Once upon a time, a little girl dreamed about catching the eye of a man who would love her forever. A man who would enfold her in his arms and keep her safe. A man who would be gentle and kind and rational and yet was also a wee bit loco in la cabeza when the situation called for it.
She wanted a man who loved the Lord. She wanted a man who would lead without being overbearing, who would not be afraid to fall on his knees when he was in over his head.
She wanted a man who was manly and yet could still shed a tear at a chick-flick once in a while. Who could read Louis Lamour in one hand and Francine Rivers in the other. Who knew how to whisper a sweet nothing.
She wanted a man who understood how it felt to have your heart handled roughly by those who were entrusted to keep it safe. She wanted someone who could sympathise when tears came for no apparent reason, and emotions were difficult to sort out.
She wanted a man who would be a good daddy. A man who would not mind having his hand ground into powder during long labors. Who could find time to play a game or read a book or just fall asleep with the gentle weight of a newborn on his chest.
She wanted a man who would get sexier as he got older. If he lost his hair or gained a few pounds, it would never detract from the twinkle in his eyes or the fact that he had a damn cute a**.
She carefully wrote down these qualifications in a notebook, and never failed to screen prospective suitors according to its requirements, hunting diligently until she found the man who fulfilled them all.
Let’s be real here.
To be truthful, the little girl in this tale had a bit of an addiction to male attention. She didn’t really screen the guys whose eyes she caught too carefully, so grateful she was that anybody with an overabundance of testosterone was looking her way with any amount of approval.
She made some grievous errors in judgement because of this rapacious need to be loved. She didn’t honestly know what she wanted, or what would be important qualities in a man. As long as he said I love you then that was enough.
She wasn’t too clever.
She wasn’t very deserving.
Yet the God of heaven held the list in His own competent hand…He knew exactly what the little girl needed, and for reasons she will never fathom, He sent a man to her. A man who was everything she never knew she wanted.
Even more unbelievably, the man loved her.
For 23 years, he’s been loving her. And doing a damn fine job of it.
And the little girl has never been more grateful than she is today.
Faithful lover, heart’s desire
nothing else my needs require
can be found in mortal clay
yet quietly they slip away
moments that I should be using
to love and cherish; I am choosing
to work and worry, run and chase
pursuing things with neither face
to look at me with tender care
nor hands to lift a burden shared
nor arms to fold me close within
nor heart to call me back again.
amidst the field of mud and stone
I wandered aimless and alone
a drifting, dirty sphere of rock
searching for I knew not what
you sparkled so much brighter there
I knew at once a treasure rare
was standing right before my eyes
and both of us would be surprised
the path that lay ahead was set
though neither of us knew it yet
through trials and triumph, joy and tears
we’ve tasted all throughout the years.
your steadfast hand stretched out for mine
your patience with my wayward mind
your faithful walk through bad and good
and all the times you’ve understood
these are the ways you love me well
(and many more than I can tell
within these lines of crippled verse)
I am afraid I’ve been far worse
at loving you; not always fair
and often hard and unaware
abrupt and rough, fatigued and worn
this is the girl to whom you’re sworn.
yet earnestly you say not so
insist that there is more to know
you are benefit; I am doubt
roast beef to my saurkraut
I’m the tunnel; you’re the light
when I’m blind you are my sight
Your love convinces me of His
for who else but a Lover gives
His all for one mostly bereft
and counts as precious what is left
I hit the jackpot
that winter day
the day we met.
“Uh. Sure! You mean, like…with Beth and everybody?”
A momentary hesitation.
“Um. Yeah, we could do that. Or, you know, just you and me.”
Silence on my part as I suffered a minor myocardial infarction, recovered, and responded:
“Oh! Well. That would be nice too.”
“Great! Let’s go to August Moon “
(ed note: this was a chinese restaurant. there are a lot of them in stavanger. also, my favorite italian restaurant in norway was run by some chinese people. interesting, huh? turns out america isn’t the only melting pot)
We went out to eat and I can’t remember a single thing we talked about. I do know that we wound up back at my house, sitting in the living room, still talking. My Dad came home and I hurridly warned BFBF that when my Dad shook his hand, he should be prepared. My father, in spite of his oilman career, was and is to this day, a farmer at heart, with the bone-crushing grip to prove it. Nothing would say girly-man quicker to my father than a fishy handshake.
They met in the middle of the floor. Their hands clasped. The air filled with the sounds of tendons straining and joints popping as their respective manhoods were proven.
BFBF passed the handshake test.
That night, I lay in bed and tried to make sense of my thoughts. Somehow, no matter how many times I assured myself that he was just a friend, just a good friend, my brain wasn’t buying it. As long as he was not present, I could stuff down the blazing hot fires of fervant, passionate ~~LUV!!~~, clap a lid on them and SIT on it, but as soon as he was within a 50 foot radius, I got blown across the room from the blast of heat my heart was generating. It was all I could do to keep from grabbing him by the lapels and blithering out a confession of my true feelings.
At the prom, I spent the whole meal gazing past TOES at the next table over, where BFBF was sitting, in all his tux-ey splendor. My, but he did look fine. His radiance made my eyes hurt. I’m sure TOES didn’t notice my lack of attention at all.
Later, at the prom party, we spent more time talking. I wanted to believe that he felt even a tiny bit of something more for me, but he wasn’t giving out any clear signals to that effect.
What would have been a clear signal? Hm. Something along the lines of enfolding me in his arms and saying passionately Emma Jenni, you want our friendship to remain the same as it has always been, but I can not desire that. I do not wish to call you my friend, because I hope to call you something infinitely more dear! Marry me, my wonderful, darling friend.
To which I would have replied Mr. Knightley My Beloved, if I do not speak it is only for fear of waking from this wonderful dream!
Alas, we were not living in a novel. And so I had to ad lib.
About a week later, I made plans to go out to dinner with Beth. It was the second of three days of finals, and all my most difficult classes would be out of the way; Typing 1 would be the only reason I needed to go to school the next day, so I figured it was safe enough to stay out late.
Before we left to eat, she got a phone call. It was Robert, the friend that BFBF was staying with, asking what we were up to tonight. My heart began to pound at the hope that they might join us, but when she hung up she told me that they had plans of their own for dinner. They might catch up with us later. I told myself that was cool, because, after all, HE WAS A FRIEND, JUST A FRIEND, THAT’S ALL, AND THUS IT DID NOT MATTER WHATSOEVER IF I SAW HIM THAT NIGHT.
After dinner, Beth and I sat and talked about this and that. Strangely, the conversation turned to unrequited love, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to disgorge the contents of my burgeoning heart into her sympathetic ear. The words hovered on the tip of my tongue, ready to plunge into the abyss, when who should come noisily into the restaurant but Robert and The Source of My Angst. They were done eating and had come to find us. My brain promptly turned into quivering flan.
We went to Robert’s house to hang out and celebrate the end of the school year. We played some silly games. It got late, and I really needed to be getting home. After all, I had a terribly strenous typing exam the next day. BFBF and I sat on the couch, alone in the room. Here was my chance to confess. Should I risk it?
There was a lull in our conversation. BFBF gazed out the window at the night sky.
There’s a star. I pointed out inanely. Make a wish?
He dutifully complied.
What did you wish for? I asked.
He smiled and turned beet red.
Well, friends, I was a bloodhound on the scent then, let me tell you. I was not going to leave that house without finding out what was in that man’s head, no way, no how.
I wheedled. I whined. I pleaded. I begged. But he wouldn’t tell me. Finally, I told him I wouldn’t be his friend anymore if he didn’t tell me. After all, I was probably going to lose his friendship anyway when he found out I was head over heels for him, so what the heck. I was risking it all that night, burning my bridges one way or the other.
Aww. He protested. That’s not fair.
I folded my arms and raised my eyebrows.
I wished… He looked down at the floor like he’d just run over my dog. I wished…thatIcouldkissyou.
Explosions of incredulity! Paroxyms of joy! Ebullient relief! This was the part of the story where the music swells and we spin around the ballroom in glorious, synchronised elation, but he wouldn’t raise his eyes to meet mine.
Hey…I prodded him, trying to keep my extremities from flying into space. Isn’t it strange that my wish would be the same thing?
His head came up and he stared at me.
And so we granted one another’s wish. And decided right then and there to make it a habit.
PS. It seems fitting to end this maudlin journey through my memory banks with OUR SONG, heard a few days later at a friend’s house before anyone (save Robert and Beth) knew THE TRUTH about Us. My Beloved and I sat across from each other at the kitchen table, trying not to give ourselves away, but when the lyrics began to play, I felt his foot put gentle pressure on mine. We smiled at each other and everyone else just…disappeared.
Now, of course, I can’t help but giggle at Kevin Cronin’s hair.
Responsible party here (and links to more love stories!)
My junior year was a tumultuous one for my heart, evil little selfish cowardly thing that it was. Within the first few weeks of school starting, I decided that I was not cut out for having been cut loose. Although BF was writing me with an engineer's diligence and precision, I began to resent the fact that the whole rest of my life was already planned out, even if I had been the one to help plan it. BF was so blasted respectable. So solid. So steady. So rational. So super.
I couldn't help but wonder what someone from the other end of the spectrum would be like.Coincidentally, that wasn't too hard to find. I actually had several classes with him. The Other End of the Spectrum (henceforth to be known as TOES), in case you wonder, had red hair. And a skull earring. He was a skateboarder. And he was from California.
The one good thing I got out of the relationship with TOES was the ability to spin my pen around my thumb and then catch it again. This pen-twiddling has garnered me quite a bit of admiration throughout my life thus far.
So that's some comfort.
As far as boyfriends go, however, he was pretty lacking. He liked me all right, especially on a Friday night when there wasn't much else going on, but other than that, his affection for me was just a little on the cool side. He made it clear that he was keeping his options open in case something better came along.
Which does a lot for one's self-esteem, as you might imagine.
All this time, (ex)BF was patiently waiting for me to come to my sense. I'd say senseS, but frankly, I don't think I had more than one at the time. He returned from college at Christmastime and since TOES was currently exploring his other options, I patched it up with BF and we were an item again.
Then he went back to college.
And TOES called me up to go to a movie.
Apparently I determined in some twisted sort of logic that a deficient, present boyfriend was better than a devoted, absent one. Not to mention, I was ever-hopeful that I would be able to change TOES into the ideal man if given enough time.
I am an extremely original thinker.
Over the next several months we continued to date but I still felt lost. I knew TOES didn't care about me that much, but I didn't have the guts to tell him to hit the road for good. At the same time, I wasn't sure I wanted to tell (ex)BF that I'd love him to my dying day because I knew my own heart well enough at this point to know it was not to be trusted. I was miserable with confusion.
As spring drew to a close, I heard that Beth (BFBF's sister) was going to make the trip back to Norway so she could graduate from high school with all her friends there, rather than the relative strangers she had spent her senior year with in Connecticut. BFBF was coming with her as a travelling buddy, and for the chance to spend some time with his own friends still in Norway.
I wrote to Beth and told her I would be at the airport when they arrived, and that I hoped we could get together and have some fun once they were there. I was weary of trying to figure out my heart, and was looking forward to simply enjoying time with friends, blissfully free from any emotional wrangling. Surely Beth and BFBF could provide that for me. After all, we had had such good times the summer before.
And so I stood in the Sandnes Airport one sunny spring day, eyes fixed on the swinging double doors that all travellers exited through after navigating customs. Beth made it past the gauntlet first, beaming her megawatt smile as she came, and I had a chance to hug her before she was quickly engulfed by other friends anxious to catch up on all they had missed over the school year.
I went back to watching the swinging doors for BFBF, trading banter with the mutual friend who would be playing host to him during his visit and wondering, as always, what I was going to do about the raw gnawing sadness in my chest. And then BFBF appeared.
He was smiling. He was bathed in a halo of light. Angels were singing. A giant sign hovered in the air next to him, blinking THIS ONE, YOU MORON! THIS ONE! THIS IS THE ONE!
And I stood as one paralyzed. This couldn't be. This just couldn't be. My friend? My ex-boyfriend's best friend? THE one? The ONE? What? Wait. When did this happen? I hadn't even heard from him in several months…what th? WHAT IN TARNATION WAS GOING ON HERE??
Seriously, I didn't know what was happening. My brain was reeling and my heart was frantically playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons. None of it made any sense. It was the last thing I had expected, but there he was, standing in front of me, smiling that ridiculously beautiful smile, and I was trying to act like my entire universe was not imploding inside my head.
He shoved some papers into my hand, gave me a hug and said "let's go out sometime". I don't remember saying anything (I have a strange suspicion that I was gulping like a goldfish the whole time) and then he was gone, whisked away to recover from jet lag. My mother, standing next to me, said helpfully:
"Wow! Jim looks really good! Has he been working out?"
I got in our car feeling numb. I don't know what mom thought. Being rendered speechless was highly unusual for me. I made a pretense of reading the papers that had been pressed into my hand; they were filled with his apologies for being such a poor correspondant, explanations as to why he had not written for so long, and resolutions to be better if I would give him the chance.
"Let's go out sometime" he had said. What did he mean? Like, as in a date? Or just as friends?
Mentally, I slapped myself upside the head. Hard. Of course he just meant as friends. Actually, he probably meant as a group, as we usually did, with Beth and all the gang. I was obviously suffering from some sort of hysteria, brought on by prom stress and studying for finals. He was my FRIEND. And there was no flippin' way on earth I was going to jeopardize that friendship by trying to make it something else.
When we last left our intrepid heroine (hereafter referred to as me), she was flirting shamelessly with her boyfriend’s best friend (hereafter referred to as BFBF). She was bored. He was cute. What other excuse did she need?
With a few bats of my eyelids, we became friends. When Christmas vacation ended and BFBF went back to college, we exchanged a few letters containing nothing but fluff and more flirtation, thinly veiled as friendly banter. He sent me messages written in Tolkien runes so I couldn’t decipher them. And he always made me laugh.
When my sophomore year ended, BFBF came back to Norway for the summer to work and help his family prepare to move back to the USA. My boyfriend was about to leave for college and we were wringing every bit of fun out of the time that remained; much of it spent with BFBF and his sister, Beth. When boyfriend flew away to Missouri in August, I was bereft.
For about five minutes.
Thinking back, this should have clued me in that perhaps my feelings towards BF were not quite strong enough to be planning our wedding. But introspection scared me, so I didn’t do a lot of it. That evening, I attended a party and was delighted to spot BFBF across the room. I promptly seated myself next to him on the sofa and for the next three hours, we talked.
I tried to miss BF. I really tried. I knew I was supposed to. But all I could do was bask in the glow of that smile. That damn smile. It was all about the eyes; the way they crinkled up before his mouth even seemed to have gotten the memo. He and Beth had about two weeks left before they departed for The Promised Land the States, so we filled them as full as we could to avoid contemplating the inevitable.
We climbed Prekestolen. BFBF dazzled me with his extreme climbing skills, leaping up the mountainside like a goat without breaking a sweat. Even though it meant leaving Beth and I in the dust (I suspect Beth only hung back out of deference to me, come to think of it), somewhere in my mind I knew he was showing off for my benefit, and so I had no choice but to forgive him.
We spent time at their house, playing ping pong while surrounded by packing boxes and kittens and the curious eyes of their little sister, Becca. She introduced me to the cats and I helped her think of names for them. I was particularly smitten with a little black male female whom I dubbed Eddie, after Eddie Van Halen.
(Hey…the kitten was cute, Eddie Van Halen was cute…you see? Perfectly logical)
All good things must come to an end, they say, and sure enough, the day came when we had to make the journey to the airport to say goodbye. BFBF showed up bright and early at my house holding a package in his arms…a mewing black face looked up at me when I opened it and Eddie was mine. He she was the second thing My Beloved ever gave me, and I have to say that I found the kitten far superior to the swift kick.
I managed to keep it together as he boarded his plane, refusing to believe that the summer was truly ending. However, a few days later as I said goodbye to Beth, reality hit, and the tears flowed. BFBF was at college in Colorado. Beth and her family were going to Connecticut. Although we promised to write faithfully, I knew all too well how easy it was to lose track of people when separated by several thousand miles. The oil business is a flighty mistress, moving people from country to country like the pebble in a shell game, and there was no telling how long any of us would remain where we were.
I honestly had no reason to expect that I would ever see them again.
I started to adjust to my new life in Norway. Most of the kids there were in some level of shock at finding themselves in a land of gravlax instead of bologna and goat cheese rather than peanut butter. And the bread!? You had to slice it yourself. Oh. The horror.
It was not hard to find common ground. If nothing else, we could fall back on the old standby of complaining about the weather. Stavanger, with its coastal location, is an undeniably soggy place.
Also, most all of us were there due to a parental connection with this:
(oil platform in the North Sea)
That is to say, we were spoiled rich kids.
And we were all far from home.
And nothing binds a group together like vast quantities of wealth communal homesickness.
There were probably 350 students, max, at SAMS in the 80’s, and that included grades pre-K through 12th (my graduating class numbered 20, if memory serves). Yet, in this limited pool of eligibility, there dwelt quite possibly the sweetest, most upstanding young man on the planet.
And for some bizarre and indiscernible reason, he asked me out. It was, I think, the only lapse in judgement he has ever made to this day.
At any rate, we began dating. And soon I began to hear about his best friend, who had graduated the past spring and who would soon be returning from college for Christmas break, at which point I could meet him properly, in a less-fraught-with-bodily-harm situation than our previous brief encounter (see previous post).
Christmastime in Norway is the stuff of postcards and fairytales. The Christmas season lasts for long after the 25th of December; at that point, the Norwegians are just getting started! They take that whole “12 days” thing seriously. The downtown walking streets in the marketplace are strung with sparkling lights and the spruce trees arrive on boats in the harbor. My boyfriend and I were walking hand in hand, picking out the names of our future children and doing a little Christmas shopping, when suddenly he pointed.
“Hey, there they are.” he smiled.
Silhouetted against the setting sun (3pm when you’re that close to the arctic circle, friends, I kid you not) were three people, waving and walking towards us down the cobblestone street.
(no, they’re not in this picture. This picture is just to give you an idea of the feel of the event. work with me, people.)
On the left was boyfriend’s older brother, home for the holidays. On the right was Other Best Friend, a senior classman like my boyfriend. And in the middle? Was someone distinctly bowlegged. And he was making a pair of levi’s 501s look far, far better than Bruce Springsteen ever could.
Boyfriend’s Best Friend shook my hand as I looked up into his face. His eyes were green and crinkled up into a smile, making my heart do a little flub-dub dance that should have been a dead giveaway that the course of my life had just been altered dramatically and I had better tighten my seat belt.
It should have been. But I was only sixteen and about as sharp as a bag of marbles when it came to matters of my own heart.
We went into Wimpy’s (the European equivalent of McDonald’s before McDonald’s reached to the very ends of the earth), to get some food, and visit. I was one girl amidst four males, all of whom wanted to rehash the previous years’ every sporting event in which they participated together, which were legion.
It was boring. I was bored. The boredom, it was vast. So I made my own fun. Boyfriend’s Best Friend sat across from me. I caught his eye. And fluttered my eyelashes.
He turned bright red. Oh, the deep, deep satisfaction that suffused my soul!
To this day he insists that I was the first girl to ever flirt with him. Because he was, you know…ugly. No one ever flirted with him. He refuses to believe that he was simply, grossly unaware. And really, who am I to argue? He was such a homely fellow. Maybe he was right.
Repulsive, isn’t he? Absolutely hideous. I’m sorry for subjecting you to such a grotesque horror. Try to suppress the gagging.
I flirted with him shamelessly. He smiled. And our fates were sealed.
The first thing My Beloved ever gave me was a swift kick in the gut.
Metaphorically speaking? No. Literally. I was holding his leg, and he kicked me. I didn’t even know the guy!
Maybe I should begin at the beginning.
(it really is very green in real life)
(taken on the 1 day out of 365 that the sun was shining, apparently)
Stavanger American School (SAMS)
(again with the sun shining! photo shamelessly lifted off Flickr; taken by someone named Matt? Thanks, Matt)
(sorry. maybe a visual wasn’t required for this one)
I was a freshman. He was a senior. I had just moved there. There was this girl in my gym class who had a bet with him. He lost. His penalty? Toe painting. His leg in a cast (volleyball injury), he should have been an easy victim, little piggies poking out the end of the plaster.
(this picture makes my heart go pitty pat all over again)
The plan was simple. Gym class was last period. He would be coming out of shop class, just down the hall. The entire 7th period girl’s PE class was enlisted to nab him unawares as he exited the classroom and hold him down as she wielded the brush. Gimp that he was, it should have been a piece of cake, right?
Sadly, no. We nabbed him, no problem. But the fool struggled. Struggled, against a horde of teenage girls all pawing him at once. He blames the fact that never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he would be in such a situation, and thus his behavior was instinctual. But I have my doubts that any teenage boy’s wildest dreams would not include being lynched by 20+ high school females.
At any rate. I was dispatched fairly quickly by his good leg, after which the shop teacher came to his “aid” and broke up the melee before paint could be applied. I’m not sure if the bet was ever resolved. He may to this day have some settling up to do with Michelle Evlon.
After that, he graduated and skipped off to college. I was consumed with my own ridiculous and angst-filled days, and thus he never entered my thoughts.
I daresay it was pretty much the same for him.
In my sophomore year, I began dating pretty much the nicest guy on the planet. He happed to be My (future) Beloved’s best friend. For a couple of months I heard about what a great guy his best friend was, and how excited he was to introduce us when he came home for Christmas break.
All I knew was that the guy had definite feelings against toenail polish.