CHAPTER 2: TOO CLOSE
The crisp night air held its breath in shock. The campus lights that once had a romantic glow now seemed depressed. And it was all because of what I had done. It was because of these weighted, horrible, and heavy words dropped on her. Words she would have to deal with. We parted ways with a half-hearted hug, all but pretending. Being friends wasn’t actually going to happen. I stepped into my dorm building and walked down a confining, stale hallway. Opening the door to my room unleashed the musty scents of previous owners that resided there over the years. Home sweet home. I flipped on a dull yellow overhead light, and closed the door behind me. The outcome steeped in my mind like a hot tea ready to sip on. I found myself gradually sitting down on lopsided metal springs encased in a thin layer of padding: my bed. Mindlessly, I stared at worn-down commercial-grade carpet stained with who knows what. I looked around. Bare, blemished walls begged for a fresh coat of paint to smooth their patchy flaws. I breathed in a new feeling. In irony—oblivious to everything true—I smiled to myself: I was free.
In the following days, weeks, and months, somehow I kept running into her everywhere. One particular evening, we ended up passing by each other walking on campus. I noticed pain in her eyes and it bothered me. In my mind, this just wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I didn’t want to know how she felt, so I tried all the harder to avoid her. The small campus, however, had other plans. It kept finding a way to place her in my path. She was at the cafeteria, outside on the lawn with friends, and at our student lounge. Everywhere I went, she was. There was nowhere to go to get away from the fear I was supposed to be escaping from. Then, I began to notice that she was moving on, having a good time, and I…Well, I wasn’t. Reluctant to admit it, I felt a kind of emptiness whispering inside. The special warmth and faith that she brought into my life were gone. She had begun to show me a different way. A different way of seeing life. A different way of seeing storms. But now the world around me was quickly spinning into a dim, monochrome vision. I buried myself to forget all about this unwelcome truth. Course assignments and new friendships seemed like the best plan for me.
As I attempted to find my own way, a sort of dance-off developed between us. If she walked one path on campus, I walked the other. When she ate dinner at one time in the cafeteria, I picked another. She had her group of friends and I had mine. The rounds of competition just volleyed back and forth, one after another over. Several months had passed, and I felt like I was doing a pretty good job—maybe even winning—until she played her final move. Towards the end of that winter I received word: The dance tournament was over… and I had lost. She had a new boyfriend. Checkmate.
My inner thoughts were ones of judgmental disdain, of course. I was the better choice—clearly! I took every opportunity to console myself with this egotistical fact. Every time I saw them together, I acted as if I didn’t notice. I pretended not to care. I thought my inner-resolve was strengthening, that I didn’t need her. It was truthfully the opposite.
A few weeks later, unbelievable news came my way: They had broken up.
Immediately a small wondering cropped up. A “what-if” moment. And it troubled me. What if she married somebody else? What if I married somebody else? The thought lingered there. A tiny ray of light pierced through and illuminated what I had not wanted to set my eyes on. I felt something for her. Lost in it all, I took a weekend trip home to my parents’ place. I found a time to bring up my dilemma with my mom. “You love her don’t you?” Is all my mom asked. That was it. There was no way to hold anything back. Tears poured from my eyes. Emotions that I had locked up and stuffed into a dark corner were no longer imprisoned. “Yes,” is all I could get out. My mom continued, “Maybe God brought her to you for a reason.” I took the thought in. It comforted me. It changed me. I felt a sense of relief and a new freedom. Fighting against what was true didn’t have to be.
At the end of my stay, I packed my duffle bag and got back to campus. Somehow, I had to get back to the one I loved before it was too late. Once again, I stepped into my dorm building, walked down that stale hallway and unlocked the door to my room. That night, in an unusual blend of jittery nerves and calm confidence I called her phone. Ringing. Ringing.
“Hello?” her voice sweetly answered.
“Hey.” I said softly. “It’s Jeremiah.”
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