My Story in Song: Part 12
Oh, girl, what were you thinking?
Honestly, I hadn’t been thinking. I just figured that dancing would be fun. But now, after seeing pure love reflected in my best friend’s eyes while standing in such close proximity, all I was thinking was that I was getting waaaayyy too comfortable being held in his arms.
And that was a dangerous thought, if ever I’ve had one.
He’s leaving soon, I remind myself. Stay strong!
As if to encourage me in my resolve, a white SUV chooses that exact moment to turn onto our little county sideroad, honking as it zooms by.
By this point, we’re both so nervous that we just dissolve into uncontrollable laughter – even though it’s not all that funny.
In the middle of our giggle-fit, we must have both leaned forward, because my head makes contact with his shoulder, and the resulting rush of desire practically strips the air from my lungs. All at once, it’s like every last cell in my body is pushing me forward, willing me to stay, willing me to eliminate that slight space between us entirely. All while I’m struggling to breathe.
It’s a longing the likes of which I’ve never felt before, a longing that almost hurts for how powerful it is.
But, despite the intense rush – and despite the fact that there’s nothing I want more than just to heed it – I know that I can’t. We can’t. Not with things the way they are right now.
By nothing short of God’s grace, I scrounge up enough strength to step back, even as every fiber of my being cries out in rebellion against me.
“I wonder if that was the same guy who took our picture,” New Kid ponders aloud, referring to the man who had mistaken us for a married couple a few weeks prior. Assuming a mock voice, he apes, “First they’re on a car, now they’re dancing in a field…”
And they’re about to be doing something else entirely if you don’t let me go right now!
I don’t say a word, but by some miracle, he somehow achieves the impossible and reads my mind, letting me go and effectively ending our dance lesson.
I take full advantage of the opportunity to put some serious space between us, gulping in air as though I’d just been up to my ears in water.
Eventually, I realize my internal playlist has switched gears.
Is there a good reason that Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud is playing in my head? I don’t even like sappy love songs!
Oh, shoot, this is bad…
From afar, I’m finally able to look at New Kid directly again. I sneak a glance over at him, only to find that he’s still box-stepping away, mouthing the timing with a cute little scrunch in his forehead. It seems as if he’s putting in a lot of effort to learn those simple steps. Or at least to convince me that he is.
Aww, how sweet, he wants me to think that he’s clueless…
Ah, but he’s such an adorable liar… Sigh…
Oh, no, you don’t – snap out of it!
“Why don’t we take a walk?” I suggest, my actual voice breaking through the ones arguing in my head.
In all our visits here, we’ve never taken a walk in these parts, and besides, I’m in no way ready to move on to our regularly scheduled activity of watching the sunset from the roof of New Kid’s car. Make that from the very small space on the roof of New Kid’s car. Where we’ll be up close and personal once again.
Yes, a walk… that’s a very good idea.
Off we go, meandering along the road that leads to nowhere.
“You should be on this side,” New Kid blurts out suddenly, stepping around me to stand on my left.
“Why?” I ask, already knowing the answer to be good old-fashioned chivalry, even though the odds of another car passing by are slim to none.
“For protection,” he replies, clearly pleased with himself for having thought of such a thing, looking askance and tucking away an errant smile, in the vain hope that I won’t see it.
Oh, will you please stop being so stinking cute?!
This time, he ignores my mental plea, pressing on by telling me about his time in Italy.
“There’s this river that runs through Rome,” he explains. “It goes this way…” he mimes, moving one arm to the left. “And this way…” the other arm moves to the right. “And… psych!”
Both arms wrap themselves around me, taking me by surprise.
Well, it looks like that mind-reading ability of his was only temporary.
Psych hugs are New Kid’s trademark. He’d been catching me off guard like this for months, and his tactics were getting more impressive over time.
“Wow,” I laugh, aiming for normalcy. “You really got me, there.”
And he did, at that. I really didn’t see that one coming. Granted, I hadn’t seen the hurricane of interior longing coming, either. I guess that would explain that odd sense that we shouldn’t have come here tonight.
God’s warnings for the win.
Hmm… was that car another warning sign, then?
I’m wondering the same thing as we make our way back to the car, only to find that the sky has clouded over in the fifteen minutes we’ve been away.
No sunset tonight.
I should be thanking God for an easy out. Instead, I hear myself muse, “Well, I guess we could still sit on the car.”
I mean, who made up the rule that says we have to have a reason, anyway?
“That’s weird.” New Kid is way ahead of me, already having climbed atop the hood. He’s leaning over, resting his hands on the roof. “It’s all wet.”
“I have some tissues we can use.”
But as I collect them from my bag and hand them over, I can’t help but wonder if those were signs 3 and 4.
Still, amazingly, stupidly, we persist.
It’ll be fine, I tell myself. We’re going to be normal. Just like old times.
But when I climb up and join him on the roof, the tea that I’d packed earlier in hand, New Kid is a bundle of nerves. I settle in and lean forward, resting my elbows on my legs, nursing my drink.
But that’s when I notice him lean back and stretch his arm along the roof rack behind us.
Oh, dear… That’s never happened before!
I lean even farther forward, taking my sweet time sipping the tea without really tasting the hot liquid, hyper-aware of New Kid all the while.
Nothing is happening, I try to insist. Nothing has changed. It’s all going to be just –
What was that?
Oww! There it is again!
New Kid and I have sat atop this exact same car in this exact same spot plenty of times before without sustaining a single bug bite. And tonight, it seemed as if the bugs were ready to make up for that in spades.
This was no errant fly looking for a bedtime snack – this was an all-out attack!
Hmm… Sign #5? Locusts and flies certainly ring a bell.
But still. I don’t. Move.
New Kid, on the other hand, is practically vibrating with nervous energy. From behind me, I can hear his hand tapping an erratic rhythm against the metal roof, and from my peripheral vision, I can see that his features are scrunched up again. But this time he’s not acting. He’s struggling.
“Okay!” he exclaims, springing up from his seat so fast that he reminds me of a wound-up Jack-in-the-Box reaching his limit. “Time to go!”
Before I have time to question or process what just happened, he’s on the ground and waiting for me. I follow him, my legs already itching and swelling in the aftermath of the unseen insects’ onslaught.
Back in the car, with a console between us, it finally feels like we can relax. We wrap ourselves in this false sense of security and revel in the neutral territory. So much so that we don’t leave just yet. No, remarkably, we choose to stay and talk.
Yes. Normalcy. We can do this!
But just when it seems like the strange events of the night are over, a blindingly bright light pulls up behind the car.
My stomach drops as it sinks in just how far away from home we really are. There aren’t even any lampposts around. Just the light emanating from our car’s cabin, alerting everyone in the vicinity to our presence.
Why didn’t we think of that sooner?
“Go,” I tell him, worried about who it might be and what they might want. “Go!”
The car barely moves an inch forward when sirens ring out.
Oh, it’s a cop. Whew!
As relieved as I am to see him, the police officer seems significantly less than impressed with us. New Kid informs him that we had thought we might have been in trouble.
“How many cars do you know that have a searchlight on them?” he asks, irate.
Well, none. But to be fair, not only have I never been up close and personal with a cop car before, he also wasn’t flashing the coloured lights that would normally signal police presence. But then, he isn’t talking to me, and he likely wouldn’t be interested in such an answer.
The officer asks for our identification, then follows up by asking New Kid to exit the vehicle. The two walk toward the police car, and I bow my head and pray, thinking that I probably should, but feeling relieved and at peace at the same time.
Honestly, I’m thankful that it was just a police officer. Things could have been much worse.
Presently, the officer in question comes back to speak to me through New Kid’s open window.
“Miss, I just need to ask you if you were brought out here against your will.”
Say what, now?
“A lot of things happen out here,” he goes on to say. “And I just need to make sure that you’re alright.”
“Wow, that’s… unfortunate,” I answer softly, this new information casting a long shadow over our special place. “No, he’s not… he would never do something like that.”
The officer takes me at my word, signalled by a curt nod.
“Have a good night, Miss.”
When New Kid returns, he takes his seat, closes the car door, and then stares for at the wheel for a long while.
“Are you okay?” I venture.
“He thought that we…”
New Kid finishes his sentence, then continues to stare straight ahead. Being accused of a crime is, understandably, weighing heavy on him. The poor man’s visibly shaken, so I don’t interject with my own thoughts. I stay silent as he starts the car and drives away, waiting for him to process this aloud, as he often does.
But that comes back to bite me soon enough.
“I guess,” he eventually says. “If he thought that, and if we’re both kind of stunned about it, then maybe there’s a little bit of truth there.”
He isn’t talking about the possibility of assault. He’s talking about us, together, as a couple. Again.
He finally meets my gaze for just a moment, but his eyes look haunted. The insinuation that he had been waiting to take advantage of me seems to have hit him hard. Or maybe it just sounds a bit too much like his past.
“I mean, why am I bringing you to this isolated spot?”
Umm, because it’s our isolated spot, and it’s the best place to watch the sunset?
But I get what he’s saying. It’s all very couple-y for two people who aren’t actually a couple. So what’s really going on?
By the time we arrive at my house, one long and somber car ride later, I decide it’s time to bare my soul, if nothing else, then to set his mind at ease.
“If things were different,” I offer. “It would be very easy to love you.”
If things were different. As in, I know that they’re not, and I’m not asking for anything more from you. But underneath it all, yes, I do love you, and as much, much more than just a friend.
Now that we’re back in the land of lampposts, there aren’t any shadows to hide the delighted smile that spreads across New Kid’s face. I smile myself, in response. I love those little smiles that he tries – and fails – to keep secret.
In fact, I’m finding out that I love a lot of things about him. But I won’t let myself travel too far down that road just yet.
“If things were different,” he finally replies, wrestling to keep that smile under control the entire time. “It would be very easy to love you, too.”
Our eyes meet and hold, and for the first time tonight, I feel completely at peace. There’s peace here, in our shared affection. There’s peace in admitting what we’ve both been trying to hide. There’s peace in acknowledging the truth.
But we both also realize that this changes nothing. New Kid isn’t planning to stick around for long, and even if he was, he’s still not willing to face his past so that we can move forward. I accepted that a while ago, and I’ll accept it again now. Things are what they are, and we won’t go any further than this. We’ve reached the line and we’re not stepping over it. No more visits to the spot. No more car-top sunsets. We’ll take a step back, for the sake of our friendship. It’s all going to be okay.
But, as I make my way to my front door, I’m keenly aware that I’m doing so alone, that New Kid isn’t walking beside me, or taking forever to say goodnight as he usually does.
If things were different…
I won’t press. I won’t insist. And I’ll stay as detached as humanly possible.
But oh, how badly I wish that things were different.
Listen to Thinking Out Loud here