Our First Date
I think I fell in love with him on our first official date. We were out in Santa Cruz, a stinky little beach town on the coast of northern California, parked in a small parking lot overlooking the ocean near a lighthouse. The sun had set a few hours before, there were no streetlights to illuminate the lot, and the car windows were open, allowing the salty, sea-scented air to drift in. There he and I sat, he in the driver’s seat and I in the passenger seat, looking out at the sea and talking about our lives.
We had already gone to dinner on the pier and then for a walk along the beach near the Boardwalk. We had already joked around and laughed and asked each other questions about our past relationships, families of origin, and moral standards. We had met each other four years prior to this night, had been friendly acquaintances since then, and had gotten to know each other quite a bit over the phone and in group settings over the last few months. But this night – this night in April 2001– was our first time one-on-one where we both knew going into the evening that this was a real official “date.”
And as we sat in his unkempt teal Nissan Sentra, overlooking the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the cliffs below us, lights off and not a soul nearby, he told me two particular tidbits about his past that endeared me to him and told me more about his character than anything else that evening.
The first memorable nugget of a story he shared with me that night was about his childhood. He was describing to me what his life was like before his baby brother (whom he adored) was born and, in describing that era, he told me that every night he would arrange his stuffed animals in such a way that he would match up a larger toy with a smaller one. They would all be lined up along his windowsill or next to his bed: big toy, little toy, big toy, little toy, and on and on. “That way the big ones could protect the little ones while I slept,” he informed me, looking sheepish.
OK, pause right there: Is that not one of the sweetest things you’ve ever heard? When he told me that, seemingly embarrassed about it, but courageously telling me anyway, I thought “Wow. There is something special about this guy.” I mean, seriously: since he was a child, even in the innocuous realm of the toy world, he has been looking out for others, strategizing how to help protect the weak and vulnerable and innocent. That’s a character trait that can’t be taught— it just IS.
And the other story that handsome young man told me as we watched the waves was the story of his most embarrassing moment. I can’t go into all the details of it — because (1) it’s not my story to tell and (2) there are like seven acts to this horrendously humiliating day he endured his senior year of high school – but trust me when I tell you it was one of the most hilarious, exciting, tear-jerking, real life stories I had ever heard. And, once again, I discovered more about his character through his story (and how he told it) than I could have learned any other way. First, due to the content of his story, I realized that he had a highly sensitive heart and a passion for purity that I hadn’t seen in a young man of his age before. I learned what he was attracted to, what made him cringe, and what he thought about the public’s opinion of him. I also ascertained that he knew how to tell a damn good story. And, to me, that is quite a gift. I have always loved storytelling and the ways in which story has the power to reveal things about the characters in the story or the storyteller himself that you simply can’t learn any other way. And to be face-to-face, hand-in-hand with someone who had endured what he had endured, and who was able to relay the events of that day in such an enthralling, masterful way, delighted me to no end.
I didn’t consciously think it at the time, but the narrative going on in my head that lovely spring night at the coast was something to the effect of: “I could spend forever with a tender, good, intelligent, pure-hearted man like this!” He enchanted me.
[This is Day 4 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. This year my focus is on the role of STORY in our lives. Click here to get to the landing page with links to each post for this series.]
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What about you?
What stories have you heard that taught you much about the storyteller him/herself? What is a story from your own childhood that reveals who you are deep down?
Please share your story in the comment section below.