What went wrong? I couldn't even remember. It was 2 years ago since I last saw him. Did we even leave in good terms? Either way seeing him here, at Church, he had to forgive me for however I left things, right? I was currently in the worst relationship I've ever had in all my 21 years. Trying to live a "good" Christian life, yet still dating the wrong guys wasn't turning out so great. The struggle of old and new life felt so real now.
After meeting with the college group, I was planning on seeing Chad at the movies. We had been dating for almost 2 weeks, but things were going so uncomfortably fast. I was so flattered that such a good looking, younger guy (by two years), was so infatuated with me. However I disliked how he thought he could always get away with leaving his hand on my behind. I didn't feel like I was dating a gentleman at all, more like a little pervert.
As we started our small service, I was thinking about how I could break things off with Chad. He obviously wasn't the right guy for me. And to continue seeing him would only hinder my Christian walk. When I looked up, I found myself shocked to see a familiar face singing up on stage.
I whispered to my friend sitting next to me; "Who is that guy?"
"I think his name is Gabe."
Gabe? I don't recognize that name. Maybe he just really looks like him. Yet I couldn't even remember his real name.
"Oh wait, I think it's James." She clarified.
James! That's it, that's him! I remember now. Wow, what was he doing here? Here I am dating a guy who is totally wrong for me when the good guy I let go, is now standing only a few feet away.
I didn't know he was a Christian? Has he always been, even when we met back then? He was always very nice and polite. Gosh I wish I could remember what happened between us.
After service, I contemplated whether to go up to him or not. It was so surreal to see him chatting so comfy-like with the girls I had been hanging out with for the past 5 months. If I had done anything wrong, I will apologize for it, so for now a friendly hello would suffice.
On my way over, I quickly wondered if I looked any different. Was I prettier now, or would he look at me and say "what was I thinking?" Regardless I now stood in front of him, a little nervous but calm.
"Hey, what are you doing here?" He asked unbelievingly.
"I've been going here for a while now. It's nice to see you again."
"Yeah, you too," he replied.
I wanted to avoid any awkwardness at all costs. Now that we had mutual friends, I didn't want to raise any questions that I didn't know how to answer. At least now I knew we were on peaceable grounds, for he didn't show any bitterness; which was what I hoped for. Still I couldn't tell if he was surprised to see me or to see me at his church.
At the movie theater, sitting next to Chad, I was more confident than ever on my decision to end it. Whether or not I had another chance with James didn't really matter, but he did exemplify the guy I should be with rather than this Mr. Sticky Hands.
That following Sunday provided me plenty of time to get over the guilt of my bad breakup with Chad. Relieved that it was over, especially since he took it so immaturely, I now felt the freedom to make better decisions. In the back of my mind still lingered the possibility of something happening with James. I mean we had dated for 3 weeks at one point, could there still have been an attraction there? From my behalf, definitely, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself.
"Hey Renae, I need to talk to you about something I heard," said my good friend Carmen.
She dragged me to the bathroom for some privacy.
"Did you go out with James before? He was talking about you on Friday like he couldn't believe you were here."
"Really? Well yes we dated. I'll tell you all about it later. First tell me what he said? Please give me full details." I pleaded.
"He was talking to Sandra, Lori and I and then he saw you sitting next to Alexandra and said 'I know that girl, there with the long brown hair'. Sandra said 'Renae?' and he was shaking his head. He said he remembers you guys talked one time for like 12 hours straight. Is that true?" She interrogated.
"Yes we did. Wow he remembered that."
I hoped my eyes didn't look too glossy as I watched him sing along with the Worship band. Was this a second chance? Was I meant to be with James? Okay hold your horses Renae, let's just see what happens; I thought to myself. I didn't even know he sang … and he sounds lovely.
On my way out from the service, I bumped into Lori. She too had told me what James said. Unfortunately, I sensed that Sandra wasn't so welcoming to the idea of James and I and our past hook up. I wasn't crazy about Sandra either; I hung out with her because I hung out with her friends. There was just something about her that didn't make me feel at ease. She was never super friendly to me, I guess because I was new. And the fact that she was old friends with James made things even more awkward. I just hoped to never talk to her about it.
I was in a daze for the rest of the day, remembering how it was that I met James.
I was 19 and just got out of this punk rock concert with my friends, Lea and May. It wasn't that late, around 10:30pm, so we had time to kill before Lea's midnight curfew. We heard from some of the guys that there was a cool rock group playing at the Eight pub. We hurried to not waste any time; it was only 10 minutes away.
Now mind you we looked like we just got out of a punk rock concert. We dressed the part, to fit in, but this wasn't our usual choice of style. I wore a thick red and white striped shirt, dark blue cargo pants and my blue Converse sneakers. My hair was the best part. I did several braids and picked it up half way, the rest of my hair was curly, temporarily dyed red (horrible result by the way), and full of glitter.
Lea had a white and blue striped shirt, similar pants and two ponytails. May had a small Superman Shirt and my same hair do more or less. Needless to say we could possibly stand out as the worst dressed while the other girls there looked nothing but hot. Whatever, we weren't going to meet any guys anyway.
And wouldn't you know it; the day you feel stripped of all confidence to approach a beautiful guy, was the day I indeed saw one. I watched the band from far away, this place was packed, and I wasn't really into the music but I didn't care. And there he was, standing in front of a post; he stood out like a sore thumb. Not because he looked weird or anything, unlike me, but he looked military.
Dressed in a simple white undershirt, jeans and casual shoes; his crew-cut gave him away. He had very light skin, brown hair and a sweet shy smile. Although the place was very dim, I could tell he had light eyes, they were those adorable sad-puppy shaped kind. Perhaps my friends wouldn't have found him drop dead gorgeous, but he was just my type. I surely wasn't going to make any efforts to talk to him; I was too embarrassed.
I began to notice, him looking back a lot. I probably looked real serious, not enjoying myself too much, and not suspecting that I was being looked at. We started a game of eye tag, each time with longer stares and short smiles. He seemed pretty shy, so either this would continue the rest of the night or I didn't know what would happen. My friends had apparently drifted away, so I couldn't turn to anyone for the support and motivation I needed.
I remember him finally approaching me. In all my disastrous apparel, he still wanted to talk to me. I hoped he wasn't into crazy looking girls, or maybe he saw past the costume. All I know is that I had a great conversation with him. So much so, that we moved to a quieter corner to hear each other better. He told me he was in the Navy, and was going to be here for a few months or so. He was 21, from Texas and apparently interested in seeing me again.
My first impression of him was that he was a timid nice guy, but once we got over those first few minutes it was like we were already friends. I didn't want it to end. He had the sweetest blue eyes and boyish charm. But suddenly my friend Lea came to warn me we had to leave. Noooo! I didn't want to leave, but we all came in my car. James and I quickly exchanged phone numbers and I was gone.
The rest is kind of a blur. We did meet up shortly after that. He picked me up after I got out of class, and we went to the movies. Other times he came to my college and I showed him around, then we'd get a bite to eat. He even showed up at my job, which was at a local movie theater, close to my house. We were both very excited and into each other.
This one day when I got out of class, I can't remember who called who, but we were talking on the phone as I drove home. We started around 5:30pm, we talked and talked. I took a bathroom break a couple of times, leaving the phone on my bed; I ate dinner and brushed my teeth, while we still talked. We didn't hang up till 6 in the morning. Sure there were quiet moments; but we didn't mind hearing each other breathing. I could hear him smile the whole time, and I giggled because I was so tired. A 12 hour phone call wasn't something I normally did with guys I dated. This guy was special.
If James was so special, why didn't it work out? I swear I felt as though my mind had erased that memory. The only conclusion I had was that I probably wasn't ready for a commitment with the "good guy" yet. I still needed my heart to get bruised a couple of times with the jerks out there first. What a moron I was.
I saw James casually a couple of times more at church and then he left. Nothing became of us; no "call me sometime" was said. What did happen was my desire of the intangible. And that's when my obsession with James Warnby started.
As I lived my college life, hung out with my friends, went to youth group and worked weekends; I was secretly on a mission to find out all I could about James. I started with the people that knew him from church. I had confessed everything to Carmen, and she became my spy from the inner circle. Anything she found out she quickly reported to me.
On a random day, Carmen informed me that Sandra had recently talked to James and he casually asked if I was still going to that church. So this meant he was somewhat curious about me. Perhaps he wanted to know if I was growing spiritually, because that was the woman he was looking for to be compatible with.
During that year, I had become well acquainted with Billy. He was an older married man, who was also in the Navy and had a similar job position as James did. In fact, Billy even reminded me of what James could look and be like when he got older. Billy was such a nice man, once I had told him a brief summary of my history with James; he too was willing to help me.
And so it was one unexpected day, I walked in to church on a Sunday morning and the first face I saw was Billy's. I walked up to say hello; he took my hand, placed a piece of paper and closed it. I stood still as I guessed so many possibilities but only one thing jumped out at me. I opened my hand and read James Warnby's name following his email and the ship's information that he was on. My heart dropped.
That day was bittersweet. I couldn't concentrate on anything else. In my possession was the only info I needed to contact James. The only thing was I doubted I had the guts to do it, furthermore what would I say? After a few days of struggling, I finally convinced myself. I wrote a friendly short message in hopes that, if this email was correct, he would at least read it.
A couple of months went by, and I had basically pushed him in the back of my mind. I had gone out on several dates and continued living my life. It was Wednesday and I just got out of my last class. I went to the library to check my emails, when my eyes almost popped out of their sockets. On the screen was the response to my message from James. I measured the length first; it was a tad bit longer than my paragraph, which was good. He told me about his life on the ship, how long he had gone to my church and mentioned what a happy surprise it was to see me there.
Because I had such a huge and unhealthy crush on him now, I couldn't discern if I was reading too much into it. Was he simply being friendly or was there something behind each sentence. The important thing for now was that he wrote back.
For the rest of that year and the next, we had written each other 5 times. And I tried to analyze each message, but was still confused if there could be any hidden feelings attached on his part.
It was a total of 3 years that passed since I saw James again. I heard rumors that he was coming back for a while but never heard specific dates, and those rumors had been going on for a while.
I spent the day at the beach with a friend and her gorgeous cousin, who seemed to be giving me the twinkle eyes towards the end. We were now headed to church for Friday youth night. Tired, burnt and hair not all in its place; I made it to the kitchen/café area. Shortly I heard happy voices in the hall way, a little commotion and thought nothing of it; until I felt a dagger jab into my chest, the second I saw James walk in.
Was this fate? Were we that case, that began with so many complications and ended with us saying our "I do's". Would we laugh back on those memories as we told our kids about our unique love story? This is it… it's going to happen. But if it's truly meant to be, it will happen without me making the first move. I was going to wait.
I felt his nervousness as he approached my little group. He was friendly as always, staying a few minutes before having to go do a quick sound check. I ran to the bathroom to make sure I wasn't that hideous. Relieved to see that although my long beach hair was in manageable condition, I glowed with my nice dark tan.
Later on I found out, from my spy Carmen; that James was looking forward not only to being back with his church family, but also to see me again. It was all aligning.
That following weekend a group of us planned to go Salsa dancing at a hotel. My friends Lori and Carmen were going along with some of their friends and James too. I was beyond thrilled. I went shopping for the perfect cute dress; I straightened my hair and did my make up to look like a Spanish diva. I had a great suspicion that this was the night, the night I had been waiting for.
Determined still to not make any moves or even flirt, I was confident once he saw how beautiful I looked, he wouldn't miss this chance. I danced with my friends, drank some juice on the rocks and chatted a bit with Carmen's friends. Then we all danced as a group, goofing around and being plain silly. Then James and I crossed paths on the dance floor. Finally, we were dancing together. I have to say he had two left feet, which made things even more interesting. I began teaching him how to Salsa. It was the perfect distraction and excuse. No one would suspect my feelings for him this way, although some of our friends watched us with warm looks in their eyes. Did they see this spark too?
It turns out; I was the one too nervous to look in his eyes. My stare jumped everywhere but when it came to looking at him, I was afraid he would see too deep. I did notice how intense it was. From barely even a handshake we were now clinging to each other, spinning and holding hands, until the song was over.
A few minutes later he announced that he was going to get some coffee across the street, and I said I would join him, but no one else seemed interested. And so we began to talk on our way over. It was a cool night, perfect setting for some good conversation and maybe a little confession here and there. Though an hour later, all we had managed to talk about was random things about life. I was anxious to get my hands dirty and talk about us, yet I didn't want to be the one to bring it up. I held my tongue till it bled, figuratively. To my disappointment, we head back. Soon the night was over.
I heard word from Carmen that James had a blast, and was glad I could contribute to that with my free dancing lesson. I had been seeing him more frequently, mainly at church and when we'd go out in groups for lunch or coffee; still nothing had happened. I understand we needed to take things slow, but this was an exaggeration.
I was beginning to suspect that maybe Sandra was brainwashing James to not make a move on me; after all he was staying with her family. And since he also knew her two younger sisters Sara and Jenny, he'd borrow Sara's car or bump a ride with them to all of our gatherings.
I was growing impatient. Maybe I should make the first move. Have I not shown any signs of interest? I was going to have to do something. It wasn't till I heard another rumor that he was returning back to Texas that I reacted.
"What? I haven't said anything to him yet! He can't leave. We're supposed to be together by now!" I cried.
"I don't know what's happened Renae, I just found this out," Carmen notified me.
It was time to take things into action. I was going to talk to James and confess it all. But I didn't have his number, and the only person I thought to ask was Sara, Sandra's sister. After I made that quick call, I didn't think twice to dial James right away.
"Hey James, this is Renae. How are you?
"Hey, I'm doing well."
"Good, I was wondering if we could get together tomorrow for some coffee?" I asked straight to the point.
"Sure. How does 2 o'clock sound?"
"Sounds good, I'll see you at Java Cup at 2 then."
Granted it was short and I didn't realize this was the first time in 5 years since I had spoken on the phone with him.
The next day, I had the worst stomach pain I had ever felt in all my life. I could not even ponder the thought of eating, afraid I would throw it up, or it would cause something else unpleasant. I couldn't believe nerves had such an effect on me. There was no mind control no matter how much I tried to relax. And the closer it got to 2pm the worse I felt.
1:49 pm, read the clock on my dashboard. My body was so shaky and my knees trembled like never before. I almost didn't care about the outcome but just wanted to get this horrible feeling over with.
I dressed nice, but not to impress. My appearance wasn't so important as oppose to my purpose. Each step I took towards the coffee shop felt like I was on my way to my execution. I gathered my feelings as best as I could and walked in. He wasn't there yet, so I made way to the register to order myself a cup of hot chocolate.
The clouds came in, and soon it was gray outside with a light drizzle. I felt as though I wasn't alone in my miserable state, even the weather sympathized with me.
On my way to sit by the nearest couch, he walked in. He acknowledged me with a nod and continued to the line to order his own drink, while he also spoke on his cell phone.
I sat patiently and quiet, as he then hung up and joined me.
"Hey, how's it going?"
"Good," I replied casually. "So, tell me what's going on with you?"
He took a deep breath, and proceeded to tell me about his plans on leaving to Texas. He was going to talk to the parents of so and so, because things were getting serious. Serious … Wait what did I miss here? I tuned in and out of his declaration of his feelings for a girl whom I thought was the Worship Leader, who also happened to be the Pastor's daughter. Okay, I could see how that would work out. They both sing and play the guitar; she is a sweet girl and a worthy opponent.
Later he clarified it wasn't that Sarah, it was Sandra's sister, Sara. Oh the wound had deepened, this time with a splash of alcohol to maximize my agonizing pain. This dream that I held so tightly to, about being together with James Warnby had been slayed. I felt as though I had died a little, if not I but my idea of true love.
His voice was no longer important; I simply focused all my energy in not shedding a tear, at least till I got to my car. And there you have it, a whole hour of listening to him speak and not one moment did he bother to ask if I had anything to say. I could have gone along selfishly and admitted my feelings for him and all that drama, but what good would that do. He was in love with someone else. I misread all the signs.
I politely cut our meeting short; I couldn't stand to hear any more talk of a possible marriage with Sara Myers. It was raining pretty hard outside just like it was raining pretty hard inside… me. I don't think I have ever or will ever cry as hard as I did once I closed my car door. I couldn't understand how an emotion, something I couldn't see or touch, could feel so heavy and sting so venomously. How could a feeling shake your inner core and cause such an imbalance?
The only thing I thought to do at this point was to call Sara back, apologize for asking for James' number and assure her that I said nothing. Once I was done … I was done.