Not too long ago my wife and I rented a convertible and took off for the Gulf Coast. Driving down the Interstate brought back a memory of when I first began courting her.
My mind drifted back over 12 years ago, the two of us cruising with the top down on my Geo Tracker, traveling across south Arkansas on Highway 82. I remember looking over at this incredible, amazing girl sitting in the passenger seat. She was beautiful. Her hair was pushed down tight under a ballcap as the hot summer wind whipped all around us. The sun was shining, the music was loud, and, although she preferred more refined modes of travel, such as a Boeing, life for me was just about as good as it could get. Man, I wanted to spend the rest of my earthly days just like this, side by side with this girl, traveling down life’s highway. In my feeble attempt to Define The Relationship, with all the courage I could muster, this utterance came forth:
“Well, summer is about over and you’re heading back to college, and I just wondered, uh, well, you know, um, what did you have in mind about us? I mean, uh, you know, I want us to keep this going long distance, and, uh, be just you and me, you know, I mean, exclusively, because, I, uh, have no interest in anyone else.”
There. In all its poetic beauty, it was out in the open. The tears of joy should be flowing soon.
She sat there, staring forward, not responding. Were my words hanging in the air, or had they been blown away, dispersed into tiny particles among the dragonflies and mimosas? Maybe she couldn’t quite make out what I’d said from all the wind noise, since usually when someone bares their soul there is some acknowledgement of the fact.
“Well, what do you think over there?” I asked again. “Yoo-hoo! Because I’m like, you know, very happy with all of this, you know, me and you and us, this whole thing.” I motioned with my hand, pointing back and forth between her and me, a little sign lingo for clarification.
“Oh, this is great,” she said. “I really like you and I’m having so much fun.” OK, I thought, fun is good, but theme parks are fun. We’re not on vacation, though. I have a destination in mind and it’s not Disneyland.
“But I don’t think I’m ready to be exclusive.”
Say what!? I almost swerved off the road. Was she serious? We had just left one of my family reunions in the deep, mosquito-infested south, and the thought briefly crossed my mind that maybe I’d been bitten and was experiencing the early signs of malaria. Or, was it my extended family that was making her nervous? They’re salt-of-the-earth, don’t get me wrong, but they can be a little raucous. Maybe she wondered how far from the tree the acorn fell.
“Look, I hardly know those people. I’ve only seen them about twice in my whole life. Don’t let them scare you.”
“Please. That’s not it at all,” she said. “Your family is wonderful. I just don’t think I’m ready to commit. Besides, we live four-and-a-half hours apart. I just think it’s a good idea for us not to move too fast.”
Move too fast? I’d been courting her for a whole two months! How much longer did she need to realize how perfect I was for her? I knew after the first few times we were together that I needed to look no further. Besides, neither of us were getting any younger, especially me since I was five years her senior. This was a curveball I’d not expected. Time to size up the competition.
“Well, is there anyone else who interests you?”
“Well, no one in particular,” she said. “I’m just not sure I’m ready to commit. Let’s see what happens.”
Well, I had news for her — the only thing I wanted to see happen was me and her, 50 years from then, driving our grandkids to the beach in our R.V., and I intended to see it through. It was time to take this up a notch. No more goofing off. I loved this woman and there was no way I was going to let some college guy steal her away. I knew those guys, with their pilot’s licenses and Architectural History degrees. Sharks! I had to protect her.
I formed a strategy with the following premise: we could date exclusively, despite her misguided thinking, if I simply kept her so busy that there was no time for anyone else. Between me and her studies, I could keep the competition, with their guitars and poetry readings, at bay, while I shored up my standing among the potential marriage candidates.
And that’s just what I did. Weekends, holidays, anytime I could work it out, either I was on the road driving to see her, or she was on the road driving to see me, or we were meeting halfway at her parents’ home. I had to do this with great sensitivity, so as not to be taken for an obsessed stalker. She never once turned down my offers to come see her or my invitations for her to come see me. She never once gave me any indication that I was pushing too hard, too much. The more we were together, the more we both wanted to be together. The strategy was working.
I did my best to detect any hints that other guys besides me might still be in the picture. If there was, she wasn’t talking about them. A couple of months had passed and it was time to get a check-up on the ole exclusivity clause.
“So, I, uh, was wondering about, uh, us, and where we’re going, and if you’re still wanting to date other peop —”
“No,” she interrupted.
“No you don’t want to not date other people or no you don’t want to date other people?” My head was swirling with double negatives and frankly I didn’t even know what the right answer was.
“No. There’s no one else. I don’t want to date anyone else. I want it to be just us.”
I began to hear the Theme from Rocky in my head.
“Really? What changed your mind?”
“Time changed my mind,” she said. “I just needed more time to think and more time with you. I wasn’t interested in anyone else, but I just wanted to make sure this was where God was taking me. I had to pray and seek God and try to follow His lead. Thank you for being patient with me while I figured this out. I hope it wasn’t too frustrating for you.”
“God was helping me, too. You bring out the patient side of me,” I said.
But I still wondered. Were there any other guys? Hadn’t I outperformed somebody?
“You mean there were no guitar players or Architectural History majors or poets who were asking you out on dates?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” she said. “I don’t know any guitar players or poets or Architectural History majors. Where did you get that idea?”
“I don’t know, just my imagination I guess.” I felt a little foolish for being so worried. I had envisioned all these smooth talking guys trying to steal my girl away from me. Maybe I’d been watching too much television and it caused me to overreact. How silly of me.
“So you didn’t go out on any dates?”
“Well, there was this one guy who asked me out on one date, but I turned him down.”
“Really? Where did he want to take you, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Oh, well, he wanted to fly me to dinner on a plane. He has a pilot’s license.”
Sharks! “A pilot? Wow. Must’ve been tough to say ‘no’ to a plane ride.”
She grinned. “Turns out I prefer Geo Trackers.”
Copyright 2006 John Thomas. All rights reserved.