Due to popular demand (Thanks Lisa! I love feeling wanted. Bloggily, that is), here is the next installment of my Saga. For those with short term memories only, and for my sister Camilla who hasn't read any of the entries yet, and so I may have to terminate our sisterhood, here's a link to the last installment: Saga Part V, Thora Has Issues
As we walked down Aspen Avenue in the Tree Streets, facing Kiwanis Park under the yellow streetlights, there could have been a soundtrack with a suspenseful silence just at that moment, for I knew that my silently pleaded prayers had been answered; I had an opening into the very conversation I had wanted to have for the past two hours. Before the moment could be lost forever, I swallowed my fear, my natural shyness and reservation, and blurted out, hoping that it could either be taken in a capital letters, romantic way or alternately in a platonic, friendship way, "I like you."
A long, awkward silence followed. Eternally later, after a few steps of walking, Avram replied back, "I like you, too."
An even longer, more awkward silence ensued. We kept walking across the street, and finally as we reached the curb Avram and I looked at each other, and laughed. I even said something profound, along the lines of, "Well, this is awkward." I truly had not expected that answer, and I didn't know where to go from there. I had expected Avram to just be understanding and friendly, and now I had taken the first step down a path I hadn't known existed a moment before.
Now that I stood in that first step, staring down the path of yet another relationship while I still had a missionary, I suddenly wasn't sure what I had been thinking, forcing a DTR (define the relationship) conversation.
For that is what we had. Avram and I decided that we should talk about these interesting new developments, despite it being two in the morning, so we went and sat in the playground of Kiwanis park, facing the swings while sitting on a park bench, under the ubiquitous yellow lights that characterized our late night talks of this time period.
Avram observed that this all seemed like a Jane Austen novel; He was purportedly pursuing another girl, whom he was not that interested in anymore, I had was "engaged" elsewhere, and we both discovered we liked each other. Neither of us knew quite where to go from this moment. We discussed the possibility of dating, but Avram felt he needed to extricate himself from the other situation first. Not that he and Mina were together at all, but he had formally declared his intentions to pursue her, and Avram follows the kind of honorable rules that went out of fashion centuries ago, so he had to now formally end his pursuit.
I, meanwhile, had a missionary coming home in four months, and was also leaving on a study abroad in the same four months. I had dated twice while Dennis had been gone, and both times I had resolved at the end to not date again (I have very weak resolves when it comes to dating, it seems). When Dennis had left I had not set out to "wait," especially not on a shelf, just marking time until he came home. I did not want to marry him just because he was the first person I had fallen in love with. But I also did not want to rush headlong into another "doomed" relationship. Avram was not quite sure he wanted to rush into a doomed relationship with me either.
Contrariwise, now that we were being so open and honest, we weren't sure how we could just ignore all our open and declared feelings. Our conversation kept on derailing from our set topic of the DTR, and we sidetracked into all sorts of topics, the one I remember best being Hugh Nibley's portrayal of Egyptian religion. I think that ten minute detour did more for me wanting to date Avram then the rest of the two hour conversation combined, because it reminded me of why I liked him in the first place: when we spoke I felt mentally and intellectually alive. I still wasn't sure I was completely attracted to him. He had black hair, and a strange affinity to paisley ties (and had just that morning worn an East German communist hat down Ninth East). I still wasn't sure I wanted a relationship with him. Avram had never had a girlfriend. He had never kissed, never held a girl's hand. I wasn't sure that I wanted to be his first kiss, his first girlfriend, when I already knew that I would break up with him at the end of the Summer - for I could not, and would not Dear John Dennis again. Before I had thought that if I even liked another that I had to pick between the two, and had landed myself in a very quick engagement by following that line of logic. I would not make the same mistake again, and so told Avram at the outset that if we dated, we would also break up at the end of the Summer, and then when I saw Dennis after Egypt, then I would decide between the two, if Avram and I were still interested in each other.
Above all else, I knew two things. First, that I wanted to continue talking to Avram, I looked forward to our night time walks, and I highly valued all he said to me. I was attracted to him, even if he wasn't my traditional idea of physical type, and when I knew I would see him, I always got excited and looked forward to his presence, which when realized never disappointed. If this meant dating him, then I wanted that. I did like him, and now that I knew he liked me, this seemed the natural next step to our interactions. Second, I knew that I still completely desired to marry Dennis.
These two mutually exclusionary truths ruled my mind that night, and continued to do so for many months hence (although I get ahead of myself).
Avram and I can turn any simple states, such as mutual declarations of romantic feelings, into long two hour discussions, and so we did that night (now early morning). While talking on our park bench, we maintained the same spheres we always had. We neither sat closer together, nor showed any physical demonstrations of our long discussed affection. After, all, we were not sure of any future course at this time. Finally at four am, when all the awkwardness, the angles and the possible courses of actions had been talked out, and were replaced by ever deadening and cold extremities and minds, Avram walked me home.
At my door, after mentioning something about our changed relationship and future potential, I hugged him - the first physical contact we had ever shared. In the four months that I had known Avram, he had made it amply clear he was not a physical person. He never hugged people, sat very close to them, or shared physical contact. Well, this hug was not a promising beginning. It was by far the stiffest, most wooden hug I ever recall sharing. We kind of laughed after wards at our failed attempts of intimacy, and then I went inside.
The next day I called Travis, and sounded off to him my previous night. His reaction was the same the soon I heard echoed from well-meaning friends around me; "You did what?" all said in tones of dismay. After my very, very ugly breakup with Gui, I convinced myself and all my surrounding friends that I was better off not dating at all. With both Peter (the first boyfriend) and Gui I could not commit, and that was the death knell of the relationship (well, and the fact that Peter and Dennis shared a last name, because they were brothers, but that's another awkward story for another time). Among my friends I had gained a reputation as a man-eater, and I supported this epithet fully. At the same time, I spent so much time and effort singing the praises of Dennis the missionary, that those who had not even met him were already veritably impressed by the Venerable Dennis. (Who really was quite a good guy.) After having spent years priming all around me to Love Dennis, and be convinced that the only one for me was him, I reaped my harvest when all my friends (except one, RoseE) were not quite sure what to make of mine and Avram's DTR.
Throughout finals week we walked this balance line. A few days later, on Sunday, Avram called me and said that he wanted to come over and talk, since he had gone on a ramble, and had not been able to figure things out on his own. He walked the long haul between our homes, and we sat down and enjoyed rehashing again all the possible moves we could make from the point we now inhabitated.
Avram mentioned that he had seen one of our mutual friends from club, but she had been about a half block away on his walk over. Shortly after Avram's arrival, Travis called to see how I was doing, and 'casually' asked if anyone was over with me. I told him Avram was, and after we had exchanged a few more pleasantries we got off the phone. Then not too long afterwards another friend Emily showed up at my house, something I don't think she had ever done before, and invited Avram and I to dinner at her house. We said sure, and she took us to her apartment, where everyone else had already eaten, including her (Travis and some others were over there as well). So she sat with us in the kitchen, and watched us while we ate vegetable soup, and we all pretended this was casual and normal, although really both Avram and I were thinking that our friends were crazy and we were being babysat or something, so that we couldn't be alone where we could do something stupid like hold hands. Finally after a while of awkward socializing over cold soup, Avram and I began to make motions to go home. Emily once again offered to drive us home (read: drop us off separately, so we wouldn't have any alone time). Avram firmly said he thought we could walk ourselves home, and we beat it out of there as fast as we could.
While reading this, you must understand that our friends really weren't crazy. They just were looking out for what they perceived as our best interests at the time. Since joining club my freshman year, I had had the same group of growing friends, which meant that we had gone through a lot of my boy history together. They had seen me date Dennis, seen me fall head over heels in love, on cloud nine with the singing choirs. They had seen him leave on his mission, with me singing his praises, only to start dating his brother before he had actually gone into the MTC. As I write this, I'm laughing, because I'm aware how badly this sounds. My friends were aware as well. If I can rescue my reputation at all, I did break up with Peter (Dennis' older brother, and a brand new RM) the day after Dennis entered the MTC, because I realized that as much as I liked Peter, I had a longer history with his brother, and I would rather preserve that history that see where Peter and I could go (read that I would rather have Peter as a brother in law and know that we once had kissed than have Dennis, and know that I had entire journals devoted to how much I loved him. In fact, Dennis' response when Peter had told him we were thinking of dating was that he would have to burn his journals.)
These same long suffering friends had seen me, only months later, fall in love at first sight practically with an RM nicknamed Gui (pronounced Gee, and a nickname for William). They had watched as Gui and I had gotten engaged only a couple of months after meeting, and a week after officially dating. [I must take the time out to remind you that I was young and stupid. I may only be old and stupid now, but please still be my friend. And remember, you don't have to make any dating mistakes, because I already made them all for you.] Then it seemed liked I was happy to be marrying Gui, but in reality from the time I received my response from Dennis to my Dear John, I was in torment. I almost broke up with Gui on a weekly basis. (Long story, but in short it was not because of Dennis exactly that I broke off my engagement - it was because I did not like the problems that me still being attached to him brought out in our relationship.) From the outside it looked like we were honky-dory, but then four and a half weeks I abruptly broke off our engagement. And then we still dated for the next few weeks before it finally ended once and for all.
At that point I had sworn off boys and dating, and I'm sure all my friends collectively drew a sigh of relief. For the next seven months, until I met Avram, I spent a lot of time thinking about Dennis, and convincing myself that since I couldn't make it work with anyone besides him, that we were perfect together, and he was the only one for me, etc, etc. I had been so enthusiastic in singing his praises that I had converted all my friends right along with me. Dennis was the most well known absent person Club has ever had.
So, to bring us back to Avram and I, it is no wonder that our friends looked so suspiciously on our somewhat burgeoning romance. If I hadn't been feeling somewhat twitterpated (and rebellious, at least when our well-meaning friends tried to help) I would have been suspicious as well.
Avram and I made it home alone, with no more interference, though. We had yet to come to any conclusions.
A couple of days later, while Avram and I were walking around Botany Pond, he put his arm around me. This was our first attempt at any physical contact since the awkward hug (well, except when I had leaned my head on his shoulder a couple of times previously, which were quite nice, and not at all awkward. I think this shows something - the more we felt like we were supposed to do something together physical, the more awkward it was. When it arose naturally out of the situation, it wasn't awkward at all). It was very awkward for me. After that night, I decided that I didn't really want to date Avram after all, that I didn't think we could get beyond the awkwardness, and there was just too much extraneous situational aspects keeping me from feeling comfortable with a relationship at that point.
Avram and some other friends came over to my house to help me pack up the house (my house had never been thoroughly cleaned in between tenants, and our new landlord was making us do it, but my roommates all moved out before me, so the gargantuan task fell on myself - and my nice friends who came to help) after finals were all done, and I took the opportunity to quickly mention this to him. He said that was fine, and then also told me that he had extracted himself from Mina, and so at that point was free to start a relationship. Oh, well. Failed timing, I thought to myself, but I really really didn't want to rush into any more heartache - or awkward physical contact.
As we cleaned out the deep freezer, I found a chunk of some beef roast, and tossed it in the oven. Then we all adjurned to my living room, and in a time honoured tradition all my sisters would understand, since we spent every Sacrament Meeting growing up doing the exact same thing, I sat next to Avram, put my head in his lap, and commanded him to play with my hair. Avram was somewhat surprised (not having grown up with six sisters, who all had a dire need of hair playing for long hours at a time), but he complied, and began running his fingers through my hair. One by one our other friends left for some reason or another, and soon it was just Avram and I and the waning light of the sun shining warmth into my living room. Hours passed, darkness came inside and out (since neither of us moved to turn on any light), and the mysterious piece of beef continued to cook anattended while Avram continued playing with my hair.
Not a very auspicious moment, with great retelling value, but it was a pivotal moment. I had begun the day sure that I was not ready to date Avram, but as the hours passed, and we talked softly together, while he kept running his hands through my hair, I came to realize that we could be physically close and not be awkward. At some point he stopped playing with my hair, and we were just sitting together on the couch, Avram sitting, and me curled up on the couch, lying in his arms (ok, so this sounds more shocking than it was. No honor code was violated this night, nor any other night. So stop looking at me like that.)
Sometime about then, we verbally commented that our actions were not exactly the plans of people who were not planning on dating, and I suppose that night marked the beginning of our relationship. We finally decided we were starving, and went and retrieved the dry roast from the long forgotten oven. I must say it was the best hunk of beef I've ever eaten. Avram and I just sat at the table together, and ate only beef for dinner, enjoying each other's company, and laughing at anything and everything.
We hadn't held hands, we hadn't ever gone on a date, but Avram and I were definitely more than just friends.
The next stage of the Saga - part VII