CHAPTER 1: rain

Several days after moving off to college, I bumped into her. It was a surreal moment on a riverside dock, meeting eyes for the first time. Our campus arranged this day trip, and so here I was—getting out of a car at a park by the river. The day was perfect for getting into the water. The air was fresh and the warm sun invited me to stick around for awhile. I noticed a cluster of students near the water and so I figured I’d join them. That’s when our eyes locked. She introduced herself to me. And I—well…A few mustered words of introduction from me, whatever they were, are forever lost in time. I do remember everything around me quickly blurring out of focus in that moment. Except for her. Somehow the other campus students drifted away, but the two of us remained.

We found ourselves kicking back on that dock talking for hours. A jet ski zipped across the murky river water, bouncing itself off little waves. I took note that rides were being given to unsuspecting students. Then I took note of her. She was looking at me. An animated glint flashed in her eyes. Her adventurous wishes danced upon my tentative inclinations to remain safely upon dry ground. She wanted us to ride that jet ski. I, on the other hand, felt no need to leave the relative safety of the dock. Needless to say, I rode it anyway. Of course…we fell off—against my wishes—but something changed in my life that day. Nothing else mattered to me. Little did I know, things would never be the same.

One night, a couple of weeks later, we sat down at a picnic table underneath a large tree on our campus. A street light offered a yellow glow offsetting some of the darkness. “There’s something I need to tell you,” she began. Her honest tone troubled me. I braced for impact. Gracefully, she eased the news to me that she may not live a complete life. “I have cystic fibrosis,” she explained. I searched my mind for anything I could relate to. “Isn’t that something that children died of a long time ago?” I asked. “Yes.” She expressed that things were changing. Medical science had given her some hope. “How long might you live for?” I asked. My heart sank as she told me the average life expectancy: “34 years” she said. There it was. The hammer had been dropped. Those words rushed into my lungs and stole every ounce of breath I had in that moment. Instantly I was flooded with denial, questions, and overwhelming grief.

In the coming weeks, I tried my hardest to be strong. I tried my best to be the hero. I wanted to be the one who could be by her side through it all. But something was happening inside that I wouldn’t come to terms with until later on down the road. I could see we had a deep love forming. I could feel a bond between us so close that it scared me. In my mind, I had to get away from that feeling.

And so it all started to come to an end. On a November night, about six weeks after we started dating, we sat outside together on cool-to-the-touch steps. I mumbled some nonsensical words about needing to be just friends. And that was it. Our relationship was over.

I don’t think I truly understood why I pulled away that night. It took time for me to process through those reasons. It took time for me to figure out how much she meant to me…to realize that I would regret being without her.

In those moments, I believe I was afraid of the rain. I was afraid of feeling pain. Almost like that dock…I didn’t want to step off it because of the unknown. But there was something about her. She was different. It would not be the last time that I looked into her engaging, adventurous eyes. We would part ways for the moment. But our relationship would experience an unexpected awakening.

 

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