours to get to school.
I’m so scared about what’s happening — so terrified about intimacy and relationships and the way my insides move when ever his name pops into my mind — that it only take me six hours before I’m pulling into my dorm.
I can’t run from him forever. Over the next month, our conversations become more frequent. Our friendship deepens. We were close when I was at school with him, but there were always people in the way — his girlfriend, my boyfriend, our mutual friends — we never had time where it was just us. But these conversations are our secret moments. Kind of. At the time I’m an RA for a freshman hallway and the girls give me a run for my money. They want me to tuck them in. They want me to turn their lights out at night. They want me to go with them to search for houses. They want me to read their papers. They want me to mother them.
And for the first time, I welcome the challenge.
Every night, like clockwork, Russ messages me and I can’t hide my apprehension and excitement. Every night, like clockwork, at least one of the girls props up on my bed or leans against my desk talking with me. They know what’s happening. They also know what I’d gone through just a few months prior. Between their surveillance of our conversation and the not-so-clandestine copy and paste I partake in with my Precious Happy Baby Girls living downstairs, I know there is an entire group of women who have my six.
One night, I talk with Heather Diane about it.
“I’m just…intrigued.” I say. “I don’t know if I can put it into words.”
She straightens and points at me.
“Then it’s decided. I’m coming home with you after J-term and we’re going to hang out with Russ. I want to meet this guy.”
I raise an eyebrow.
“As serious as Juliette Lewis in The Other Sister.”
“What about Paul Walker in Joyride?”
She closes her eyes for a brief moment of bliss.
“Yeah. That too.”
The decision is final. We pack our bags and I tell my parents I’m coming down for the weekend. We have everything we need: Big Gulps, tons of chocolate and junk food, and Justin Timberlake. We belt Cry Me a River until we can’t anymore and then we put in Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty and pretend to flash truck drivers on their way past us. We have t-shirts under our hoodies, and most of them don’t even look our way, but it’s the wildness of it. The windows rolled down and the winter wind biting our cheeks while we giggle until we cry — it’s the perfect distraction while we drive down I-35, and I know Heather does it on purpose.
We’ve told Russ we’re coming, and we’re actually stopping this time, and he says that we can meet him at the hardware store where he’s working. We pull into town and my throat slowly closes. We turn right onto the street and my hands start to shake. By the time we park, I’m a mess of nerves. I stare at the front of the store for about three minutes before I even open the car door.
“I can do this, right?” I look at Heather and she walks in front of me.
“Well, you’re gonna have to because I’m walking in right now.” She smiles and turns away from me and I grimace. I kind of lovehate her in this moment. I feel frozen. I’m breathing heavy. I probably look like a hot mess.
I’ve been talking with him every single night for the past month, but I have no idea what to expect inside those doors. I put one foot in front of the other and as soon as I walk cross the threshold, I see him. We catch eyes. My heart stops.
And then I hide.
Quite literally. He’s with a customer, so I know I have some time. I pretend to be absolutely fascinated with PVC. I pick up wires as if that’s what I’ve been looking for — why I came into the store. I refuse to look up and see if he’s coming my way. I’m two seconds away from grabbing Heather’s wrist and pulling her back to the car. I can step on the gas and drive straight through, pretend we never made the stop. I’ve done it before.
I open my mouth to whisper that I think I’ve made a mistake, that I don’t want to be here, that it’s stupid and why don’t we just leave, and then I see him walking toward me.
He gets closer.
His smile gets bigger.
I turn into a statue, unable to function.
And then he wraps his arms around me and I know. I know immediately.
I know because I can breathe. I feel like I’m flying. I feel weightless. And yet, I feel centered. I feel….right.
“Hey,” he whispers into my ear. I mumble something against his chest.
It’s the end of January, and the sky is winter-grey outside.
But inside? Inside it feels like every single vein is flowing with sunlight. I can’t run anymore. I’m not the skittish colt. I am rooted, and I feel the air around us crackle. Everything before this moment doesn’t even matter — it disappears. Just vanishes. We pull away from each other and he catches my eye again and I remember the moment in the lower level lobby two years earlier. It’s the same look, and now I know what it means.
I’ve found my home.