You know who you are, and you know why you get to read this. Feel better soon.
So back in November, I wrote a silly book. I posted a excerpt from it (though I didn’t tell you it was an excerpt) here. Here’s another excerpt…mostly because I have nothing really to write about…well, that’s a lie. Plenty to write about, but nothing I can write about publicly. And mostly for my friend, who asked to read the book when it’s done. It’s not done yet, but I’m working on it.
The summer of 1992 found me in Great Falls after a decent first year of college at BYU. Wickham also was home for the summer. He and his high school girlfriend had recently broken up, so he and I started hanging out almost every day. It was completely casual–movies, dinners, Tecmo-Bowl marathons–and I enjoyed the easiness of being with him. We weren’t at all physical in our affection for each other, but several nights he drove us around town in his silver Jeep Cherokee as we talked about our cliched hopes and dreams. I wouldn’t necessarily call what we did “dating,” but we weren’t spending time with anyone else, either.
After two months of seeing each other every day, we went to a dance together. I didn’t think of it as a date, mostly because I didn’t want to get my hopes up–it was just another Friday night with Wickham. But as I ran errands that afternoon, anticipating the evening, I listened to a mix tape he had sent me a few months earlier while I was still in Provo. With every song, the butterflies in my stomach multiplied. The grin on my face became immovable, and by the time “Friday, I’m in Love” by The Cure came on, I nearly passed out from joyful expectations.
Mormon dances are quite the cultural phenomenon. First of all, they take place in the church gym. Activity committees do their best to spruce up the place with streamers, balloons, and low lighting, but the minute you look at your feet, you might see a free throw line or a three-point arc, and the magic wears off just a bit. Mormon dances for singles in Montana were a bit of a joke after going to dances at BYU. I was used to a crowd of at least a thousand, so when Wickham and I arrived to a group of about 30 people, I knew any fun I was about to have would be of my own making. We sat out the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” (sidenote: we forgot that in Montana, there would likely be no Nine Inch Nails played at the dance), and I sipped nervously at warm punch as we talked about politics and movies. Finally, a slow song came on, and he asked me to dance.
He put my right hand on his chest and covered it gently with his left hand, while his right arm wrapped around my waist and rested on the small of my back. My left hand reached up for his shoulder, and I was so tempted to reach farther for the nape of his neck and play with the brown curls that needed to be cut, but I resisted.
Just friends, I told myself. We are just friends.
I don’t remember what he said to make me cackle with laughter, but I remember he said this: “I’m just trying to be witty to impress you.”
“You don’t need to impress me,” I said. I held his gaze for a moment, then rested my
head on his shoulder.
We finished that one slow dance to Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting,” then headed to Bingley’s house to play pool. Bingley was at work, and his parents were out of town, so we had the house to ourselves. We finished one game, and then he sat on the basement stairs. He looked exasperated, and I wondered what I had done to provoke such an emotion. I walked over to him.
“Why?” he asked.
“Why what?” I said.
“Why we?” he asked.
“Is there a ‘we’”? I countered.
“I don’t know. Sometimes, I guess,” he said, and he dropped his head into his hands.
I stepped toward him and stroked his hair. We were silent for several minutes. I couldn’t say anything to him. We had been here before, and I knew how much it could hurt. And just like before, I was going to let him direct this version of our play. He finally looked up at me.
“It’s too late, isn’t it? I’m already in love,” he said.
He stood up, wrapped his arms around me and kept me close. It was getting late, so he grabbed my hand, walked me upstairs, and drove me home. We held hands for the 20 minute drive to my house. He walked me to my front door.
“Are you tired? Can I come in?” he asked.
“No, I’m not tired. Come in,” I said.
We sat on the couch, holding hands, and talked for two hours. In the wee hours of the morning, I walked him to the door hoping he would finally kiss me after three years, but he didn’t. He gave me another sweet and gentle hug, touched my face, and left.
He is the one boy I loved who never kissed me.