I sat on the edge of the stair, perched on his deck, afraid to get comfortable, anxious for all I was feeling.
“I don’t want to like you.” I said boldly. “I thought that the whole way on my drive here.”
He sat next to me, close enough to create intimacy, but not intruding my space. I lowered my head down, cupped my head in my forearms, and groaned a bit of resignation. It was too late.
I’ll not forget that night of conversation. He was careful, but not too careful to not make me think he wasn’t in deep already as well.
Most of you know my life is messy, if you’re reading this you probably know of my countless attempts at dating over the past several years. Some empowering moments, some written about and many not, some valuable experiences and other regretful risks. But 100% these were years processing what it was I wanted and didn’t want in a relationship.
If it came right down to it, besides the obvious, attraction and chemistry I wanted one thing above all else.
I had met and dated enough men to know presence was not in everyone’s repertoire. There’s little staying power in a world where you can swipe, chat, delete all within the same day on a dating app. You’ll recall me saying earlier in this series everyone dates for their own reasons, and I am the last to judge – whether a night, a week or a lifetime, everyone comes to the dating table with their own needs. But sometimes those needs evolve.
And my needs had changed, or at least came to the surface even if they were there all along.
I sat down on the edge of that step, knowing I had nothing to lose, that this man who I had already begun to enjoy and connect with needed to hear it again. Yes, again.
“I’m looking for life and love.” I said.
“What does that mean to you?” He asked, occasionally reaching out to touch my hair or my neck with his hands.
“I want someone to be there when I wake in the middle of the night. I want someone to be there when my son punches a hole in the wall, and I want someone to bring to my family’s at Christmas time.”
“You can have those things.”
I looked at him sideways, believing him when he said it, and mad at myself for believing him because I felt like after all these dating experiences I should be more distrusting. But he was different. And it was scary, and sometimes it still is.
You see he is every bit as real, sincere, honest, charming and funny as a woman like me could want. Actually he’s really goofy, and he makes me laugh, and sometimes he makes me cry. But the crying is more to do with the fact sometimes I look at him and say “who are you?” in my head. The crying is about the distrust of time because to be this deep, this invested, without years under our relationship belt, how can we justify wanting to be all in.
I’ve perched on a few more stairs and steps in the last months. Usually those conversations on those steps involved all the reasons he should run. I have a messy enough life that I should give any good human being the chance to escape the drama that has seemed to follow me around. But he hasn’t run. And now I occasionally let myself sit in a rocking chair on his deck, or on his uncomfortable leather sofa, or even in his big soaker tub. Instead of perching on things to avoid getting too comfortable.
All of life’s lessons aren’t always helpful, but my girlfriend said maybe I had to meet all those other men, and date to see what was(n’t) really needed in my life when it came to a man.
I think she nailed it. I needed a man that had staying power, who didn’t scare easily and was able to be present in my life the way my life looked today, not how it may or may not tidy up later.
That night we sat on his deck and we did the download as he calls it. Where you meet someone and spend the first while of your relationship “downloading” information. We talked about kids, jobs, education, up bringing and traditions. One of our extended family traditions I told him about is that we always sing this hymn when we eat together. I come from a Mennonite background and some of our traditions still include things we did while my grandma (Oma), the matriarch, was still alive, and this hymn persisted. I told him how every Christmas we sing it, and although we were a pretty open, liberal family, the hymn stuck and I think we are rather happy to have it as part of our tradition, and traditions are important.
So months later, perched on the edge of his deck, I am thinking about many things, about how we are 44 days away until he and I leave for Scotland for an epic walk that may possibly cripple us both physically at our ripe “young” age.
I’m also remembering that first night I perched on his step, wondering if I should trust this man who said I could have love and life. I was preparing to leave his home to head off to a night shift at the hospital. I can’t remember if he sent me off with a lunch that day, but he has done so many times after. I can’t remember if my hair was up or down, if he waved goodbye in the window as I left. I can’t remember if the dryer was running or even if the lights were on. But I can remember this.
He leaned in and kissed me goodbye, then pulled me in for a hug, putting his lips near my ear.
It was that feeling of a free fall, knowing you can’t stop the fall, a bit worried about the landing but wrapped up in the exhilaration. He squeezed me tight, aware of my fears, distrust and hopes and whispered in my ear.
“I want to be the one to take you to your family’s Christmas, I just don’t want to sing the song.”
And with that, he sent me out the door.