But If I Take That Chance Right Now, Tomorrow Will You Want Me Still, So I Should Keep This To Myself, And Never Let You Know
see mojo's previous post, But She Looks In My Eyes, And Makes Me Realize, And She Says Don't Worry Baby, Everything Will Turn Out Alright, for the "other half" of the story
I remember I had just finished the last of the brownies we had picked up in town by the time we pulled up to the church. My mother was cooking catfish that night due to Patrick's offhand comment that while he was in town he wanted to sample all the traditional Southern fare. Now, catfish is alright, but in terms of our last dinner together I felt slighted. I was thinking about how at least if we couldn't have a proper dinner alone then brownies in my daddy's caddy would have to do in a pinch. The only problem was we were both in a simply terrible mood--partly due to the thought of him leaving the next day, but also partly because of the fact we were plain getting on each other's nerves.
It had been at least fifteen minutes since he had mumbled something about how pretty how the scenery was and I'd replied with some cordial word of agreement. The way I recall it, we'd been bickering the entire time up to stopping at that church. I'd lodged a complaint about how his driving resembled that of an old lady's and how he flashed more signals than a third base coach. I was glad that he was worried about messing up my daddy's car, but there is such a thing as being overly cautious, you know? And I recall that he was complaining about how I was ruining our last day out together and that he'd never forgive me if I made him regret coming out to visit at all.
We were irritated with each other. We were also irritated that neither of us could come up with a better idea of how to spend that last day together.
"Stop here," I said, spying the old white church I sometimes passed on the way to my cousin Shelly's house.
I know I've mentioned it before, but I have this fascination with abandoned buildings--schools, movie theaters, restaurants, but especially churches. There is something sacred and mystical about being by yourself in a Church that brings out the humility in me. I feel so beholden when I'm immersed in the presence of God's love for me. There is some aspect of walking through a church that makes me revert to that scared, little girl dwarfed by all the tall windows and doors, confused by all the long-winded speeches, and mystified by all the ritualistic movements associated with service. Not to mention I have always had this fascination with the idea of people's memories lingering long after they have passed from this Earth. I am a firm believer that we radiate energy in everything we do and that a part of that energy gets trapped in our surroundings. I had passed by that church many times without stopping, yet on that day I felt compelled to stop. We'd surrounded ourselves in such negative energies that I thought we both could do for some recharging.
"Hurry up, slowpoke," I said, not wanting to wait for him. I could tell he wasn't keen, at first, on the idea of stopping here. Patrick's the type of guy if he's made up his mind he's not going to like something beforehand woe betide anyone who dares try to change his mind later on. The look on his face spoke volumes about his attitude. If he had his way, he would have rushed us back to my house as quickly as possible. To him, I'd already ruined the day and there was nothing I was going to do that was going to save it.
I quickly made my way to the front doors, my friend nonchalantly in tow. Once I stepped through those doors I knew, I simply knew there was no way he could maintain his pissed off demeanor against the face of such obvious majesty. It was dilapidated, to be sure, but the interior of the church hummed with power. You knew the moment you looked around you were just a child, not meant to understand the world around you. You knew you lacked the comprehension to understand all there is to God's plan. You knew that you were entirely in His hands. I immediately felt safer and less angry at how the day had gone.
"Why don't you sit down, Patrick, and take it all in?" I asked him, making my way to the altar.
Ideally, this is not the plans I had for that last night, but it's like my daddy likes to tell me, "if you had a key that opened every door there would be no need for doors in the first place." I always prided myself on making do with what I had. I wished I hadn't gotten roped into spending our last meal with the parents, but what could I do? I wished I hadn't spent the last two hours arguing about the most trivial things, but what could I do? I wished he didn't have to leave, but what could I do?
It was much the way I looked at him and us. I had no preconceived notions that he was perfect in any way. He was far too impatient and impulsive. He had a temper that often resulted in some honest-to-God moments where I was scared to be around him. He also had a tendency to drag everyone else down with him if he was in a bad mood. I also had no preconceived notions that what he had was ideal in any sense of the word. We were the definition of a long-distance relationship. I was far younger than he was. Also, impossible as it may be to say, I think I had grown up at a faster pace than he had. I would go as far as to say that I was more mature than he was at the time.
Being there, however, led me to an epiphany of sorts. I realized that I had been looking for the chinks in the armor for the last several hours. The two of us had been poking holes in what up until then had been a very comfortable friendship--fun, even. I started to realize that with any two people in the world you are going to hit upon a million reasons why you're not going to get along. People are not cut out to fit together like some jigsaw puzzle; there are never going to be any easy snap-together places in your life that someone's going to say to you, "You and him fit together here, here, and here." Any friendship or relationship worth having resembles tending to a garden. You have to set aside a specific place to fit someone in, you have to set aside a specfic time to cultivate that friendship, you have to give as much effort to making it work rather than letting the seeds fall where they may.
As I stood in front of the altar, spouting off about what I thought churches symbolized, I replayed a history of what I had to endure just to keep him as a friend. I thought about how the difficulties in convincing my parents he was a decent guy. I thought about the complexities in deciphering exactly how our friendship subsisted to my other friends at school. Everyone, every step of the way, told me how it would never work and that, in the end, I'd have to break it off in one form or another.
Still, we had managed to make it work up until that point.
I sat next to him after he had complimented me on how inspiring my description of churches was. I think that's one way I've always known he would always be a presence in my life, even when I've been scared of what he may do when he gets upset I've never been once scared of what he'd do to me. He's always made it quite clear that I'd always be safe around him. He convinced my mother, who is naturally skeptical, that he could be trusted alone with me. I don't know if I've ever believed that there was somebody out there who would be willing to lay down their life for me, but there have been a couple of people who've come close to convincing me of that. I can also say there hasn't been a single other person who pushed me quite so far into liking myself. A lot of people have told me what the right way to do things was, but he was the first to tell me that, basically, any way I wanted to do things was the right way. To be told your entire life that other people are going to take care of making your decisions and that your opinion was less important than other people's has the cumulative effect of crushing your spirit. To actually find someone willing to tell you that you're important and that what you think is important is a gift beyond measure.
'cause the way I feel I might lose control and let you stay
"I'd want to get married right here. I wouldn't even care if they never fixed up the place. I'd want to do it just like it is right now," I said.
I didn't mean to imply that I was thinking of getting married to him even though the thought had crossed my mind. I had just meant to imply that the ambience in that church was breathtaking. I didn't need perfect chandeliers and perfect arrangements; I just needed to feel that my wedding would be magical.
The truth was I didn't know exactly how I felt about him at the time. Yes, it's true I thought I was in love with him, but it took me a couple more years to realize that's what it was. In that church, at that time, I could never say what I can say now. I've loved exactly two men in my life and Mr. Ernest Patrick Taroc has the unfortunate distinction of being one of those two men. I should have been able to recognize it at the time, but when you're so young sometimes you fail to realize what you're looking at is what you're looking at. I mean--if you've never seen an armadillo before and you won't know after you've let it go that's what it was. The way I saw it was that I had a few years before I found true love. No one gets lucky their first time, my daddy told me once when I mentioned how great it would be if Patrick actually was the one I was intended to be with it. Then he gave me the big speech about weighing my options and about kissing a lot of frogs before finding my prince. I was convinced once, when we first met, that I'd been one of the lucky few to hit that homerun with their first at bat. Other people convinced me that I needed to give it some time, to allow the bloom to fall off the rose, as it were.
The truth was in that church I'd convinced myself that what I had was nothing but a schoolgirl crush. I didn't want to hope for more. I didn't want to dare for more. The hardest thing in the world is to tell someone you're in love, even if that person you're telling it to is just yourself. It's a scary prospect to actually admit you have such strong feelings for someone that no other word can describe it but love. I, for one, never thought I was capable of feeling such a grand emotion. I had always thought I was more sensible than to fall in love at the drop of a hat. I thought I had more smarts than to blindly announce that I had fallen hard for someone. Princesses in storybooks and Meg Ryan characters in movies were the only people who just immediately found Mr. Right--certainly not little 'ole Breanne. I had never been that lucky in life. Every freedom, every privelege, I'd worked my lily white ass off for. Nothing ever fell in my lap--certainly not the greatest gift of all. Even when I saw how much he wanted to stay I didn't want to come right out and say that there was nothing more I wanted in the world than if he could've stayed.
Like he so elonquently put it, I think we both knew where we stood with one another, but I don't think either of us wanted to put into words what was going on between us. We had a tacit understanding of the situation between us, the risks involved, and, I guess, neither one of us wanted to make that first pronouncement.
I asked him, "Forget them. Do you want to stay?"
And he replied, "I do," and the day turned out to be quite magical in many respects. We both left with the knowledge of exactly how close we'd become and how strong the bond between us was. I was content knowing he felt this way about me and I about him. That was enough for us at the time.
However, I'm willing to wager if I'd asked him or he had asked me, "Do you love me?", the answer would have been the same as well.