Where did we leave off?
Ah, yes: “…why our first kiss was such a let-down, what completely mundane thing he said on our third date that touched my heartstrings…”
On October 18th, 2007 at roughly 1:25 pm, I ran into Ian in the music building— Ian, the singing graduate student whose mysterious charm reduced me to a quivering jelly. He struck up a conversation. We chatted about the shiny new nameplate on his office door (I suggested he send a photo to his mommy) and about his big, freaky costume for the university’s upcoming musical:
When his students began gathering for class, he ushered them into his office, turned to me, and asked if we could get together “outside of school,” maybe for coffee. (I was Mormon then and didn’t drink coffee, but this was no time to explain dietary restrictions.)
The man I’d been daydreaming about all semester was asking me out— and I saw fear in his eyes. Nervous? Over me? To calm his nerves and make my interest 200% crystal clear, I smiled brightly and answered “I’d love that.” Ian relaxed visibly. We agreed to meet at 10 on Friday morning and we parted ways— Ian to teach a voice class, me to alert the media; he’d noticed me! Mousy, frumpy no-talent me, the girl with the butch cut!
Only hours later did I realize I’d be at WORK during our scheduled coffee date. Panic set in. How could I face him again? How does one say “Oh hey, I was so awestruck by your mere presence that I forgot about working for a living”?
Luckily, my coworker Jake was a fellow music student; he’d witnessed Ian’s charm and understood my plight. Jake took over my shift, leaving me free for Friday morning’s hot date. Jake be praised.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2007:
Speaking of hot dates, October in southern New Mexico is not NEARLY cold enough for coffee (or hot chocolate, if you’re Mormon).
Ian and I skipped the coffee shop and took a leisurely stroll around campus. We talked about our lives, backgrounds, families. The only things I clearly remember are
1. This exchange:
Rebekah: “What’s your sister’s name?”
Ian: “Bridget. And yours?”
Rebekah: “… Rebekah.”
Rebekah: “Oh, you meant my SISTER’s name. OH. Rachel.”
Not my proudest moment.
2. We sat on a stone wall, and Ian’s butt got cold. I know, because he announced the fact. As the world’s last living Victorian, I was startled— he uttered the ‘b’ word in a lady’s presence! ~gasp~
3. Ian described something as being “cute as a bug.” For days afterward, I caught myself saying “cute as a bug” in his voice, then smiling until my face hurt.
That Friday morning walk ‘n’ talk was no rollicking success, since I was inarticulate and Ian rarely understood my jokes… but I’d spent time with Mr. Dreamboat, and that would make a good story for the folks back home. That was good enough for me.
HOWEVER! When our date ended, Ian escorted me to my bicycle and asked if I’d be interested in seeing him again the next day. The next day? Two dates in two days?? Weird. I accepted. We exchanged phone numbers, and he promised he’d call that evening to plan our next date.
Because I spent that Friday evening in in an LDS temple in Mexico being baptized by proxy for dead people (long story), I missed Ian’s call. Once outside the temple, I returned his call, leaving a long message on Ian’s machine. OR DID I?
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2007:
While I’ve never been dyslexic, for years I confused numbers— writing 42 as 24, for example. I suspect this is somehow related to my inability to tell left from right. When Ian gave me his phone number that morning, I’d reversed the last two digits… which meant that I’d left some total stranger a long, newsy message on Friday night. Swell.
Once I realized my gaffe, I called Ian to explain. After a few rings, a lovely, rich voice said “Good morning.” Naturally, I assumed it was a recording and waited for the rest of the message to kick in. But no, it wasn’t an answering machine, just Ian the voice major saying “good morning.” Color me suave.
All that day, I was a fidgety bundle of nervous energy. Right before the date, I ran through the apartment making muffled shrieking noises— I had no idea how else to communicate my nameless feelings or calm myself down. My roommates had never seen me panic this way and were greatly amused.
For our date that night, Ian took me to a local park. We crawled through the playground, comparing the merits of various slides and swings. We strolled around a baseball field, then sat to talk more.
Ian kissed me.
Sure, I was complicit, but I INSTANTLY felt like pond scum. SCUM ON A POND. Why would I be so bothered by a chaste peck on the lips?
Because those lips were closely guarded. For reasons as much romantic as religious, I’d never smooched any classmates in elementary school, kissed strangers under the mistletoe or at a New Year’s party. Kissing was a big deal. I prided myself on having only ever kissed my past boyfriends, whom I’d truly loved. And here this singer dude had the gall to lean over and kiss me without signing the required triplicate forms!
Furthermore, I worried that everything was happening too fast— I’d fantasized that maybe maybe maybe someday, me and Ian would somehow become friends and maybe on some special occasion he’d have a reason to hug me—and now we were kissing? Too much! Too soon!
I was embarrassed. Uncomfortable. To prevent any lingering awkwardness, I asked him to tell me about his meditation practice. He straightened up and started explaining. “Oh!” I interrupted, “I’d almost forgotten you were THAT Ian.” Sometime that evening I’d stopped seeing him as Infallible Ian, New Kid Extraordinaire.
When I mentioned that my hands were cold, he held them against his face. I felt strange cradling a strange man’s face in my hands… but he was so sweet, so nurturing.
After the park, Ian lent me a jacket and drove out to the desert. We lie on his truck’s cap (the lid dealy-bob over the bed) and watched a meteor shower. We compared childhood pets and favorite authors. I was delighted to hear he’d read Little Women in preparation to sing the role of John Brooke at his old university. I’d NEVER met a dude who could converse intelligently about Little Women. As I later told my friend Jen, “He’s read more books than I have. I’m simultaneously thrilled and ashamed.”
I had no idea how to behave. The desert is cold at night, I wanted to curl up with this clever, gentle man— but Nice Girls don’t snuggle up to strangers. So I’d nestle closer, then jerk away suddenly.
Late that night, Ian brought me home. My brain was churning— he’d kissed me, I was ruined! He was lovely! But what if he was dangerous? I hardly knew the man. Yet, I felt oddly at home with him.
When Ian brought me home late that night, he asked if we could go out on Sunday. Three dates in as many days.
When friends and family asked me how things were going with Ian, I always told them,“I like him. But he COULD be an axe murderer. Anyone can pretend to be charming, he could be a sleazy jerk.” When I mentioned this to Stephanie (later keeper of the moonstone ring), she said she’d been working with Ian on the [dinosaur] musical and had never seen him be unkind, let alone sleazy. Stephanie’s testimony tipped the scales in Ian’s favor.
OCTOBER 21, 2007:
Third time’s a charm.
Sunday night, Ian asked to take me to International Delights, a nifty local cafe. I took a deep breath and explained that Mormons don’t shop/seek entertainment on Sunday. When he asked what I’d like to do instead, I answered “It doesn’t have to be anything impressive.”
We changed our plans to moseying around downtown Las Cruces and later Old Mesilla, talking and peering into shop windows. We walked with our arms around each other, wearing dangerously similar corduroy barn jackets with faux furry collars. I hate, hate, hate to admit this, but… I bought that jacket because it reminded me of Ian’s. Who on earth starts dressing like their crush?
After the date, I wrote to my friend Jen: “Ian is every bit as wonderful as I hoped he would be. Be still, my beating heart.”
There’s little record of what was said during that third date, but I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by love for Ian. I was sold. A goner. Hook, line, sinker, signed, sealed, delivered. NOW I was ready to not only kiss him, but to wrap myself around him and cling forever more, a brown-haired barnacle.
And the amazing, heart-stirring thing Ian said that night? When he brought me back to that apartment, he asked when he could see me again. I hemmed and hawed, debating priorities and mulling over scheduling conflicts. Ian looked down at me and said “Do what you need to, just give me a call.”
~sniffle~ Beautiful, isn’t it? You can TELL I was head over heels, if a simple statement like that gave me goosebumps. But he was so level-headed! Such a perfect counterpoint to my obsessive, over-thinking self.
Thus ended the whirlwind courtship of Jaunty Dame. The hard times came later.
Anybody still awake? I can type no longer. Go hug your sweeties for me, mine’s a thousand miles away.