At the end of summer, I listened to this song on repeat. He was in New Jersey, and I was waiting in Tuscaloosa, and I sent it to him in an email: “There’s nothing left to do but take my hand,” I wrote.
It’s strange to me: In a room full of people, he looks for me first. Sometimes, when he comes over, I stand behind the door for a moment and watch him through the peephole, his hands behind his back, just breathing and waiting for me. And when I open the door, he smiles so that his whole face changes, and he says, “Hi,” and later he might tell me that was the best part of his day. If he does, I’ll be inclined to believe him.
It’s different than anything I’ve ever done before. I crafted lots of ideas for many years about myself and who would be allowed to love me; I entered every relationship, even non-romantic ones, with trepidation, dancing at an awkward distance so that I was free to run. And I have run, I have run far and fast and in the moments when it would have really meant something if I’d stayed. I mean, if I ran this much in sneakers, I’d have a nifty 26.2 bumper sticker. I have come back, breathing heavy, and halted behind the lines I’d drawn; I have looked at people from behind those lines, shaking my head and shrugging my shoulders and whimpering, “I hope you’ll understand that I have to stay over here.” As He does though, Jesus called for life abundant for me. He poured down grace and freedom–the songs I’ve been singing–and He gave me these people to help. They stood with their hands out to me: “Hold on to me,” they coax, “and keep walking.” Like a baby learning to toddle, I grasped tight enough to ensure I wouldn’t slip, and I learned how to move forward. Now I look back and see how far we’ve walked, and I am thankful to be here. But it’s strange.
Lots of how we are is how we’ve always been. With years of friendship under our belt, there is a certain comfort that threads itself among us. The memories are shared, the silence comfortable, the great big ideas about one another already known. And on that solid ground, we’re building.
I didn’t know you didn’t like broccoli. I can’t believe you thought you weren’t allergic to poison ivy. Wait, what grade did you play Bob Cratchett in A Christmas Carol? This reminds me of a song … .
I could list reasons why we work, why he makes me feel adored, why we’re laughing on the sidewalk, why I just rolled my eyes and then had to apologize for rolling my eyes. I could write paragraph after paragraph about hands fitting inside one another just right, about discussions about literature and philosophy, about worshiping God together. I find new reasons every day why he is wonderful; I truly say to God, “Thank you for trusting us with one another.” And sometimes I remember old reasons why I could turn and run, why vulnerability is not my preferred skin. I choose to be free; I choose to be cherished. I choose to cherish back, in the car and on the sidewalk and from a distance.
I haven’t written about this sort of thing a lot; I haven’t done this sort of thing a lot. But it’s so big and bright and bold now that writing about it is how I feel it out and honor it and cherish it. It’s so big and bright and bold that sometimes I am sure I won’t be able to stand it.
I tried to think of my favorite bit about him, you know after the fact that he loves Jesus and loves people, and I kept coming back to the music. He doesn’t call me up and sing song lyrics to me, no; he lets me choose the music. He lets me ride shotgun in the car and flip discs and songs until I find my idea of the perfect one every single time. When a song comes on Spotify and I squeal, “Oh, I love this one!”, he stops and listens to the lyrics and nods his head. “I see what you mean,” he says. He watches the YouTube videos I send him, and he listens to the CDs I make, and when I spout off a song lyrics for a moment, he does not find it corny. Rather, he smiles at me.
We took a road trip home recently, late at night. We talked a lot about our families, and about how we’ve been hurt, and about how we’ve been healed. And then I turned on the music, inching the volume up probably a little louder than he’d like, and he reached for my hand. I went to say something else, but then I saw our hands, and couldn’t help but notice how they fit together just right.
And the way he smiled, well, I know he sees it the way I do.