Sorry for the wait everyone.. but here is the much anticipated part 3!!!
I had so much fun writing this with Doolin. His words are in blue. I hope you all enjoy reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I was running out of time. After weeks of indecisiveness, I finally came to the conclusion that either I was going to have to tell Doolin how I felt about him or I was going to have to fade him out from my life. The fear that my confession would ruin our friendship didn’t matter anymore if, for the sake of my own heart, I was going to have to distance myself from him anyway. There was only a week left before he would be shipping off for another contract. This wasn’t something I could do over Facebook messenger. I was reaching the point of “now or never”.
We had decided to do a day at Disney with just us and the kids. It was my best chance to have an uninterrupted conversation with him without the risk of being overheard. I just needed to find the right moment.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t already have an inkling of what was coming. I’m pretty oblivious to reading signs, but at the same time, I can read body language pretty well. We had a great day, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and then ended the day at Hollywood Studios. Shortly after a hearty, healthy, and “reasonably priced” meal of burgers and fries, we decided to walk to the Muppet Show attraction. By the time we got there, however, the kids had fallen asleep. Rather than wake them up and go into an attraction that we’d both been to a few dozen times (we both used to work for Disney, remember), we decided to rest and enjoy the quiet and let the kids catch a bit of rest prior to ending the night at the Fantasmic light and firework show (Is this blog becoming an advertisement for Disney Theme Parks?) so we sat on a nearby bench and chatted a bit.
Being that we were at the Muppet’s Show attraction, I had pulled up one of my favorite clips from The Muppet Show on my phone’s YouTube. While watching the video, I couldn’t help but notice Erica leaning into me a little closer….
“Okay.” I thought, “She had never leaned this close into me before.“ I absorbed into this moment. She and I had been friends for so long, but I couldn’t possibly entertain the thought that something else might be happening here. I dismissed the idea from my mind.
Perfect moments were not hard to find, there were so many times I could have done it; after the Nemo show when the kids took their first nap, when we sat on the quiet bench outside the Muppets without another soul in sight, or while we waited for the fireworks to begin. I could take you all on a tour of places around Disney that I chickened out. More than once I thought to myself, “I better enjoy this day with Doolin because I’m about to ruin this friendship.”
The night before I had had one of my worst anxiety attacks at the prospect of what I was about to do. I was so afraid that I had misread that night on the dock and he wasn’t interested in me at all. I was pretty certain that once I mustered up the courage to say what I needed to say, he was going to give me the “well you’re a nice girl but…” speech and then things would get very awkward between us. As much as I wanted more, I valued his friendship and couldn’t bear the thought of losing him.
I found myself on the drive home that night, heart pounding, afraid I wasn’t going to have the courage to put finally tell him how I felt. Finally, I forced myself to just to start talking. I decided to begin by telling him about the dream I had the night my son was born. ( Go back and read part 2 if you don’t remember it.)
I listened to her tell me about this and recognized what the dream meant to her. I was flattered. I was completely at a loss for words. I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to her, so I took the safe route. “Well.” I began “You and I have both been through loss, and I think you understand that I’m a safe place for you. Through everything you’ve endured, I wanted to be a good friend for you.”
I could tell he was choosing his words carefully and I was doing the same. I needed to figure out a way to push this conversation where I needed it to go. So I inched closer with,
“Yes. That’s what I’ve been telling people who have asked me if you like me. I’ve told them that you do and say kind things to me because you are a kind person. Whether or not you like me is irrelevant. You would have been this supportive regardless.”
And then I held my breath to see what he would say to that.
It’s funny how memory works. This was a pivotal moment in the beginning of our relationship; the exact moment where our friendship was about to make the shift into something more, but I can’t recall what I said exactly. She was launching an all-out attack on the barrier to the friend-zone and I didn’t know how to stop it.
“No!” I thought, “It was so much less complicated this way! What do I do?! What do I do??” Well… I think I rattled off some nonsense about good friends being there for each other and then I made mention of some hypothetical Superman that would be there for her and her kids— the kind of man that she deserved. Not me— a better man.
There. Wall to the friend zone rebuilt. I’m safe. Let’s see ya break out of THAT.
He was going on about the sort of guy I deserved, and he was acting as if he didn’t fit the description. So I said, “Well.. don’t sell yourself short, Doolin.” Whereupon he re-launched into his description of the guy I deserved so I decided to just say it. I didn’t even let him finish his sentence.
“Doolin… I like you.”
And then I waited for him to reply while internally hyperventilating.
I’ve been divorced and in the dating pool for five years now. In today’s dating pool women (well, the majority of them, anyway) don’t actually come out and JUST say it like that. It’s easy enough to ignore the signs rather than address them. Erica is not most women. She does not now, nor has she ever played games.
It was equal parts refreshing…. and terrifying. I sat in stunned silence a moment. This was the point where I began to have a back and forth debate with my inner self.
“K, dummy. She just came out with her feelings to you. What are you gonna do about it?”
“I’ve no idea.”
“If you tell her that you’re not interested, then you’re lying!”
“Yes, I AM interested, but….”
“Then tell her!”
“But there are so many obstacles. Your job, her faith, her kids… and those aren’t just ANY children. Those are Jon’s children. Do you want to be responsible for that? If you let her down, you let Jon down! Do you want that?!! What if you screw it up? You screw these things up, man! You’ve been single five years. There’s a reason for that!!!”
“She’s beautiful, intelligent, and charming. You’re already friends with her. You can carry a conversation for hours. You have so much history already. Don’t let her get away! This is your one shot. You can’t push it off past this point. I swear to all that is holy, if you let her get away, I’m going to remind you every day how stupid you are!”
All of this only took a matter of seconds in my head, but she was waiting for a response. I let out a sigh.
“It’s…. It’s not that I’m not interested.” I said….
I had prepared myself to be shot down. He was going to be very sweet about it, tell me all of my nice qualities and then tell me how someday I’d meet someone who felt the same way. I would reply that I knew that and just wanted him to know how I felt, that I would always hold him in high regard and that we could remain friends as we were.
But that’s not what he said.
He was interested.
I had not prepared myself for this possibility.
What was I supposed to now??
“but… there are a lot of…. obstacles.” I finished.
I wasn’t just brushing her off. I was interested. There were obstacles. There still are.
“If you and I start down this road, it’s not going to be easy,” I said.
“I know. I’ve thought about the obstacles as well. I don’t want you to feel any pressure from me. I don’t have any expectations of you. Nothing has to change. I just needed you to know how I felt.
Truthfully, I only remember fragments of the conversation after I finally said my feelings out loud. I’m pretty sure I blacked out a couple times in between hyperventilating. It’s a miracle we survived the drive home with me at the wheel. I just know I must have said “nothing needs to change” at least 50 times in the final 15 minutes of our drive.
We spent the remainder of the drive talking about the complications that would arise if we were to date. There were many.
“Nothing needs to change.” She had said.
She must have said that phrase at least three or four times. It was reassuring. I felt as though if we moved forward, she wouldn’t expect me to change every aspect of my life overnight.
We were now about a block and a half from my house and we were wrapping up the conversation as she was about to drop me off. I made a decision.
Tonight, I would kiss my long time friend of eleven years.
I spent the next thirty seconds deciding exactly how I was going to do it. It couldn’t be long and passionate. It was too soon for that.
It couldn’t be a peck on the cheek. It was too late for that.
“How can I convey to her that I’m interested, but I am completely unsure of what I’m doing?” I asked myself.
I decided to meet somewhere in the middle.
She pulled into my driveway.
“Thanks for today.” She said. “It meant a lot.”
I smiled back at her. Leaned in, and gave her a single soft kiss that lasted only a few seconds.
“WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?!” I asked myself as I got out of the car and waved goodbye.
I smiled like a fool the whole drive home and didn’t stop even after I climbed into bed. I did it. I finally told him. We had finished the conversation echoing the sentiment that nothing had to change but… Doolin kissed me… a simple kiss.. but a kiss nonetheless. Something told me that everything had changed.
I was completely unsure of where to go from here but I lay in bed that night knowing that everything had changed.
Doolin left for his next contract 4 days later. But before he left, we had our first real kiss.. or two.. or five. The first one happened on the same dock that we had had the conversation that spurred me to finally tell him my feelings.
After he left we entered into a season of what we lovingly referred to as our “Negotiations”. We had known each other too long and valued each other too much to waste each others time. We basically had to figure out if it would be a good idea for us to get married someday down the road before we officially started dating. We spent months asking each other hard questions until we had covered everything we could possibly think of.
When he returned home he helped me move to Nashville and we went on our very first date. (Which also happened to be his birthday *and* the night after the solar eclipse.) That night we decided to make it official.
There are still obstacles that we face and we may or may not overcome them. We still have no idea if or how our lives will be able to blend together. But we both feel that the possibility of a future together is worth the risk, that we would have regretted not trying. To paraphrase a Theodore Roosevelt quote, “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
1 Corinthians 13: 6
Love… always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.