“Changing circumstances - a dear friend moving away, a love coming to an end, an itch to relocate to a new city - are what force us to peel away the layers of old and inspire new growth. Change is the agent that turns the unknown into known and propels us from the plateau to the top of the mountain. Really good stuff is coming and, though we may not yet know what it is, we can walk ahead with confidence and rest assured that our memories will always be available for reminiscing.” – The Wonder List
I read these words tonight and I felt the tug of a heartstring, a tug that told me to sit down and put our story in words. The story of how I fell for the most unlikely of choices, the story of how he shaped my heart and how he temporarily broke it, the story of how I came to find myself 2200 miles from the only guy that has ever made me feel whole. I don’t know how this story will end and I am apprehensive to lay it all down in the form of words and memories but I know that someday, I will appreciate having written down how I felt right now. This is out of my element, this space has been full of photos and not words but this time, the words are here.
After I reached the age of twelve, in the prime of my seventh grade year, I decided I was ready for a boyfriend. (Ironically, today is that same boy’s birthday – yes, I still remember the date.) I learned quickly that I loved being with someone, even if it was a seventh grade fling with instant messages and e-mails professing our greatest love. You could say that I was in love with the idea of being in love.
Through my years of middle and high school, I can’t say that I treated boys well. It’s not that I treated them badly but I don’t think I understood that love meant putting someone else, and their best interests, ahead of your own. To me, love was doodling your names together in a spiral bound notebook filled with biology facts, or spending Friday nights together with his friends, watching whatever was premiering at Cinema Center. A relationship meant someone to hold your hand walking to class, a boy to wait for you at your locker, and perhaps, a date to Homecoming or even to prom. I never knew what love really meant, even as I donned a cap and gown and proclaimed myself an adult.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been trying to figure out love (and maybe more importantly, myself) for the better part of eight years. I stayed in long relationships, enduring arguments and controlling attitudes. I dealt with being told how to dress or what type of makeup I should wear – I thought that these boys were the ones I would spend my life with. I imagined a house in our small town, with a fence and a swingset, a dog and plenty of babes, too. And then something happened. Finally, as I finished my sophomore year of college, that ideal seemed to disgust me. I was frustrated with the arguments and the idea of tying myself to anyone with vows and a ring made me sick in a way that I can’t explain. (And perhaps I still haven’t gotten over that second problem..)
That Spring, I did something that defied all of the beliefs I had held on to for nearly three years – I broke the heart of a boy who thought I could one day be his wife. After deciding to transfer to the same college, after debating moving in together, it was over, as quickly as it started. I still remember fighting tears as I drove back to work that day. I remember slamming my cell phone onto the blue and white tiled waitress station and exclaiming how I would never let a boy do that to me again. That I refused to be humiliated, to be controlled, to be put down by someone in the name of love, again. But quickly after, feelings of regret and remorse started to pour over me and I scrambled to keep my head afloat in what felt like a sea of guilt. Between struggling breaths from fighting so hard, I begged for him back and was told no, time and time again.
For weeks before, maybe months, the boys in the kitchen of the Blue Heron would joke about how I needed to leave that relationship behind. Between preparing salads and grilling Panini sandwiches, Trevor would fit in sly comments about how I was wasting my time, or he’d quickly blurt out “just dump him.” And as you know, eventually, even I realized that it wasn’t working.
Long before the end finally came, I had given up on the idea of love. After watching relationships around me crumble, including marriages, I decided that it simply didn’t make sense. I thought – I am an intelligent young woman and certainly too intelligent to fall for this love scheme again, too intelligent to be hurt to the point of crying at work. I was humiliated that I had spent so long putting effort into being with all of the wrong people and I was done. I wasn’t going to be married, I wasn’t going to have kids and I certainly knew that soul mates were simply a fairy tale contrived to give hope to girls searching for happiness.
It’s funny how looking back on the seven years before this one, the details seem a blur. I remember the occasional date or maybe a sweet thing that was said to me once in a while but really, I don’t remember my life before this and though it hasn’t been a year, I feel like Trevor is all that my heart has ever known.
I can’t tell you how it started, really. We worked together and I thought he was strange, to be quite frank. When I started, Trevor only worked in the kitchen. He never wore pants, only shorts and always a silly hat – often with a safari type round brim. I didn’t know much – that he was in love with the girl who got away, that he left work each day and headed for the gym, and that I loved his handwriting. Soon though, he left our kitchen to work as a server for a country club – but fortunately, not long after, we found him in our own dining room. As I trained Trevor to take orders, special tables and clear dishes, I grew fond of him. I realized that he was clever, intelligent, and funny. (But I hated how he used phrases like “here’s your power tools” when delivering steak knives.) Even still, he was the most unlikely of candidates in the relationship department.
And then we started to chat on Facebook (romantic, yes?). And then the text messages started. To be honest, I think he lured me in with conversations about his dog. Lord knows I love a boy who loves his dog, and no man I have ever met has loved his dog like Trevor loves Buddy. To be honest, I doubt I’ll ever meet one who could surpass that. But somehow, after enough of remarks about the third floor man cave, Buddy or making me dinner, I made the decision to see Trevor outside of work.
I can still tell you what I wore – a pair of black leggings that I had gotten at Five Below, a purple leopard print tank top with a pocket on the left side, and my favorite pair of strappy sandals from Forever 21. I still remember how anxious I felt as I typed his address into my GPS. I knew he lived somewhere off of Mount Rose Avenue but at the time, I was still a resident of Small Town, PA and hadn’t the slightest idea of where to find his address. I’m not sure which gave me more butterflies that night – the idea of hanging out with Trevor, or the fear of finding parking on his city street. I remember that I parked behind an orange blazer-type vehicle that belongs to someone who I now call my neighbor and after Trevor came outside to meet me, he laughed at just how far away I had parked. As a country girl, parallel parking was not on my resume of talents.
That night, I met Buddy and fell in love instantly. I saw the man cave for the first time and sat in a recliner which I would quickly rename the chair of death for its tendency to throw me backwards into the plastered wall behind me. I remember Trevor remarking that my leggings looked like pants designed for riding a snow mobile and I can still feel how stifling and humid it was to spend a July night in a third floor room. It’s funny how quickly I learned to love the humid ninety-degree nights spent there.
I never expected to love Trevor. From our time spent together at work, I knew that he was always on his own and more importantly, that he liked it that way. I knew he had his heart broken by a girl on the other side of the country and didn’t trust anyone here to not do the same. I decided it would be a summer fling, a break from my vicious cycle of falling for one guy after another, only for it to end in some type of heartbreak. We’d watch movies together at night, run into each other at the gym, and of course, we’d spend hours together at work where no one knew about the feelings that I had started to sprout for the chef I had written off as strange just months before.
Perhaps it was our work shifts that nurtured those sprouting feelings. I remember the day that Trevor made us eggs with slices of smoked ham and melted cheese for breakfast. One day, I filled the soda fridge and as he got creamers for his coffee, he stole a kiss before we were officially open for that shift. I remember working doubles together and passing our break in his living room. Every night, I would put the left over coffee from the night into the fridge so that Trevor could make his own iced coffee each morning. I’d stop at Starbucks for him when we worked lunch and get jealous when the girls at the counter knew his order by heart. I can still picture the last time Trevor served me lunch. I had a doctor’s appointment and time to waste before. My boss, David, owed me for menus I had created and so I stopped at the restaurant for lunch. I knew Trevor worked lunch and perhaps that was the persuading factor. He wore a red polo shirt which was much too long for his stature – with a white stripe on the collar. I sat at table 34 and I ordered an unsweetened iced tea. He suggested a Caesar salad topped with Cajun seasoned shrimp, without the croutons, of course. But the most memorable moment was being told “here’s your lunch, beautiful.” When I whispered that silly memory to Trevor days ago, he couldn’t believe he had really said those words and echoed them back to me again and again. Really, he asked? Yes. Really. You gave me a salad. You said I was beautiful. And I don’t know that I ever beemed more than in that moment. (Except for maybe the hundreds of moments in the months that followed.)