Monday, July 29, 2013

A Thing They Can't Shake (A love story, Part 2)

When I left off, 9-years-ago me was just returning to work after a disappointing Valentine's Day weekend. Reluctantly resolved to let go of what was proving to be a great relationship, I was sad - but still in a decent frame of mind. That is, until I realized everyone was whispering - and I was the topic of their discussion.

Click HERE to read Part 1 First!

To be honest with you, I don't remember the exact details of what happened, or even all of things that were said about me. I DO remember a lot of weird looks from office mates that I didn't even know well, and watching my Mom try hard to stay out of everything. I remember seeing the mother-type who'd set up Matt and his not-a-date date quickly walking through the office with swollen red eyes, working hard to avoid acknowledging me.

Matt and I in our early days together!A couple of days later, Matt asked me if he could call me after work. This was such a confusing moment for me, because half of me wanted to jump up and down in excitement over giving Matt my number, and the other half hated that it was under such weird circumstances, especially after I'd already decided to step back. I think it's fairly obvious that I saw no harm in giving him my number, and he called me the moment after I got home from work that night. He wanted to tell me the truth behind what everyone was saying, apologize for his hand in it, and make sure that I was okay. It was during this phone call that I learned some interesting things about myself!

Apparently, word was - I very obnoxiously crashed Matt's date, and neglected to acknowledge his date's presence. This was obviously misdirected anger. I wouldn't have wanted to be on a date with a man who was pining for someone else and plotting to see them, either. I did everything I could to avoid them, and Matt sought ME out in the end. She should have been mad at him (even though he didn't realize they were on a date). And despite the awkwardness of the situation, I was still cordial - though I got no credit for that. Again, I don't blame the girl for this - I've always believed it was her mother-type friend that had a hold of the puppet strings.

So when Matt returned to work on Monday, everyone started working over time to get him away from me. Including filling him on the fact that "I'd dated every young guy in the dealership and slept with all of them on the first date". Can I just take a second here and tell you that I was more floored by the fact that a 40+ year old woman came up with such a middle school worded rumor than the fact that it was the opposite of true? Seriously, now. I was 19, and playing the role of the mature party? Goodness. And I know they had to grasp for some sort of straw, but the level of inexperience I had in my life when I met Matt would rival a nun. So to say I had a good laugh about that one is an understatement!

Once the awkwardness of this phone conversation was through, Matt and I found ourselves chatting like we had been doing on our special project. We talked for hours! The one topic I remember specifically til this day, was him telling me about his old cat. After hearing this story I realized he was kind of into cats (which was exciting to me, I am too!) so I asked him..."So you're a cat person?". And his response was, "Yeah, I guess, they're alright." Years in the future, it was HE who chose the cats we adopted, HE who does most of the care for them, HE who decided to shell out $1,000 to try and save one of our cat's lives....pshhh. I still pick on him for trying to play macho with me :)

So here's the weird thing about that conversation. It was THE thing that solidified our future. I know that seems kind of crazy, but it was. The rumors and the wedge driving that my haters inspired when they saw me as a threat prompted Matt to call me, and ended up being the thing that brought us together. I guess I should thank them?

It's not quite that simple, though. See - Matt was officially sold on me, but I felt like doo-doo.

Matt and I on vacation in Myrtle Beach during our first year together.Having an entire office full of people (catty, bored women or not) HATE you, for reasons that aren't even true, feels....well, not good. I didn't purposely plant myself in their office to steal Matt away from his crush. I had no plans to elbow her out. I had no idea there was even a "thing" going on. Was it kind of Matt's fault for not paying better attention and therefore not being sympathetic when he tried to pursue me? Well, I suppose. Sorry hubbo. Though he shouldn't really be blamed for not being a mind reader. But for whatever reason, the hate was thrown at me. I wasn't angry with him, or them, for that. I just felt really belittled and intimidated. And most of all - I felt bad for Matt. I'm sure that sounds kind of backwards, considering I did realize the drama started with him (with him, not because of him). But, Matt considered the girl who was crushing on him AND her mother-type friend to be HIS friends. Long before I came around! And me being in the picture was breaking them apart. I felt terrible for that.

So despite our positive phone call - which happened on a Wednesday night, I still remember - I went back to work the next day thinking I would back away once and for all. I talked to my co-worker for hours about it. It was a slow night, and we had nothing better to do. I did have a few gals on my side, for the record, and she was one of them. She listened to me go on and on about it, and then pep-talked me through sending Matt a message. I said something like..."Hey, can I talk to you after work? I need to say something."

Cue attempt number two at pushing Matt away.

Something in my message raised a red flag, apparently, because his message back was - "Hold on, let's go out for coffee. Can I pick you up after work?"

I was excited at the chance to see him, yet still very decided that one way or another - I was backing away. I was so resolved! Sort of heartbroken over it, but resolved. So I nervously agreed to letting him pick me up from work, and rehearsed my over-before-it-began break up speech with my nice work friend.

(A little clairvoyance for you - Matt told me later on that he could sense what I intended to do when I asked if we could talk after work. And before I sent him that message, he was at home trying to think of a way to see me. When he saw my message and knew I was going to try and push him away again, he panicked, and decided to be bold and ask me to go out to try and keep me from doing it.)

Matt and I at the Coca Cola 600; our first visit of many!As soon as Matt showed up and I saw his face....everything changed. I had butterflies. Weird, excited ones that felt different than recent weeks. Maybe I could sense his resolve to keep me right at the moment I was prepared to purposely lose him? I don't know if I'm that intuitive, but something shifted. Before we even walked out of the building, my resolve was gone.

We stopped at Tim Horton's to get hot chocolate, and then he drove me to a nature preserve where he spent time as a kid. The whole swampy area had raised wooden walkways that weaved through the trees, and we walked along them, talking. We ended up staying out there for hours, and I lied over and over again when he asked me if I was cold and wanted to head back. I would have gotten frostbite before I left him that night. My heart knew what was going on, but my head wasn't entirely sure if I'd see him again, at least in this way - a more than distant co-workers way - so I wanted to soak it up. So we kept on talking. I don't know how we still had things to talk about after our recent weeks of ALWAYS talking, but we did - and it wasn't until our hot chocolates were empty and it was too hard to ignore the cold without them that we finally drove home.

I wasn't telling my head that I let Matt in just yet. I let myself think that I was just playing along - going with the flow - seeing what happened. He convinced me not to push him away, that much I knew. But I was stubborn, and just not sure what I was going to do. For the next week, Matt asked me to go out to dinner nearly every night. I kept saying yes, because I just wanted to keep seeing him - keep talking to him, keep wading through our mess at work and see what might be underneath it. To me, it was just a repeated meeting of the minds.

A few nights later, my mom asked me if we were officially dating. I told her no, we were just hanging out. She asked if he was doing all of the initiating, asked if he was paying for the meals, pointed out that he was doing all of the driving and making an effort to find new places to go and things to do. As I digested that for a minute she said, "That's how adults date, Jenn. He's dating you."


Do you see my nun's outfit now?

(BTW, he was 23 at the time, if you were wondering!)

With this new knowledge, I was suddenly very nervous for our next dinner together. Or... was it a date? Ah! Well, he'd asked me to see a movie before dinner with him. A dark, romantic movie theater. Uh oh. Suddenly the easy be-yourself me was hiding behind the curtains, scared to spend time with the same guy I'd spent the past month getting to know! This changed everything! And was it just my own thinking that changed the game, or was there really something special about the next dinner out?

Wait and see :)  (Find Part 3 HERE)

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