It was January of 1995. I was blissfully segway-ing (?) from one moderately serious relationship to another hopefully more serious relationship with my high school crush. He had returned from his mission right around Christmas, and, in typical Me fashion, I had hijacked each and every one of his spare moments to show him what an amazing catch I was and how lucky he was to have such an amazing person like me in his life. (Ah, I miss the artificially inflated ego of youth and innocence.)
My best friend had just started hanging out with a girl from work, and they had invited us, the magic couple, to go to dinner with them. I picked up my date (he didn’t have transportation yet, and I was in love with my black VW and cherished any moment to share it and show it to others) forgave him his fashion choice (green jeans? How could I overlook something so hideous!) and we met our group at the restaurant.
Duke met Stephanie at work as well, and had developed a quick friendship. She brought her friend Steve, as well as Duke to the dinner that night. They sat at the far end of the long table, and in my quick summation, having never met this crowd before, I assumed that Duke and Steve were a couple. They both had the air of gayness about them. Neat, handsome, and quietly confident. It felt good to have such an “open mind” about the people I hung out with. I proceeded to charm the group with my witticisms and beauty and went home that evening confident in my place in the world.
Fast forward four months. It was a Sarah Mclachlan concert, and we ran into this same dinner group at the concert. It was Duke’s birthday. He was standing toward the back of the group, looking at me. By this time I had been told that Duke and Steve were not a couple, that they didn’t have anything resembling warm feelings for each other, and they were both straight. Hmm. Okay. To that point, I hadn’t thought of him much. Looking at him at that moment though, he was hot. I flashed my charming smile at him and wished him Happy Birthday. I unconsciously put Duke in my reserve line-up.
My RM was beginning to wake from his mission-coma, and beginning to envision the colors of his future. I wasn’t part of that rainbow, and after a concert one night I forced him to look me in the eye and admit to me what I already knew. Instead of the crumbling hopelessness of a breakup, I felt elation. I was okay, and I was ready for the next unsuspecting young man to fall into my clutches.
As we all do after a breakup, we go back to our friends whom we had ditched for our new love. I began hanging out at Steph’s house which Duke had claimed as his second home. The first time I actually had a conversation with him was at the kitchen table. He was working on an assignment for school, he was in the Interior Design program, where he had to come up with a logo design for his future business. Ooh! I’ve got a great eye for color and all things tasteful, so I sat down by him to imbue him with some of my remarkable talent.
He saw right through me.
He wasn’t rude, or condescending, but definitely recognized my utter lack of a clue and steered the conversation away from his assignment. We did some pretty heavy flirting, ending up with him walking me to my car, and playfully offering to satisfy my urges for some good lovin’ (mormon style) any time I wanted. It excited me, but, I couldn’t use him like that. He seemed to care too deeply.
One night, he called. I ran down to the basement for privacy and we talked for a while. He invited me to go to his friends’ baby blessing that Sunday. It was a 90 minute drive, so I knew that he was definitely interested. I wasn’t sure why. He was reserved, I was obnoxious. He was classy, I was a poser. And there was the size thing. I come from a family of tall people, and had always dated tall-ish guys. Duke was only 5’11” to my 5’7″, and I felt like a heifer with him. Surely he wasn’t attracted to that.
When he picked me up, we had on matching outfits. Khaki bottoms and chambray shirts. Not exactly a miracle, as that was the outfit du jour of the mid-nineties, but it lit a spark nonetheless. We did look awfully cute. It was a beautiful spring day, and we had a fantastically wonderful time. I instantly felt comfortable, and he made me feel feminine and beautiful. We held hands in the car. (I was such a hussy)
Affection was something that came quite naturally and easy to Duke. He touched. I did not. Affection was reserved for private expression, and only to those I truly trusted. This presented a problem. We were walking around Temple Square one day and he went to hold my hand. I recoiled, then reluctantly gave in, wondering when I should/could let go. I didn’t want to hurt him, but it was just uncomfortable to be in public, letting the world know about feelings I was unsure of. We talked about it a bit, and as my feelings for him developed, it became essential. I loved the feel of the muscles in his palm against mine. He has wide hands, and they felt protective and secure.
That was one thing about Duke. One would never accuse him of over-confidence, but he wasn’t insecure. He knew he wanted me, but wouldn’t let me get away with my game playing and manipulation, even if it meant losing me. On more than one occasion, he called my bluff, only for me to come crying on his doorstep begging for him to take me back. (Read the stupidity post. I haven’t changed much.)
The point of this post was to talk about our physical chemistry. I’m getting to that. Here we go. (cue foreboding music)
We had been on a few dates. We had held hands, we had held each other. The kiss was the next step. Duke and I were both pretty experienced in this arena, but were not going to rush into it. We were at his grandparents where he was living. They were out of town and I was slowly making my way to leave. He was leaning against the railing, I was leaning against him, my back to him, with his arms around my waist. Again, this felt awkward because of the size issue. (I think being raised by an overweight mother and a thin father who clearly disapproved of her size did a lot of damage. I was not big. I was not bigger than Duke. But I felt big. And in typical Me fashion, I made it a bigger deal than it was.)
Back to it.
He turned me around, and we leaned in.
some more kissing,
Really? With all the fun we have and how cute we are, THAT is what kissing him feels like?
We didn’t say anything about it to each other for a long time, and surprisingly, we kept trying. It actually took a while to improve. He blames me. I blame him. (It totally could be me- since I was so freaked out about everything- but I’ll never admit it out loud.) A lot of other stuff was going on, like me turning in mission papers, and still dating other guys, that kept me from giving in to the feelings that were building. I craved his physical presence. I can’t put into words how it felt (feels) to be with him. He has a calming effect on me and I desire it like a drug.
to be continued. . .
(inspiration is waning due to kids clamoring to get on my lap. more later.)