This is what happened to me on my first encounter with Melissa. Flabbergasted and tongue-tied I felt like a middle-schooler again. Not only was she beautiful, but smart, and kind, and (this is important for me) interesting. On top of all that, she was also my age. Which was an odd thing, being at the community college, rebooting my college career after a stint in the military. I am just at that age, now, where all the students seem like kids to me, or they are looking for a second degree at their mid-forties. So I was surprised. To say the least. And I made the minimal effort at conversation for the five minutes we spoke after class.
Introducing herself to me, she made a comment about how we had Art History together as well as the writing class we were walking away from. We made small talk about the classes and professors until we split ways, she to the bus stop, and I to the parking lot. I sat in my car for a few minutes and pondered the stirrings of what I had not felt in a few years. Was I ever terrified. These things always sneak up on me, I thought as I turned the key in the ignition.
So where do things go from here? What kind of action does one take, to express one’s immediate and overwhelming feelings? Do you just blurt out all of the impressions and pour a heartful of blood out onto the table through slit elbows, or do you hold it in until some point later where you can look on things from a more logical perspective (as Spock would say)?
In my experience, I have always been blind-sided. By that I mean, love (or infatuation, I guess) is always sudden, surprising, and (this is important) reciprocated. And in this case it was not immediate, or surprising, or (maybe) reciprocated. So What To Do?
Take things slowly. Hang out, build a good friendship, and see where things go. I have not tried this approach before, and I must say I was very nervous about doing it that way.
I startled awake. In front of the tv, again. I had only been asleep for a second. The kind of doze-off you get when you’ve been studying too long or driving too far. The cartoon was still on the same scene, but that was just something registered in the back of my consciousness. What was really on my mind was Melissa. I had fallen asleep with her head settling on my shoulder, and her arm entwining with mine, and I felt natural and loved. But it was only a flash dream. Sometimes, when I’m going to sleep, my leg muscles will jump, and that always feels like a falling sensation, and it always wakes me up. This dream was like that, but in a good way. It confirmed that what I had been carefully easing forward the last few months was really true. That my feelings were not just infatuation or overblown friendship. Both those things have been a real issue for me, letting my heart runaway with my well-being into the uncharted areas of life. So I’ve been trying to approach this one differently. Trying to ease into something real as opposed to reactionary. I felt now like I was succeeding. I hoped.
Melissa and I had been spending time together, outside of class. Moving in cautious orbits around each other. We studied, and talked and laughed more than getting any work done. We took a voluntary field trip to DC together, went to the art museums, saw Rembrandt and the one da Vinci in the US. We went to a poetry reading, and hung out at a bar she knew about afterwards. We talked for hours, about anything, and we made each other laugh, and pout, and generally made each other happy like only true friends can. I was getting too excited about the possibilities of the relationship, and I knew it, and still there was nothing I could do to stop myself. One little crack of hope would send me spiraling in for gutwrenching hurt.