Friday, August 23, 2013

Part 2: And the Moon Danced

Read Part 1

It's my sophomore year of high school, 2003, and summer is approaching.
I think it's spring but it feels like summer. It's hard to tell in Florida. 

I'm in Julie's room, changing into my pajamas after swimming, when Julie bursts in. "Julie! Gosh! I'm not dressed!"
I'm too modest for my own good. No, really, I won't even change in front of my own sex. It's pathetic. Thank God I get over that after a week in college.
"Get over it! Put clothes on, quick! If we're fast, Chris will take us to go watch a lunar eclipse!"
"Yeah! So hurry up!"

I scramble into my clothes, try to comb my hair, and follow Julie out into the living room where Chris and Joe are waiting.  "See! I told you we could be ready!" Julie says. "So, we're going now, right? Right?"
Chris smirks. "Sure, fine."
Julie squeals when she's excited, like a child at Christmas. She's almost sixteen, but she's so petite she looks twelve, maybe younger.
Then there's me--everything feels too long, the wrong shape. But my braces are off, finally. At least  I have that going for me, if nothing else.

At the surprise party for my sixteenth birthday.
You know, I really loved that hat.
And, funny story, see the fellow in the top row on the left? That's my future brother-in-law.
More on that later.
 Boys don't speak to me so I assume they don't see me.
Apparently, I'm a bit wrong.

Because, you see, Chris has seen me. Something about my eyes caught his attention that first night, when he woke up from a nap on the living room couch and saw this stranger with his sister (he tells me years later). Suddenly, whenever I'm around he grows bewilderingly nervous and shy. He hides it well--cool, collected, uninvolved--and he makes a habit of staying out of sight. The day I meet Joe, he hopes that Joe doesn't see me, too. Joe gets all the girls, you see, with his charm.  Usually, Chris doesn't mind, but, he thinks this time he might.
I've been told I should like Joe, and, in all honesty I do.  Julie has convinced me that he's everything I had hoped for in a guy. She's talked him up something lovely, even though she said he looks like Orlando Bloom and that was an outright lie.
But there's something about Chris that makes my heart pound and my palms sweat. Something I can't push out of my mind. He's all wrong for me, with his gaming and his quiet.  I need noise, don't I?
Maybe. Maybe not.

So . . . one day, Chris's female friends were super bored and decided to clean him up, take off the glasses, style his normally scruffy head of hair, and make him model.  For him, it was torture of the highest level. That smirk? That's his "I'm going to kill you all when this is over" face.
He would kill me dead several times if he knew that I had posted this picture.
But I love it, so I'll take that risk.
Do you see why I couldn't resist, people?

"Well, if you're ready hurry up. We're meeting Ande and Alyssa. I don't want to miss it," Chris says, and we follow him outside to his Ford Bronco. It's an army green clunker, but I haven't seen a car that cool before, not ever.  Climbing inside that bucket of bolts was like entering hollowed ground.  Sheltered as I was, I had never been in a boy's car before. What a little thrill it gave me. 
I still hold a soft spot in my heart for Broncos, just because of that night.

The moment the doors close, Chris hits the gas, and, man, can that truck move. Joe fumbles with the dials on the dash, and music roars out of the stereo.  He and Chris are yelling and headbanging, fists held aloft, like men charging into battle.
It's not the music you'd expect twenty-year-old boys to mosh to. It's not death metal, punk, or rock 'n; roll.
It's an Irish Penny Whistle.
Screaming its cheery little tune. And the boys are screaming with it.

I want you to picture it, picture that moment. Here we come around a corner, far too quickly, Julie and I tumbling into each other, Chris and Joe's collection of empty Yoohoo bottles rolling and clinking under our feet. Joe is chugging from a bottle of Canada Dry pop, and the music is so loud it's pounding in our chests.  Celtic music.
Music you do a pleasant, skipping jig to on a happy day.
They've turned it into a testosterone-charged battle cry.

I'm scrambling for my seatbelt, laughing, because I have never seen anyone act so wildly  but be so cool at the same time. 
In that moment, Chris and Joe are the coolest boys I've ever seen. No one could compare to the road warriors of the penny whistle.

They didn't speak to us, but we fussed at them for the driving. I can't remember what I said, but I was so nervous and excited that I'm sure it was idiotic.
Probably entirely true, but sounded idiotic.

Chris and Joe being Chris and Joe
He still has that orange vest and the afro stashed in our closet.
Because you never EVER know when you'll need to pretend you just escaped the 70s

We finally pull up into an empty field in the middle of the woods, but you can hear the highway on the other side of the trees.
I know, it sounds really bad. If this were a horror film, this is the moment when some serial killer pops out and destroys us all.

Luckily, it's not a horror film. It's my life, which, apparently, is less exciting and considerably less bloody.

Instead of leading us to our doom or slaughtering us, Chris hops onto the roof of the Bronco and begins drumming.  Joe accompanies him, beating on the hood of the truck. It's like a weird moment from that musical with the trash-cans, Stomp. Different tones, perfect rhythm. Oddly musical.

I applaud. I can't help myself.
I say something stupid about liking all music except Michael Jackson, and Joe refutes me saying that, if I like all music, then I would like the King of Pop, because disliking him would make my previous statement false. He's logical and philosophical and all that jazz.
I'm mortified so I shut up for the rest of the night. Actually, I'm still embarrassed about it. My former humiliations cling to me for years. It's been ten years, and I'm still, "Gah, why was I so awkward!?!"

And, before you stone me, let me be clear: at sixteen, I had only ever heard one song by Michael Jackson: the music video for the "Free Willy" movie. I was so encased in an anti-media bubble that I didn't fully understand who he was, only that he looked like a bug-eyed corpse in a wig. That scared me.
As an adult, I fully recognize his musical genius.
But he still looked like a scary bug-eyed corpse in a wig.

We wander to a clearing--their old backyard, I'm told, and, one day it is my backyard--and I stub my toe on a pine cone. I can still smell the damp, swampy air, hear the mosquitoes buzzing in my ear and the frogs chorus. I don't mind though.  I stand close to Chris, just to try it, feel him almost smiling, staring into the night.
And a woman jumps on his back, hooting like a banshee.

Moment ruined.

Ah, he has a girlfriend. Or an almost girlfriend, I think, and inch away, hovering closer to Julie. We are outside observers, after all, tag-alongs on an event not intended for our company. I best remember my place.

Chris catches the excited female--Ande--and tries not to grimace. Alyssa appears quietly at her side, and the four young adults begin to chatter,  the two high schoolers forgotten. These four have been friends for years, a friendship that continues to this day. Good people.

Ande just happened to have jumped on Chris when we were both unconsciously trying to make a move on the other.
Kind of.
LOOK--if you're shy, breathing the same air as your crush is "making a move."
And I was doing all kinds of moving that night.

Adam, Chris, and Joe, then Alyssa and a girl who is not Ande . . . I'm not sure who that is . . . aren't I dreadful???

We wait and watch for the eclipse, but it's an overcast night. Tonight, the moon appears, disappears, appears once more, and disappears again. I don't know how long we waited, sweating through our clothes, sucked dry by insects.  It may have been hours, it may have been twenty minutes.  But the eclipse never appears.

Or, maybe it did, and you couldn't tell because of all the stupid clouds. The moon winks at us again and again. It knows what's going on even if we don't.

I have no idea that Chris finds a "brightness" in me, something he can't keep out of his mind.
Chris has no idea that I can't push him out of mine either, that I'm beginning to wonder if Julie is rooting for the wrong crush. That I like his sweet, thoughtful quiet more than chattering charm. That, for once in my life, I find myself liking green eyes more than blue.

Chris and Joe drop us back off at Julie's house, where we scurry off giggling to bed.
The next morning, Chris's door is shut, as it usually is.  I stand there, wanting to knock and say thank you. Thank you for such a very fun night . . . but I can't make myself do it. The words catch in my throat, and I just can't.
So I do what seems the next best thing. I tear out a piece of notebook paper and begin to scribble a thank you.  I sign it, "Your sister's twerpy friend" and slide it under the door.

What I don't know is that he sees it.
That he reads it.
And then he keeps it.

He doesn't know that I never forget that night, that little kindness.
That, in our following English class, I write about it as one of the best nights of my life.

I write him several notes over the next year--thank yous for driving us, for lending us things, for treating us like people and not pests. Thank you for seeing me, I keep trying to say and can't. 
What I don't know is that he tucks them all away in a safe place.

And he saves them all.


  1. God you two are just so cute! Love reading this. And not to sound like a creepy cougar but Chris looks mighty fine in that modeling picture ;)

    I love reading your blog because I can relate so much. I am very similar and yet have no knack for expressing it like you do :) I'm not so much "completely charming girl who thinks of herself as nerdy" and much more the "akward lady that totally lacks in social skills and tries to make up for it but just seems weird."

    Hope you have a nice weekend Sarah dear :)

  2. I love that you still remember all this so vividly, and I think it's awesome that you guys even got to know each other as you were still growing up. I can imagine there being both good things and bad things about knowing your spouse form a young age. I'm kind of glad I didn't meet Angel till his mid-20s because I think if I met him as a teenager...I wouldn't have liked him even a little bit, by all accounts.

    And he kept those notes? Now THAT means something special. It gives me a hint about the end of the story...

  3. Aw. Love this so much. Both parts. Do you guys talk about this all the time? I'm always telling Evan to tell me the story of when we first met because I love hearing it. If I were you, I'd love hearing this story, too. =]


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