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Thirty Years Ago

He had tried this move once before. It worked out well enough then, but he wasn’t sure he’d get the same result the second time around, and that made him nervous. 

He stood there motionless while the floodlight in her parents’ carport cast dark shadows over her shoulders and down the length of the snow-covered driveway. It must have been those same shadows that made him question the look on her face, that made him doubt what he was feeling, that caused him to second guess the subtle hints he sensed that she was trying to send his way. He stood there awkwardly, as only a 15-year-old boy in love can stand, wondering if it would be better if he just took a small step backward and brought the whole uncertain moment to an end. That first step could be followed by another while he glanced at her ever-so-briefly to say goodnight—yes, this was definitely a better idea—at which point he would then turn and casually make his way down the street, playing it cool around the corner until he was out of sight; then, and only then, would he finally take off running up the hill toward home like a man possessed to the safety of his decidedly messy bedroom. 


Yes, this was much better than the other option he was pondering. He would escape the pressure of the moment and be able to evaluate the situation so that he was absolutely certain before he staked his entire future on nothing more than a warm feeling in his chest and a fluttering sensation in his stomach. What was he thinking? The chances of success here were precariously slim, and the fallout of failure was bound to be catastrophic.


Three months earlier, in the late weeks of fall when the trees were stripped bare but the snow had not yet made an appearance, he had been in a strikingly similar situation. Before school let out for the weekend, the very same boy and girl had made plans to go to a movie with a handful of friends, but by the time Friday evening rolled around, everyone else’s plans had changed. It was now just the two of them, and they were only friends, so going to a movie together wouldn’t do. That was something couples did, and they were not a couple. 


They opted to hang out and watch a movie at her house instead, which definitely didn’t carry the same stigma as going to a theatre together, but over the course of the evening, they found themselves inching ever closer to one another on the aptly named loveseat in the basement of her family’s bungalow. But inching was all there was, that is until the boy stood at the door, ready to leave, but with his heart suddenly threatening to pound itself right out of his ribcage. She had a different look in her eye than he was used to seeing. Something about the air around them was different, too, but he couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was. Could it be…? No, there’s no way. Or was there?


He would have stood there all night had she not moved across the threshold of friendship into a new zone where the only thing there was left to do was to bend his neck forward in hopes that she would arch her own toward him in response, which is what he did and which is what she did, and the result was a kiss and the birth of an exciting new star blazing in his solar system. The star burned brightly for precisely five weeks until the girl decided it wasn’t going to work out after all. The star collapsed into a black hole as they stepped back across the threshold into the familiar world of friendship, which, it was believed, would be “better in the end.”


Which is why, all of three months later, standing there outside on a cold winter’s night, already half-way down her driveway, the boy knew he couldn’t just step forward and bend his neck toward her like he had done the last time he had these same feelings. What if he was wrong? What if he was misreading the signals? What if he tried and failed and lost the one and only hope his lovesick teenaged soul had for a meaningful life?


There are moments in a person’s life that are definitive and he knew this was one of them. And he knew he couldn’t get it wrong this time around. 


But it was those eyes of hers, those beautiful brown eyes; they were trying to say something to him, inviting him to take the step that she had taken at the door three months before, to risk crossing over into a new country that would certainly spell the end of their friendship if it didn’t work out for a second time. But oh! what it would mean if it did work out, if being something more than friends was how their story was meant to end. Or better yet, how their story was meant to begin. What might happen over the course of the next fifteen years of their lives if they held hands on this chilly late-winter night, stared deeply into one another’s eyes right past the gates of friendship and into that place where the soul burns and churns and longs for something more and deeper and eternal?


Might they one day stand together in front of their family and friends and pledge their naive, yet undying love to one another? Might they spend the early years of their life together building something beautiful and good, something that, in that very first moment where anything was possible, would have been impossible for them to even imagine? Might they furnish a home together where they would pile memory upon memory as the years and then decades swept by without either of them hardly noticing at all? And, once they were no longer children themselves, might they one day have children of their own—a boy, a girl, a boy—who would be so much like them in so very many ways, but also so incredibly different from them at the same time? Might this boy and girl who time would slowly transform into a man and woman find themselves celebrating together and weeping together and praying together and walking together through everything that life brought their way? And might they keep doing all of this and more for the next thirty years, loving each other in some future time in some future place where, even when everything else around them was clouded with uncertainty, they would know that they know that they know that what happened on the driveway in the shadows of that floodlight on Murdock Ave was the best thing that could have ever happened to them in this wild and crazy world of ours?


It’s true, he had tried this move once before, and now it was time to try it again.


Instead of backing away, he stepped toward her and asked if she was ready to give this a second try, to take it slowly this time so they could get it right, so they could make it last. She said that she was, and in that moment, the night sky above them exploded into a spectacle of cosmic ecstasy as they clasped one another's hands and leaned into a second first kiss that propelled them onto the journey of the rest of their lives…together.


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