Saturday, October 10, 2009
A Decade in Love- Pt I
As I sat there, I watched the kids continue to play and a few teenagers shooting baskets in a beat-up court. I noticed someone sitting across the street on the steps of one of the townhouses. He looked very familiar. He seemed to be watching the same basketball game I watched. Before I knew it, he was walking towards me with my younger cousin at his side. My cousin had a little crush on him and excitedly introduced us not realizing we already knew each other. I smiled, shaking my iced tea, “I remember you; do you remember me?” “Yes, of course I remember!” he said, “We played together when we were kids.” Our mothers were good friends and my brother and I would often play games of hide and seek with Nathan and his siblings. Feeling like a third wheel, my cousin excused herself.
We spoke of years past, attending the same schools, sharing the same teachers, and once in a while walking with the same crowds- never really exchanging words, only small glances. “Why haven’t I seen you around lately?” he asked. I explained I moved away a few years back to live in upstate New York with my father and his family. I mentioned I was the product of an ugly divorce. Trying not to sound too morbid, “The good thing about it is that I have two homes; my mother in New Jersey and my father in New York, just four hours away.” In truth I hated it. I preferred living with my mother but I never seemed to find peace in her home. There was too much turmoil. He had a sympathetic look on his face and asked how long would I be staying. “A month at the most,” I said. He smiled at me, “Good, we have time to catch up.”
That day we watched the sun go down, all the while smiling at each other, laughing about absolutely nothing, and sharing the same sparkle in our eyes. We spent the next few weeks meeting on that porch speaking of the silly things we used to do when we were younger and how we’ve missed seeing each other over these past few years. On a few occasions we had dinner together, went to the billiards or the theaters. We exchanged information so that we could stay in touch.
On my last day there, I waited nervously by the window for him. He said he would try to stop by and say his goodbyes. I was hoping we could see each other one last time before I went home. I loaded the car, a tear in my eye and heavy sigh at the thought of not seeing him before I left. As I closed the trunk of the car, I saw him running with a box in his hand. “I thought I had missed you!” he said taking long breaths. I laughed and hugged him tight. “I thought you wouldn’t come.” “I had to get you something before you left, I searched for just the right thing; I hope you like it” he said, giving me the box. Inside was a white dress embroidered in colorful flowers two sizes bigger than what I wore. I smiled and politely said he shouldn’t have gone through the trouble. I never told him the dress was too big for me. I kept the dress and even wore it from time to time just to remind me of him.
On the drive back to New York, I felt as if I was leaving something behind. As days passed, my heart yearned to hear his soft voice and stare at those dreamy green eyes. On my first week home, I received a letter from him. After that, we spoke on the phone almost every day and wrote love letters to each other for months. Six months later, I spent Thanksgiving weekend at my mother’s house. I was ecstatic because I knew I would see him again. When I got there I dropped my suitcase home and hurried off to his house. His grandmother was in the kitchen cooking one of her specialty Spanish meals and was excited to see me. “Does he know you’re coming?” I shook my head, “It’s a surprise!” She sent one of his brothers for him, but very sternly said not to tell Nathan I was waiting.
When Nathan walked in he asked his grandmother what was going on- his brother had said it was something important. I sneaked out from behind the door. He jumped up yelling with joy and squeezing me so tight cracking every backbone I had. We spent that weekend taking long walks, holding hands, realizing that not only had we fallen in love with each other through love letters, but that we had grown to be the best of friends. “I never dreamed ‘love at first sight’ existed,” he said, “but I must admit, I fell in love with you the minute I saw you playing with children that summer day!” He told me he used to watch over me in elementary school making sure the bullies would stay away. He said he had always felt the urge to keep me safe. I never knew any of that. Whenever he spoke to me, I felt at peace and such a comfort that made all my worries go away. With him, I felt special. His eyes were for me and only me.
Nathan had a big heart open to new ideas and new beliefs. I decided to introduce him to God explaining the friendship I held with Him and spoke of things he had vaguely heard. He seemed very interested in finding the love of God I found four years before. He asked me many questions. After a wonderful weekend there, it was time to leave once more. We continued writing love letters to each other and sharing phone calls another two months.
In February 1994, I received a terrible phone call from him. “My grandmother has passed on.” His grandmother battled cervical cancer most of her late years in life. Nathan was like a son to her. She raised him for many years when his mother wasn’t able to care for him, yet didn’t live too far away. He was very close to his grandmother, so much so, that when she died, he became withdrawn from everything and everyone including me. He called me to say that we couldn’t see each other any longer and that he didn’t want to continue writing letters. I was devastated, but I understood that he wasn’t himself. I could hear it in his voice: the anger, sadness, and sense of loss. My heart went out to him after hearing him express himself with few words and a sad voice. “If you ever change your mind, I will be waiting,” I said, “I’ll be here whenever you need someone to listen.”
He called me twice in two months. I could sense he was depressed and nothing was making him happy. ‘If I lived closer to him I could help him through his grief,’ I often thought. After another month and no calls from him, I decided to move back to New Jersey just to be near him. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I took a leap of faith.
As I parked the car near his house, he was sitting on the steps with a sullen face, his arms folded on his knees. It was then that I realized I had made the right choice in moving back. When he saw me, he lifted his head with relief in his eyes and held me in his arms for a long time. “I am so glad you’re here,” he managed to muffle through a broken voice.
After a few months, he seemed happier and moved on past the pain. We spent a little over a year loving each other intensely, but in September 1995 we decided to part ways. Unfortunately, love wasn’t enough. We were young and naïve and our differences in beliefs were getting in the way of our love. Although he understood some of it, he never fully accepted my faith, and that caused great friction between us. Resisting, I went back upstate to New York.
Our Love Story
copyright © 2009 Ellie Kings
Art by Megan Aroon-Duncanson