I clasped my hands and waited. Nervously. Wondering if that was really a good idea. Part of me wishing I could call the e-mail back. Part of me really wanting to know what Dave's answer would be.
His reply came quickly, zipping back through undersea cables or bouncing off satellites. "I don't want to be romantically involved when I get back from Jerusalem, but I would really like to still be friends and keep writing, if you want to."
I sat back, relieved. And disappointed. I was proud of myself for bringing it up, before I liked him too much. I was proud of myself for bringing it up in time to still go after the Los Angeles guys. But it's never fun to get a "Meh. You? Not so much" response.
So, while I got busy doing some serious growing up in California, we continued to write. I looked forward to his letters, and began to appreciate some qualities about him that I'd never noticed before. He was incapable of dishonesty. He was awake to every opportunity that presented itself. He loved sunsets and views. He was efficient with his time, very smart, and uncharacteristically kind. And with each new insight into this person, I began to regret--more and more, that we were "just friends."
I was going out with various guys, and one of them especially--on paper--was perfect. He was getting his graduate degree, played chess, liked musicals, was outdoorsy, athletic, and was the cutest guy around. Several of my new friends were jealous of all the attention he was giving me, and I was flattered. I had never been the kind of girl to attract the guy that everyone else wanted. So while I began to spend more and more time with a new guy, my mind kept coming back to my friend Dave.
With his semester abroad flying by, and with my Christmas vacation fast approaching, I began plotting and planning. I was determined that once he saw my new California self--the girl who had grown up, shopped at The Limited rather than JC Penney, and become thoroughly comfortable being alone--he would realize that I was worth a second chance. Through our letters, we had grown a close friendship. I had told him things about myself and the way that I looked at the world that I'd never told anyone before. He was quickly becoming my best friend.
So I told my 11 year old nanny-girl that I was determined, determined, to show him he'd made a mistake. I took an airplane home for Christmas, and got off wearing a knee length gray wool coat and a flattering French blue blouse. I breezed confidently through the terminal, no longer the sobbing country bumpkin of four months before. I wasn't a teenager anymore. I was 20, a size 6, and I had a new haircut. Things were looking up.
Together for two weeks, I reveled in his company. I took every opportunity to see him, for whatever reason. He had brought me back two gifts from Jerusalem: a silver chi (chai?) necklace that symbolized Life, and a set of olive wood candlesticks. They were exactly the kind of thing I would have wanted, and showed me that he knew me as well as I thought he did. We looked through his Jerusalem pictures together, and I listened intently to all his experiences. We laughed and talked, and I tried to be dazzling. Either I didn't know how to dazzle, or he was completely immune to my attempts. It seemed that my transformation, even my size extra small perfectly fitting red t-shirt, hadn't made one bit of difference.
But New Year's Eve was coming--New Year's Eve 1999. A big year. A big night. And we were going up to Salt Lake City's "First Night" celebrations. I felt sure that his hesitations would be swept away with the old year, and we would end up together at the end of the night.
I seriously underestimated my formidable opponent.