Love Story: Part 2 - A Few Firsts

Now, where were we?
My clothes dried just as the party started. I had only gotten about an hour of sleep the night before and I was literally falling asleep mid-conversation. Not my finest social moment to say the least. At the earliest break in conversation, I made my way to the door that led to the basement stairs where I had seen several beds earlier. I just needed to sleep for a little while.

Alas, my plans were derailed when someone grabbed my arm and asked me where I was going. It was the soldier. "Downstairs, I'm falling asleep and I've got to take a nap." "No you're not," was his response followed by something about how he and his friend would be entertaining and keep me awake. At this point my thoughts were so incoherent that I couldn't fight it so I attempted to make conversation. Besides, he was entertaining and a bit charming and leaving for a war zone in a few days for goodness' sake. I was, however, conscious enough to know that my sentences were not making any sense and it wasn't long before I was saved by a petite, mouse of a girl who intercepted our conversation. I don't know how people do it, and maybe I've done it myself, but who steps in between two people in the middle of a conversation and totally takes over? She began to pry into how he was feeling about his upcoming move. He shot me the, "I'm so sorry, I have no idea what to do here" look to which I gave him the "Oh, no worries, I'm totally fine" look and graciously and gratefully continued my journey to an unmade twin bed that smelled of boy and basement but I didn't care. I lay down and listened as the volume of the party above me quickly faded into nothingness.

I don't know how long I was asleep before I was conscious of whispers in the doorway. My friend Eliza and a couple other voices I could not place. "I don't want to wake her, but I want to say good bye!" I wanted to say, "Wait, I'm here and I want to say good bye too!" but I couldn't move. Not even a fraction of an inch. My watchers faded away and I was dead to the world once again.

When I awoke next, it was apparent by the noise level that most of the guests had gone home. I looked at my phone. 11:45 pm. I had been asleep for more than two hours. I also had been Facebooked. Not once, but twice. He had found a picture of me posted by a mutual friend and commented, "So this is what you look like well rested and done up." I smiled and took it as a compliment.

And he had friended me, which I confirmed, responded to his photo comment with a message, and made my way upstairs. I caught a ride to Wendy's home and welcomed the cocoon of clean sheets on her guest bed. I hadn't been able to see anything of DC, other than the Monuments whilst driving on the Beltway, so in the morning, while Wendy was on a run, I thought of a back-up plan in case she already had a full day. I had several friends in the area and a others who were still in town from the holiday week at the beach that I could call. But my thoughts turned to the soldier who had Facebooked me the night before. Why not? I sent him a quick message, "I may or may not need a tour guide for the day, depending on Wendy's plans. Would you be interested?"

"Would be very interested. I have a meeting at 11. Keep me posted."
Wendy came home from her run, we both got ready and she and I went for some of the best blueberry buckwheat pancakes (aka: "blue bucks"–if you've been here you know exactly what I'm talking about) and an omelet at Eastern Market behind the Capitol. The soldier and I exchanged a few more Facebook messages, exchanged numbers and decided to meet at the Smithsonian Metro stop on the National Mall.
Oh how I love navigating a new city, especially the public transit. There is something that is so empowering and free about getting from point A to point B all on my own and a map of some sort. Wendy pointed out the nearest Metro station and left to run her Saturday errands. I also love a good outdoor market, and to this one such is an understatement. I mingled with the booth owners and made a few purchases, including a tree of life pendant handmade by the sweetest Persian woman (which I bought in two sizes, one silver one bronze). When I got off at the Smithsonian, I had a few minutes to spare and pulled out my copy of Kierkegaard's Works of Love. By the time the soldier came up the escalator wearing his signature plaid short-sleeved button-up and runners with his SLR strapped across his back, I was feeling inspired and happy.

We made our way down the Mall past the Washington Monument to the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, down to the Lincoln, and back to the Washington talking all the while about everything: books we've read, things we've done, goals we've accomplished. We talked about our families and past relationships. We even aired some dirty laundry. Mid-sentence about something totally different, he stopped me and asked if I had served a mission. I replied in the affirmative and waited for a follow up question—instead he just asked me to continue and seemed to be marking off a mental checklist.

I don't remember everything we talked about. I do remember telling him about my reasons for not pursuing a career in counseling and some of my theories about theory and parenting and relationships in general. I remember him telling me about how much reading he has done on his own regarding relationships and such and being impressed.
It was a beautiful day and I cannot ignore the significance of our location. I am a patriotic girl. I also get that from my mother. She taught us all the most American songs, to "take your hat off as the flag goes by", and to love our country. To this day, I cannot sing the National Anthem without getting choked up. So for me, to spend the afternoon surrounded by reminders of what has made our Nation great was an honor and a privilege. I cannot express the feelings that came as I approached the Vietnam Memorial. The emotion and the Spirit of that place is palpable. Maybe it's because of the anti-war songs my dad taught us, but it was by far the most emotional walk passing by all those names etched in black granite.

The time passed too quickly and he asked more than once, "What if you missed your flight?" I told him that was not an option because I had responsibilities the next day. At this point I had not allowed myself to think of this as more than a one-off. It was just a fun day mixed with great conversation that would not go anywhere. If you need proof click here and scroll down. Anything more than that just wasn't on my mind.

We made our way back to the metro and I let him guide me back towards Wendy's and my ride to the airport. I had no concept of where things were located nor how long it would take to get to the airport, but trusted that this soldier would get me back on time. We continued our conversation underground, which was intercepted again. This time by Joy Jackson, a woman selling tickets to go up in the Washington Monument. As soon as she found out that I was heading back to Utah, it became clear that she just wanted to talk. She told us about her fascination with the Osmonds and how she had followed Marie's career for years. As I was smiling and nodding, a funny thing happened. I felt a strange sensation on my forearm that ran down and hovered around my fingers. It totally caught me off-guard, "Is this guy trying to hold my hand? He's totally going to hold my hand!" Yes, it's true. It was like that three-quarters kiss theory, you know how dudes say if they go 75% of the way, the girl will go the last 25%. He was three-quarters of the way holding my hand and waiting to see what I would do. My conversation with myself continued, "How strange. I didn't realize he was feeling that way. I mean, we just met! Do I even want to hold his hand? I am trying to attract an affectionate guy though. And you know what they say about being the kind of person you want to attract. If that's true, then I should be more affectionate and I should probably hold his hand." And that's what I did. I have no idea what Joy had been saying, but a train pulled up and the solider said it was ours so I gave his hand a squeeze before I dropped it and jump through the doors.

At the next stop, he told me we had gotten on the wrong train, so we'd need to get off and try again. I guess I wasn't the only one distracted by the hand holding. Once we got off at our real stop and were making our way back up to ground-level, he thanked me for responding. I had to think of a quick comeback, "You know, if you were scared down there, you could've just told me." He laughed at my joke and continued to explain that he really appreciated how responsive I was. I told him that was interesting because being responsive is important to me too and I made a mental check mark on my list.
Wendy called in a bit of a panic and said she would meet us on the road. She rushed me to the airport in her cute convertible as we talked about the strange hand holding and great conversation. Luckily, the desk agent escorted me to the "express" security line and I arrived at my gate as they were boarding the last "zone". Out of breath, I sent off a quick text to the soldier that I had made it. He said he was sorry that I did and that he felt like he got the short end of the stick--wished we had more time. I didn't think to tell Wendy that I had made it until I saw a text from her on my layover. I guess that should've been an indication of how I was really feeling about this strange soldier who holds hand on a first hang-out.

By the way, he calls that our first date. "Was there a plan? Were we paired off? Did I pay?" He asks. Well, there wasn't anything to pay for, but I guess two out of three isn't too bad.

Check back for the third and final installment.


Auntie Em said...

I want more!!! You can't tell how excited I was when I checked blogger again and saw a second installment! WHOO HOO lucky me! I'm giddy for you. I love that rush of emotions at the beginning of a relationship. looking forward to learning more. :)

The Hokanson Family said...

Seriously, Char! This is like a good book I can't put down. Even though I remember you telling me in person most of this at one our little lunch dates, I'm still loving all the details of everything. You guys are so cute. And about that picture for my biggie. It worked out just fine without it. Thanks for getting back to me. Love ya!