The next morning, I threw on a pair of jeans, one of my many free college tshirts and a pair of Keds (don't judge). I headed over to Seth, Art and Andrew's apartment with my psychology book in tow and was pleased to find that Andrew was camped out for a day of studying as well. Perfect. Looking back, I realize how casual and comfortable I was from the very beginning with him. I was wearing Keds, for crying out loud.
KL eventually joined and there were periods of quiet among the four of us, interrupted by random stories, bits of info from whatever we were reading and laughing at whatever struck us funny. College is good for the soul when it's filled with days like that. By the time the afternoon arrived, Seth was getting ready to meet his girlfriend (now wife) for dinner and the rest of us decided to wrap up the academics and think toward dinner. Andrew offered to make pancakes for everyone (his breakfast of choice, to this day) and we invited the other neighbors to join. I volunteered to be the sous chef and remember a conversation filled with questions about family, high school, majors, dream jobs and favorite classes. We were getting to know each other and I loved it. I still don't think I was aware of the crush that was there, but I was definitely intrigued. He intrigued me, this tall, smart, kind-of-boring guy.
The rest of the week went like this: I would meet friends to study and Andrew would show up. Library? Check. Student Union? Check. Someone's apartment? Check. Afterward, we'd all gather for dinner or a movie, but Andrew and I always seemed to navigate toward each other. We huddled over the crossword together. We stood in the kitchen and asked as many questions as we could think of to find out more about each other. He even drove me back home a time or two. But we didn't flirt. Neither of us played that card. I think we both knew that we were interested, but we didn't force it. We really didn't have to.
The first time he called me, he had gotten my number from Art. He called to say that a bunch of them were headed to campus to study and he could pick me up if I wanted to join. When I got in his car, he had the passenger seat heater on for me. I noticed that immediately. He was so naturally thoughtful that it made my heart race. He'd bring me home from the library if it was dark. He'd follow me out to the public lot where I had to leave my car during the week, so I didn't have to ride the bus back. And when the 9 at 9 countdown on 94.7 WQDR hadn't reached #1 by the time we got back to my dorm, he emailed me with the winning song of that week (When I Get Where I'm Going by Brad Paisley/Dolly Parton). Who is this guy?
After lots of "studying" and crossword puzzles and escorts home and casually manipulating seating arrangements so we could sit beside each other, a week had passed and we found ourselves at lunch again on Friday. A week since he asked me to go ice-skating. A week since Waffle House. A week. But I couldn't wait to see him. I really, really couldn't wait.
While I was waiting to meet everyone, something happened that completely rocked my world. In a scary, life-threatening, PTSD kind of way. And the way he looked at me while I cried it out and the way he took care of me made it so crystal clear: he had to be part of my life, for a very long time.