I woke with a huge smile on my face. Unlike Monday, the sun stretched and rose with me. My mind and heart were fully awake, but my yawn said something different about my body. The five hours of sleep that I managed to squeeze in proved restless. Did I dream about the spark? It didn’t feel real, but I wanted it to be. The truth was that he was gone, and I had to pack for the beach because Elizabeth was five minutes away.
After throwing on an old, faded beach dress and tossing my hair with dry shampoo, I grabbed my bag and the rice krispie treats and skipped to the car. I left dirty dishes in the sink, which stressed me out, but the ocean was calling and we were already running behind.
As soon as I sat in the car, I knew Elizabeth was tired, so I kept my excitement level at a one until she was fully awake. While waiting for her to be present, I sat in the passenger seat with all my thoughts. There were many. We were supposed to be friends, but I liked him a lot, and he seemed to feel the same – at least that’s what the spark said.
Elizabeth was finally present and started to ask questions. I tried to hide the fire in my heart that was slowly turning my cheeks red from its heat. My rational side was starting to kick in. “I don’t know, Elizabeth, he leaves for Georgia on Saturday, and I am trying to be real about the whole situation.” I said while simultaneously texting him, “Thank you for making the weekend so special!!” There were a million things I wanted to type in the text to him, but I kept my romantic, giddy girl properly situated in her corner.
I so badly wanted to see him again. “Will you see him again?” Elizabeth asked. “Nah, he leaves for Georgia early Saturday morning before we get back to Raleigh.” My phone lit up. It was him. His reply was exactly what I had wanted to say. But for the first time in my life, I played it cool. I didn’t know how to digest his text, “I am in awe of you even more now...I am so happy about who and how we are together.” That is not what he was supposed to say. I thought his message would read something like this, “Thank you for being there for me and for bringing some peace during this hard weekend.” I read the text to Elizabeth then hid my phone in my purse. “What do I say?” I asked in flattered confusion. Like she always does, Elizabeth recommended I sit on it for a bit. And I did what I naturally do. I took her advice.
We finally arrived, unloaded the car, and scurried to the beach. The salty air washed over my face and the sand it carried stuck to my face. I couldn’t put my sunscreen on fast enough. My phone was tucked deep inside the beach bag. Plopping down on my towel, I reached in past the snacks and grabbed it. I looked at his text and analyzed it for what felt like an hour. I responded and threw my phone back in the bag. It was too much. Elizabeth was ready to hop in the kayaks, and I was ready for a distraction.
Elizabeth’s dad gave me a push off of shore. My kayak hit the first, small wave and flipped. The wave pummeled over me. It was an insignificant wave yet heavy. I let it roll me over until it loosened its grip for me to pop up. I laughed as I stood on the shore line. This was perfect. For a few moments, I had left our texts deep inside the beach bag, past the snacks.
I managed to fight my way over the waves, out into the ocean. My little arms aggressively paddled side-to-side to catch up with Elizabeth and to rest in the ocean’s still, deep water. The only barrier between the sea creatures and me was a piece of plastic, and I was ok with that reality as long as I didn’t look into the murky water. The swells lifted my tiny, plastic vessel as they made their way to shore. I could only hear my breath and my thoughts. The vast silence was overwhelming and calming. It was time I let go. It was time I just let things happen as they may. I needed to trust that everything would work out even if he was going to be eight hours away. I thought to myself like every Christian woman does, “If he randomly texted me at the beginning of June after not hearing from him for 6 months, then surely God had a reason for it.” I paddled furiously to shore.
The days passed. I enjoyed the time with Elizabeth’s family, played a lot of bocce ball, ate enough watermelon to feed an army, avoided sunburn and talked to him. I could feel myself building the wall around my heart again as his move was only a few days away. Elizabeth’s mom and I sat on the porch, rocking back and forth in rocking chairs with rosé in hand. I briefed her about the situation and shared my reservations. She told me to give it a chance.
Friday arrived. It was the day before he hit the road for Southern Georgia, and I was so close to completing the wall around my heart. I worked faster. He texted me. I ignored it for an hour. I responded. He didn’t message back for hours. I knew it. He was pulling away. I knew it. When he responded, I was cold and distant. He was jovial and present. I turned my phone over to focus on our game of Trivial Pursuit. This was it. He was leaving in less than 12 hours.
I stared at the ceiling as the dark covered me like an unwanted blanket. The draft was ready to send. He was in bed, so I knew he wouldn’t read it until morning. My finger hovered over send, as my eyes squinted to avoid my obnoxiously bright phone. Click. It was gone and out of my control. I started sweating. Once again, I found myself anxiously awaiting his response. I told him that I was falling for him and how I promised I wouldn’t. I said I was scared, and I apologized for being short throughout the day. I confessed that I shut down when I know people are leaving. I was completely vulnerable. I immediately regretted being so because vulnerability hadn’t worked for me in the last year.
I counted my thoughts. I woke up. No response. “Don’t freak out. Freak out. Patience. He is on the road. Don’t freak out. Freak out.” Where were my bricks? I needed to finish my wall. I shared the message with Elizabeth. She was proud of me. I was proud of me -- sort of. Oh well, if he didn’t respond, I would never have to see him again. But daggum it, that spark was still there and I couldn’t get rid of it.
We cleaned, packed and hit the road back to Raleigh. My phone lit up. There he was. I was shaking. Elizabeth told me to breathe. I held my breath. I swiped to open. Again, his response was not what I expected. He received my vulnerability. He respected my honesty, and he felt the same way. This couldn’t be reality. No man would ever respond in the way he responded. But he did, and he wanted to talk on the phone that night after he was settled. This was not what I was used to. He was real. He was a man. I’m sure he wanted to let me down easy and with respect, voice-to-voice. But I had to wait for what would be the longest four hours of 2017. So, wait I did.