This is Part 16 of the story of How I Met Superman. To get caught up, you can find the preceding chapters here.
By the time I got home – after riding my bike through the Santa Ana winds from Syndy’s house – I was exhausted. I flung myself on our Naugahyde couch, threw my sweatshirt and beach towel on the carpet, and thought about calling it a day. All I could think about was that the voice of wisdom, all around me, seemed to howl as loud as the wind, telling me I didn’t need a boyfriend. …
I’d already had two. And the only thing I was certain about was that relationships were a little overrated: They didn’t really work out the way they did in the movies.
I flung myself into another dramatic position on the couch and sighed. But this one just seemed different.
He didn’t seem controlling. He didn’t seem conniving. He just seemed like he wanted to spend time with me, be near me, be present. He seemed shy. He seemed sweet.
I batted away the next chorus of “Free To Be You and Me” that tried to enter my head and realized I didn’t just want another boyfriend. I wanted this boyfriend.
My mom came around the corner as my back began molding into the Naugahyde.
“Your Chris Sanchez called,” she chirped, hoisting a laundry basket on her hip and heading around the corner.
I sprang back up like an ironing board. “He called?”
“Yes.” She laughed and moved her way to the laundry room.
“Did he leave his number?” I yelled behind her.
“No, actually. He just wondered where you were, and I said you were at Syndy’s, but you’d probably be back in a couple of hours. I figured you guys wouldn’t ride to the beach today.”
I grabbed my towel and dashed upstairs. Something told me he’d come by. I was impressed my mom was acting so casual — like it was an everyday occurrence that the boy I had the biggest crush on in the universe was calling me at home. I whipped off my shorts and swimsuit and dressed in something that looked more pulled-together, or at least matched. I tugged a brush through my hair – battling the knots left by the wind — and finally got my straight strands under control, although the static was something else. I eventually had to wet it down a little. I frantically grabbed a bottle of lotion and slathered some on my arms. The wind made every skin cell tense and stiff.
About an hour later, after I’d sat attentively near the living room window, watching the little branches fly around the liquid amber tree in the front yard, it was just as I expected — I saw him walking up the street. Or jogging, actually. He landed in front of the sidewalk and leaned forward, hands on his knees, breathing deeply. The winds whipped his black hair off his forehead. He had something in his hand – it looked like a piece of paper of some kind.
I sat still in the living room, waiting for him to knock.
“Hey,” he said casually, when I finally opened the door. He wasn’t even breathing hard anymore. He had on one of the shirts I most admired on him – a light-tan polo, with dark brown trim. I liked the way it accentuated his biceps, and loved the way it made his eyes look an even deeper brown.
“Hi,” I said as casually as I could summon.
“Your mom said you didn’t take your ride.”
“Conditions weren’t good.” I glanced over the top of his head, where the liquid amber was bending at the extremities. I peeked around his hip to see what he had in his hand.
“Oh.” He thrust the paper forward. “I brought you something. I should’ve given it to you yesterday, for Valentine’s Day.”
It was his portrait of Jim Croce, drawn in pencil. It was very good. If I’d had any doubt he was just saying he liked to draw because I said it, all doubt was removed: He was the real deal. He caught everything: the lines in Jim’s face, the satisfied smirk, the soulful eyes. …
“Wow,” I said. “This is really good.”
“Not as good as your stuff, but I wanted you to have it.”
“Oh, I can’t take this.” I shoved it back at him. As someone who loved to draw also, I knew what it meant to give away a drawing. You gave drawings to people who were going to be in your life, who were going to last a bit. Or at least — as in the two boyfriends — who would last a short bit, but for a very intense time.
“No, I want you to have it.” He stepped back and shoved his hands in his pockets.
The significance of this settled in my chest like warm cocoa. “Thank you,” I whispered. “I’ll hang it in my room. I have … well, some room now, on my bulletin board. I’ll hang it there.”
He liked that. He smirked and glanced at me from under his bangs. But suddenly he looked sad. “Can I talk to you outside?”
Outside? That sounded serious. I carefully lay his drawing on the hallway table to protect it from the wind, then closed the door behind me. We wandered out to the front of the garage.
The winds whipped about us as we braced ourselves at the top of the pavement. He made small talk for several minutes, rambling about his brothers, and a dog in the neighborhood, and a neighbor who always runs with the dog. He had to raise his voice to get around the whistle of the wind. He continued about the neighbor having trouble, or the dog having trouble, or something — I lost track of the conversation because I was mostly looking at him. I was noting how muscular his shoulders looked and wondering what it would take to have his arms around me again.
But I was also noting the seriousness of his tone and realizing it could go either way. Was the drawing a goodbye gift? Or a statement that he was sure I’d be around?
“So I …” He looked up at me. Ended his story abruptly. Shrugged. “Would you go with me?”
I blinked. The wind threw my hair around my face, and I reached up to pull a few strands from my lips. “Go with you?” Did I miss a key part of the conversation? I bit my lip and blasted myself for paying too close attention to his biceps and not enough to what he was saying. “To … ?” I let it hang there, hoping he’d fill in the blank.
He frowned, looked confused — or perhaps derailed. “There’s a dance this week,” he finally said.
My mind was still dancing through the last phrase: go with him? I quietly cursed the fact that my generation had such a vague phrase to express commitment: Half the time we meant go with me somewhere and the other half meant go steady with me. I took a nervous breath, afraid to hope which one he meant.
“Whether we’re going together or not, we could go to the dance,” he said hesitantly. He studied my face carefully, as if trying to read my expression.
“Are you asking me if – ” I shook my head. I was afraid to even think it.
He shifted his weight. “I’m asking if you’d like to go steady with me,” he said. “And I’m asking you to the dance.”
Click here for Part 17: This One. …