Read part 1 here.
Read part 2 here.
Read part 3 here.
Taking risks with my heart wasn't comfortable territory for my 16 year old self. Then again, neither was stalking, yet there I was after 10 p.m. driving slowly past the cul-de-sac where Navy boy's parents' house presided and craning my neck to see any signs of his return from work. It required closer inspection.
I parked inconspicuously on the street, and as I crept to the side of the house I noticed the lights in the basement shining through the split-level home's side window. With pulse racing, and nerves properly steeled I chanced a peek and saw him sprawled in a recliner, gazing at the television with a Camel Light in one of Those Hands arcing from the armrest to That Mouth every so often. I enjoyed the relaxed, laid back appearance of him with his collar unbuttoned unnecessarily too far, shirt tails untucked and bare feet propped up. (so maybe I watched for just a minute or two) My knuckles tapped the glass. He froze.
It's hard to pull off "casual" when one is crouched in the dark, uninvited outside a person's home, hoping against awkwardness. Well...I failed. It was awkward, for about a minute after he slid the window open to see me there, keys flipping anxiously in hand, breathing a "hey" in his direction. He blinked, his head cocked, and his mouth rounded in the beginnings of "Wh....." as in :
Why are you here?
When did you get here?
Why are you knocking on my window?
Where's your good sense?
All valid questions meriting a solid answer, only his lips stopped at the "Wh....", then he merely gave up that line of thinking and accepted the fact that he had company. He took another drag from his cigarette, ground it out in the grass, flicked it out past me and with a wave of his hand said "Go around front. Give me a minute." *sigh* I was being relegated to our front porch friendship once again. What else had I foolishly expected?
At the front of his house I stood exposed in the glow of the street lamp and waited. I briefly considered if I'd ever wash the stink of desperation off myself after this. I suspected not. Hold on.......is he???.......is that the???.......Oh. Ohhhhhhh. My ears perked at the clanking gears of the garage door opener. His shuffling footsteps announced his presence as he emerged from the shadows, stepping into the light briefly to look at me and smile. He tucked his hands in his pockets, rocked on his feet, toes tipping up, eyebrows raised as he offered "Are you coming in?"
He turned. I followed.
Through the access door in the garage he snuck me into his house and we headed directly for the basement. Switching the t.v off, he flopped at one end of the couch, reaching under to retrieve his stash of cigarettes, then offered me one and I accepted, mirroring his action I flopped at the opposite end of the couch.
After explaining myself lamely ("I ran into town to get my mom something at the store and thought I would swing by on the off chance you were home from work, just to say hi.") we settled into a more comfortable exchange. What we talked about or for how long is lost in my memory. I do know that nothing untoward happened that night. He did voice reservations over the fact that I had a boyfriend who might not like my late night habits. It was his mentioning of my boyfriend that bothered me. I'd been careless of my ties to Jeff, wanting to be good for him, knowing I was not. I'd known for some time that Jeff was only a place holder until I could secure something, anything with Navy boy. It never occurred to me that Navy boy thought otherwise. He might not have understood my willingness. Could it be that he was holding back? I'd evidently misjudged him, assuming too little of his character - assuming his morals were level with mine. No. He was better. He was respecting my status. I was cock blocking myself with my own improper actions. That June night an epiphany came to me. I stood no chance of ever having my Navy boy, if I didn't cut Jeff loose once and for all. I left that night with a clear objective, and an open invitation to return to the little side window.
A week later Navy boy was a high school graduate, waiting tables full time in order to pad his account for when he returned from the academy. He was scheduled to leave early September. I was a summer school student, preemptively earning my American Government credit. Summertime guaranteed me a freedom from the daily presence of my doomed relationship with Jeff. I was taking the opportunity to distance myself. I used school, homework, sleeping in, suntanning, and hanging out with friends as an excuse to be unavailable or miss his calls. He was unaware that one of those "friends" was Navy boy. Our little side window arrangement still stood. And I visited often.
It was one summer weekend when I had the chance to reciprocate the invitation. My parents were out of town, Jeff thought I went with them, and Navy boy had the night off. It all stayed very innocent, as we swung on the back porch swing, talked, laughed, joked, and spoke of futures as the sun dipped lower and lower. He was more carefree with me now, the stress of Senior year behind him. More smiles, more happiness, and I was noticing more flirting.
After the last session of summer school, my friend Carrie and I were heading out to our cars when I noticed Navy boy in the lot, stepping out of his mom's car that he sometimes borrowed. I waved, he waved, then he slowly walked into the building maintaining eye contact, but with Carrie present I had to keep up normal appearances. I stalled at my car until Carrie drove away. In a moment of boldness I tucked a cheeky note with an invitation to my favorite art institute under his windshield. I drove away with my heart beating wildly. Then waited for his response. And waited. And waited.
Daytime visits to a local museum with a friend aren't dates are they? I told myself no. Despite the pre-date jitters that I felt. Despite the extra care I took in my appearance. Despite the obvious extra care he took in his appearance. Despite the fact that I imagined every shadowy nook in the museum as a perfect location for a first kiss, this was not a date. But then when he told me how much he enjoyed our day, wished we could do things like that more often, missed our library time, and lamented his long evening hours (hinting at wanting to spend that time with me) it was beginning to sure feel like the end of a date. And I knew, when he said we should have done this a long time ago, that I had just been on my first not-a-date date with Navy boy.
I looked him directly in the eye, stated that we'd do this again very soon, just as soon as I took care of something. He raised his eyebrow in a way that questioned "really?"
Smiling knowingly, I confirmed. "Really."
And with the happiness of my day still glowing around me, I set out to break Jeff's heart.