At the end of our first conversation I had an invitation to go hiking in the desert with him. The GH was quite convinced that he needed to see more of me, and he was leaving for India in a week, so he made his move. We were talking about hiking already when he offered to take me.
It was the first awkward moment in the conversation. See, I was living with these 5 other girls, in a strange city, and country, far from home. We were there to pray, and serve, and we had an explicit no dating agreement. None. No looking even. So of course I hesitantly asked if I could bring them all along.
He didn't even blink. "Sure, no problem." he said. "Bring them all."
So he gave me his phone number, I was back to sleeping in a church on the floor by this time so I didn't really have a number, and we agreed on a date. (The details of that are all fuzzy, we couch surfed so much in those days I can't keep it all straight.)
As we drove through the Mexican dark on our way back to civilization, I told Rae, as casually as I could, that I met a guy who had offered to take us all hiking. She uttered something noncommittal in response and we didn't speak of it again for a day or two.
Well, the GH and I talked a few times, consolidated plans, and the girls seemed excited to go. And then, just as everything was finalized, an odd thing started to happen. One by one they just sort of made lame excuses for why they didn't really want to go anymore. As more and more people dropped out, I started to panic. Here was this guy, putting himself out for us, and they were all canceling and backing out. I was so worried he would be offended. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to go, and I really wanted to.
I remember sitting and talking with Rae about it. First I was begging her to come, but she wouldn't. Next I was asking her if she thought it would be ok if I went by myself since no one else was going.
Rae was 18 at the time, the youngest in our group. She is still one of the sweetest, most gentle, innocent, and beautiful people I know. So how was I to even suspect that she was conniving behind my back? All of this, my current dilemma, this conversation, all orchestrated by her.
I didn't know that she had seen the two of us talking that night. She, being the perceptive soul that she is, realized something important was going on, and decided it was her job to help it along. So she told everyone else to back out. Her words later were, "He was so enjoying you as you spoke. You would say something and he would throw back his head and laugh. I just thought you should have more time alone together."
Lucky for her, and me, he didn't turn out to be an axe murderer.
She said to me then, "I think it would be alright Carrien. We all trust you, you're not going to do anything stupid." And then Carlissa, another one of our group, said something like, "Oh My Gosh Carrien, you're like a nun. You don't even look at men." Which was true, even then, my conscious thought was simply that he was another friend. She waved her hand imperiously, "Go, have fun hiking."
And so my tender, dear friends threw me to the wolves, or wolf. And I went pretty willingly.
I was so nervous waiting for him to pick me up. I second-guessed the whole thing. I told myself I was being reckless and stupid... and then he showed up, and smiled at me with that smile of his. And I shouldered my pack and slid into the passenger side of his 15 year old black BMW.
From that moment on it felt as though I had known him my entire life. I have never felt so completely at ease around someone as I do around him. Talking to him was like talking to myself. We camped in the desert under the stars and drank tea and ate ginger cookies and talked far too late. And then when morning dawned he showed me around the desert that he loved so much. That night and day we felt like old friends, like we finally found that friend we had always wanted.
It wasn’t romantic, yet.
But as the day drew to a close, and we sat on a rock to watch the shadows deepen across the desert floor, I kept finding myself wishing he would put his arm around me. It felt wrong to be sitting like this, so close, and not touching.
Instead he got up and announced that it was time to get back into town.