Five years ago this month I met Avram.
Wearing my soft, rose pink cote hardie (long sleeved dress), I arrived early for a Quill and the Sword meeting, the resident medieval History club at BYU, and there he was, along with three or four other early arrivals. All of them were members of the presidency, so I offered to take this new guy, that none of us knew and who had shown up on his own, into the actual room while they conducted their planned presidency meeting outside.
I was 21 years old, and a junior at BYU. Avram was 22 years old, and a freshman at BYU, having just transferred from Lord Fairfax Community College in Virginia, where he was from. Avram was a short young man, with dark, somewhat scruffy hair and pale skin. He was wearing a dark t-shirt and slightly faded, skinny black jeans that immediately marked him as dressing without the benefit of female influence (footnote one). Avram was also wearing a dark fedora and an overly large blue nylon coat that looked like a coat made for a much bigger man that he had co-opted. (footnote two). We talked for the half hour or so before the meeting. He had found the club (mostly) on his own, and having come out for the Winter Semester just weeks before had no social group yet of his own. He was majoring in Archealogy, and was taking a class in modern Hebrew, and cared about the ancient Near East. He was interesting to talk to, and I felt a connection with him almost immediately. Not a romantic connection - I wasn't attracted to him at first. Altogether, Avram looked overwhelmingly Jewish to me. As someone majoring in Near Eastern Studies, I had spent a lot of time learning about the Semitic peoples, and had already decided that I found them fascinating culturally and religiously, but I was not attracted to their physiognomy.
As essentially the first person to meet Avram, I took the role of introducing him to people, although he did a lot of that himself. He didn't seem too shy, and was quite interested in meeting people and becoming involved. Using the club slang, he "converted" to club from the very beginning (as apposed to just casually attending a few of the main meetings).
The next Tuesday in January, and also the second week of Club meeting that Semester, for our activity we wrote "dear John" letters to all the current missionaries gone out from club, just in time to send them off on international mails to arrive right around Valentine's Day. We dear Johned them for video game characters. We dear Johned them for inanimate objects. I wrote a dear John to "my" missionary, Dennis, who was in Germany, leaving him for my hunk a junk car Hercules, who was bright red and old and took five minutes to go from zero to thirty-five miles an hour (oh, if only this was an exaggeration. But it wasn't.) I realized that the previous week I had been quite chummy with Avram, and I worried that because of the immediate "connection" we felt (some might have even called it Chemistry, but at that point I certainly didn't.), and the friendly banter we upheld the second week might confuse Avram into thinking that I was looking for a relationship - which I most definitely was not.
I was just six months out of a broken engagement, and felt quite broken emotionally inside about it all still, even though I had been the one to instigate the break. And no, this wasn't my missionary either. Let's just say that this joking "Dear John" was not the first letter of this variety to go from my hands to his. At this snowy January juncture, I wanted nothing more than to stay single and carefree, at least for the next eight months, until when Dennis would return home for his mission and then I wanted most desperately to get married and live happily ever after. Boys as friends I sought after aplenty, but that was all I wanted.
So I pointedly mentioned my missionary several times that night to Avram, although I also remember feeling happy that I looked particularly nice that evening, with my ever lengthening hair and my green t-shirt that I had magically found in my clothes dryer (I think all the brownies of the world were saying sorry for always stealing my socks, and so gave this in apology), which looked smashing on me. I felt like a social butterfly, with that heightened awareness when I am showing off in front of someone of the opposite sex, as I flitted from this group to that, laughing merrily (almost too merrily) at one joke one moment, and the next moment making my own high-pitched humorous observations. I was more effective then I knew - from this point on Avram saw me as essentially engaged, and never tried even asking me on a date, let alone pursuing me as a romantic interest.
The next time I noted Avram was at the February CES fireside, given on fast Sunday at the Marriot Center at BYU. A bunch of us from Club; Carol and Kevin, Travis, Michele and I had met and gone up together to watch it. As we sat there, I noticed Avram entered our section at the top, alone, and as he began looking for an empty seat, I and the others called out to him, and invited him to sit with us. He sat down on the end, next to Michele, whom I am afraid felt rather stuck next to this young man that all of us hardly knew. She endured through, and after the CES fireside the whole lot of us, plus several other "clubbies" we met along the way, walked back to my house to make some chocolate chip cookies. Avram came too. I honestly can't remember whether the cookies were actually made that night, but we did have an impromptu devotional of our own, where several of us got up in front of the group and talked about a particular spiritual principle that was meaningful to us that that moment. (I love BYU.) It was all a very natural outgrowth of the evening, and was not at all a stilted moment as we bore testimony to each other.
I remember that Avram talked about Moses, and how he went before the Lord and offered to be punished for Israel's sins - to attempt to his limited understanding to put their blood on himself. Of course he could not take the Savior's place, but Avram talked about the love of Moses and willingness to sacrifice himself for his people. Avram had an engaging way before us all, and I was impressed with how naturally he preached to us. Yes, I used the word preached, because Avram is a natural born preacher. In any other religion he would have studied to be a member of the full time ministry, not out of an excess of personal righteousness, but because of his natural born talent to teach and preach. In the LDS faith he instead studies to become a professor of religion.
Up through this time the idea of romance never consciously entered my mind. Avram came to Cooking Guild meetings every Friday evening, (footnote three) and we had fun there. One early week he and I listened to a CD of Cat Stevens together, whom we both love, while cleaning my kitchen floor on our hands and knees with washcloths (footnote four). Avram also came to Mystic's Guild, which met on Sunday evenings and studied Medieval Religion, and I also enjoyed encountering him there as well.
For almost a month this was our interactions - group meetings that I enjoyed, but no personal activities, not personal contact beyond the casual conversation in the larger revolving socializing around us. In my journal I recorded that Avram was a nice young man whom I enjoyed talking with a lot, but I couldn't see our personalities working together in a relationship. (Avram is much the same I am personality wise. We're very dynamic, for good and ill, together). Avram right around the same time wrote in his journal that I was nice looking (he maintains the prettiest girl in club, but I believe he may have been biased), but that our personalities wouldn't mesh well in a relationship. Clearly we were on the same page as to our interactions....
Read Part II - Thora Gets Hit Upside the Head by a Crush
Footnote one: Avram had inherited five or seven black jeans from his older brother Joshua had married, and his wife Missy had nixed them. When Avram and I married, I nixed them in my turn, and they went on down to Samuel. Samuel married a couple years later, and I believe his wife Aleatha also got rid of them - but I don't know where to. Avram wasn't personally attached to black jeans, in fact, he doesn't like jeans at all really. They were more an accident of fashion.
Footnote two: I called that coat the "drowned rat" coat, and I never liked how it made him look so small and insignificant. Turns out the coat was actually the shell for a separatable down filling, and with it in he didn't look like a drowned rat - he just looked like a big blue marshmallow. Avram now wears either a tan trench coat ala Humphrey Bogart or a pea coat from the actual navy.
Footnote three: The Medieval Club had a main meeting every Tuesday in the Wilk, and then side meetings for various guilds with different medieval foci. The Cooking Guild made medieval food every Friday at my house, with my friend Mary Megan heading it. The Mystics Guild met at Travis', and was a brand new guild studying religion.
Footnote four: I never feel like a floor is really clean unless following this method. However, when I was heavily pregnant with Lydia I decided expediency trumped cleanliness, and have used a mop every since.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Five years ago this month I met Avram.
Posted by Thora at 6:49 AM