Canaan and I sat on the kitchen floor this morning and shared a bowl of pinto beans and rice while we listened to Jack Johnson. She would take breaks from eating to dance a little bit. We would twirl a little bit, eat a little bit, and I just kept smiling. This little hippie corner of my morning made me remember back to when Stephen and I met. Canaan and I got out the box of pictures, and as I looked back; I wanted to record the pieces I can remember about that man, myself, and the moments of our beginning. I want to remember everything that I can.
Four years ago I wrote (in one of my favorite posts ever) about how Stephen and I met. If you haven't read it for awhile, here is the link. Our tale began at the vernal eqinox, a midnight yoga class, and a cup of coffee. Actually, like every good tale I can trace my finger back decades to how our story began. My sister moved to North Carolina, then I followed her (and my new nephew!) after I finished high school. Then I moved to NYC for culinary school only to move back to the North Carolina coast to live, work, walk on the beach, and be near my nieces and nephews. Little did I know what all was waiting for me there at the edge of the world.
So, after that introduction over coffee, what happened next? Looking at those old photographs from our first summer together made me jokingly say aloud to Canaan, "Oh, that's what happened. He was g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s." (and he was, but there is more to the story, obviously. I am not completely superficial;) )
Stephen was in his third year of Nuclear Engineering at NC State, and was traveling down to Wilmington one weekend a month for a Yoga Teacher Training. Yes, that is correct. A Nuclear Engineering Yogi. He had been in a crisis of identity of sorts after a bad break-up (thank you, silly girlfriend), and was struggling with this whole what am I going to do with the rest of my life question.
After our introduction, a month went by before we spoke again. It was April, and I took a coffee break to sit outside with him during one of his breaks. In a fifteen minute conversation, I have no idea how this topic came up, but I remember talking about being entirely engaged when interacting with children and helping them to see their potential... something about a school I wanted to start that would be a safe environment for all learning styles. (Umm yes, I guess I have always been a bit intense.)
He went back upstairs and I went back to work.
A month later, in early May, my parents were visiting and we had spent the day at the beach together. We stopped in the co-op for a late lunch, and who was there? The cute guy who I now knew was called Stephen.
But see it wasn't a weekend. It was a Tuesday, I believe. I thought he has only around on the weekends, so I walked right over with a big smile and asked, "Hi! What are you doing here?"
This is the moment in time where everything begins to change. I say hi to an acquaintance who, in two years time, would become my husband.
He turned red, and awkwardly stuttered out some reply about being home for the summer. So, I said, "Great! Well we should hang out." He seemed nice enough, but truthfully my response was out of half pity and half my innate desire to be friends with everybody especially people that could be otherwise lonely. I thought he was back with his parents for the summer but I didn't know he had any friends there. I didn't know he had grown up there! I thought he might be lonely, and I have a real weak spot for undesired loneliness.
He is still red, still stuttering, and I am thinking, "What is wrong with this guy?" but still smiling at him. Finally he gets out an "OK".
His awkward reply makes me think that perhaps he isn't interested in having me as a friend, so I politely give him the out by saying, "Well, get my number before you leave if you want," and I said goodbye.
My folks and I sat outside with our lunch, and towards the end of the meal my dad says,"Kid, do you know that guy? He looks like he is kind of pacing and watching you." To which I recount the interchange that just happened and explain he is probably waiting to ask my number.
My dad, in the moment that sealed Stephen's love for him forever, said, "Oh throw the guy a bone. Go inside to buy something else." He handed me a few bucks and I walked back inside.
Stephen cut me off at the pass, and in a shocking display of composure compared to the last episode, he asked what I was doing that evening. He asked if I'd like to go to a yoga class and perhaps catch the sun going down at the beach. (this totally sounds like a Nicholas Sparks novel or something, but trust me it is true.)
After the sunset he offered to drive me home so that I didn't have to bike in the dark. Like a gentlemen, he loaded my bike into his volkswagen van, drove me home, and politely thanked me for a great evening.
From that night until the end of summer, we spent everyday together as the best of friends. He would bring me smoothies, chocolate, and flowers and was utterly ridiculously into me. I thought he was sweet and smart and gorgeous. But as much as he was everything I could have ever wanted, there were several things we both needed to figure out about life and what we wanted out of it. We weren't ready to define our friendship as anything more. As much as I loved him, I wasn't sure about forever and neither was he.
In August, I ended my lease, quit my jobs, sold my stuff, and drove cross country with a girl I had just met. I had no idea if I would come back or stay or what, but I went, (and in one of the least hollywood moments of our story) he let me go. I remember feeling angry almost that he didn't try to make me stay. That he didn't want to make it forever. He respected my wings to fly, and I guess I secretly wished he'd not have.
We had spent every available moment together, and then just like that, it was gone. We talked only two times during those months I was away, and each conversation was dark and painfull. Empty. What had happened to my Stephen, to us? But I tried to stuff it down and dismiss it. To move on. It was just a summer.
I loved Stephen. I loved the brightness in his heart. I loved his gentleness towards people. I loved his tender strength. I loved that when I was with him I never questioned whether there was anywhere else he'd rather be. He made me feel I had hung the moon and that I could do it again every day that I tried. I felt so completely radiantly beautiful when Stephen looked at me, beautiful and necessary.
Oh man, my heart is getting all mushy. I guess that is about where I'll stop for now. I promise I'll finish the story. I might even ask for a guest post from Mr. cute guy himself... for now I am going to stop and think and say thanks.