Problematic Dreams – Part III

Swing dancing

On my way to pick Cory up from med school, I got updates from a few others that they weren’t going to make it out to dancing. It was just going to be Cory, Noelle and me (the makings of a love triangle if I ever saw one).

I pulled my BMW up to the fountain Cory had indicated in the center of campus and waited for him to emerge from the lecture hall. As his tall silhouette strode toward me, a book tucked under one arm, I was struck by the oddity of the situation. As much as Cory and I had messaged back and forth over the prior week, I felt like I knew him well, but in truth, I’d only ever spent five minutes physically in his presence.

“Sweet ride,” he commented as he approached before giving me a quick hug. “Thanks for picking me up.” I studied him as he slid onto my passenger seat. What an unusual life I lead.

I felt like a mom (or a wife?) asking Cory about his day as I drove him home. He told me briefly about that evening’s lecture, pausing temporarily to exclaim, “God, I love your car!” as I zipped onto the freeway.

Once at his complex – an older set of buildings probably built in the ’60s – Cory ushered me into the second floor apartment he shares with (surprise!) the guy who played bagpipes at the talent show. “I helped him tune them last night,” Cory mentioned as an aside just before I was pummeled by a blur of black fur.

“Stout! Stout, calm down,” Cory laughed as I was greeted by lots of wiggles and slobbery kisses from his two year old puppy.

I let Stout sniff my legs and lick my hands before I started to scratch him behind his ears. He laid down and rolled over for a belly rub. “Oooh, he loves you. He doesn’t normally trust people that fast,” Cory mused aloud before disappearing into what I assumed was his bedroom to change clothes while I tended to Stout.

Once Cory reappeared, we took Stout for a quick walk around the block, ensured he had food in his bowl; then returned to my car to go meet Noelle at the sweet shop that hosts swing dancing every Thursday night.

When Cory and I reached my BMW in the parking lot of his apartment complex, Cory walked past the passenger side of my car and started to accompany me toward the driver side. Confused, I subconsciously tilted my head to the side as I gestured, “This one is my car, right here.”

“Oh, I know,” he explained. “Don’t worry, I’m not driving. I’m just going to open your door for you.”

Shocked, I clicked my fob to unlock the door, and good as his word, Cory opened my driver door for me with a confident “M’lady” before escorting himself over to the passenger seat.

On the drive over to the sweet shop, Cory mentioned that he wouldn’t be able to dance because he’d just finished up his most recent tattoo the day before, and the skin was still healing was on his right foot. “I suppose I could be talked into sitting out a few dances to keep you company,” I teased him.

“How kind of you,” he drawled with a wink across to me. Man, but he could be charming.

I asked about the stories behind each of his tattoos and – after warning me that such a topic could get pretty serious and deep – Cory enthusiastically plunged into a twenty-minute exposition of his astrological sign intermingled with his dad’s, a couple logos from his favorite bands, the cross on his back to which he hoped to incorporate a few Buddhist symbols (this drew a raised eyebrow from me) and the most recent one, representing those who have struggled with mental illness. Only later would I discover the true depth and intimacy of each of these sentimental markings with which he had chosen to cover his body.

Cory finished up his explanation as we pulled up to the venue, and the two of us were just getting settled at a table beside the dance floor when Noelle skipped up to us. “Hey, guys!”

She looked adorable, as always, and I was just about to tell her so when I got pulled onto the dance floor. Cory had never seen me dance before, and I glanced over my partner’s shoulder a few times to catch him watching me from afar. I smiled to myself. I was in a swing dancing society in college and was glad to be able to showcase one of my strengths that night.

Stop it, I silently reprimanded myself. He’s just got the allure of the bad boy persona, but you heard him in the car! He says he’s a Christian, but he’s also adopting Buddhist principles into his beliefs. He clearly stated that he doesn’t believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. He’s a universalist and therefore not God’s best for you. You don’t need another “project.” Snap out of it!

By the time I’d finished my set, Noelle and Cory had just returned to our table with cups of ice cream. Cory wordlessly scooped a spoonful of his into my mouth as my eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Mmm,” I approved his choice as I tasted chocolate ice cream accented by earthy almonds and tart cranberry pieces. Over the next several minutes of conversation, Cory occasionally scooted his cup of ice cream toward me, encouraging me to share with him. A few times, I thought I saw veiled hurt in Noelle’s eyes, and I felt badly. Cory was not overly subtle about his preference, and I knew it couldn’t sit well with her. After a time, I actually tried to deftly encourage some flirtation between the two of them, partially to keep Noelle from feeling left out and partially – selfishly – because I desperately needed those perceptive eyes of his to stop peering deep into me from across the table.

When Cory looked at me, I knew he didn’t just see my dark, expressive eyebrows and the freckle in the golden-brown iris of my left eye. His expressions told me he saw all the things I didn’t want him to. He has walked through enough darkness to be able to see into the hearts of people and, throughout the surface-level conversation casually going on over ice cream, I felt like Cory and I were engaged in another realm, having a nonverbal conversation all our own.

An hour or so into the evening, Cory mentioned one time he went dancing with an ex. I’d seen several photos of him on Facebook looking cozy with a blonde girl, so I asked if she was the dancer. Cory had been looking at Noelle in that moment, but at my question, his head snapped around to me, and his face registered both shock and pain before he shuttered his expression. “No…” was all he said.

“She’s another ex, isn’t she?” I asked gently. He just nodded, looking stoic. There was obviously more to the story, but as I resolved not to press it, Noelle got asked to dance. I watched her weave her way to the dance floor with her partner and turned back around to find Cory looking at me intently. “She’s my ex-fiance,” he said softly.

“What?”

“The blonde in my photos. We were engaged. She broke off the engagement in July.”

Without thinking, I reached across the table to cover Cory’s hands with my own. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…”

“I know…” he shrugged, looking down at the table before looking up at me again. “It’s such an awful word isn’t it? ‘Ex-fiance.’ I hate saying it out loud.”

I paused, wondering how deep I wanted to go with him; then I ventured tentatively forward. “I was engaged once, too. He broke things off. Last July, actually. A year and a half ago.”

Cory looked surprised, and I went on, “We don’t have to talk about it, but if you ever want to process your thoughts and feelings with somebody who’s been through a broken engagement, I’m here for you. It will get better.”

My heart went out to him. It was still fresh for him. And, unbidden, another thought came into my mind: He is SO not available. We don’t share the same faith, don’t have the same world view, and he is only recently single after having his heart ripped out of his chest by an ex-fiance …So why does my heart feel full when I’m around him? Why am I so drawn to him? God, why is this my pattern, again and again? The bird with the broken wing is my personal Achilles’ heel. Heaven help me.

Authentically Aurora

 

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Problematic Dreams – Part II

Reading in bed

Our “Pitch Perfect-esque” a cappella group has all of our members’ names listed on our website, so I assume that’s how Corythe musically proficient doctor-to-be – found me on Facebook.

The day after the talent show, I had a friend request waiting from him, and that was soon followed up by a private message asking me about my photography website. “Are the photos on your site all taken by you? Because they are freakin’ amazing.”

I replied back, and we moved on from talking about photography to music to language and literature. Cory told me more about his Triathlon training; then about his family. We moved back to music, agreeing on the most desirable opera to see in town during this year’s season. For a moment, I thought he might ask me to go with him, but he suddenly broke the flow of our conversation with: “Hard to go wrong with Russian composers. Hey, text me. Burning up data. Haha.” And he gave me his phone number.

Pausing briefly (“Oh gosh. Is this a good idea? Do I really want to get into this? Ugh. Stop over-analyzing. It’s just text messaging.”), I sent Cory a quick text so that he’d have my number, too. I suspected that burning up data was not the sole reason for the change of communication method. Sure enough, the tone of the conversation quickly turned more flirtatious.

After a few obligatory questions back and forth about work and school, Cory asked, “So, how do you feel about tattoos?”

My reply: “Hmmm. I’m not sure I have a strong opinion.” I made a quick assumption. “Where and how many? :)”

My assumption proved accurate. Cory just got his fifth tattoo and, as for the locations of the first four: “You could see all of them if I take off my shirt. ;)”

Before long, he actually sent me a shirtless photo of himself laying in bed with a book, along with the caption: “All I’m missing is a cup of coffee and a cuddle buddy.” Oh man. Was that an invitation? 

I redirected us to a safer topic (and one of my personal favorites): personality types. Once we determined one another’s Myers-Briggs types (Cory’s an ENFJ), any time I got too logical in response to his touchy-feeliness, he’d send me a teasing text, “Your T is showing, lol ;)”

Later in the week, I invited the rest of my a cappella group to go swing dancing with me. We’d been talking about doing it for a while, and I was ready to make it happen. After a quick conversation with Noelle, I decided to extend the invite to Cory, too. It would be a great way for him to start getting to know some of our members before his audition.

Cory seemed interested in going, but he had an evening lecture on campus that he needed to attend. He asked in a text, “Are you driving there?”

“Yep. Need a ride home after?” I thought he might be planning to take public transportation to the swing dancing venue.

“I was actually going to ask if you wanted to meet my dog and pick me up from med school and swing by my place? That would expedite things.” He explained that he needed to change after class; then also feed and walk his dog, Stout (named for the dark beer).

“He’s a great snuggler. :)” Cory added when I hesitated in responding to his text.

Pushing down my tendency to over-think things, I sent back a quick reply. “Where and when should I pick you up?” After hearing back from him with details, I sent one more text:

“On my way”, adding a private note to myself: Hopefully I don’t regret this.

Authentically Aurora

Problematic Dreams – Part I

ArsenalThe most recent time I’ve experienced an otherworldly connection with someone just happened a few weeks ago, and I’m still reeling from the after effects.

My a cappella choir sang in a talent show at the end of October, and since it was Halloween-themed, everyone came in costume. I borrowed a wig from one of our altos and went as a rather convincing Anna from Frozen (the innocent look comes naturally, but that whole chipper, cheerful thing took some work). #introvertproblems

Between performances of bagpipe playing and baton twirling, I marveled at the wide array of talents and also the creativity of some of the costumes. One guy in particular caught my eye, but not because of his costume. He was dressed as an archer of some sort (Arsenal, I found out later), but what really drew me to him was his aura. He radiated confidence and virility, leaning casually against the wall of the auditorium as though oblivious to the attention he garnered.

Michael and his roommate were slotted to close the show with an upbeat duet, but just before they took the stage, the archer uncrossed his arms, pushed off from the auditorium wall and strode forward. As he took a ready stance at the solo mic in the front of the room, I glanced down at my program to discover his name – Cory. As I looked back up to where he stood just twenty feet in front of me, his pianist began playing a moving ballad, and the archer opened his mouth to sing.

For the next four minutes, I sat transfixed as Arsenal/Cory belted out a humorous parody of a love song. His voice was flawless. He was clearly classically trained, but he didn’t let his perfect choral techniques get in the way of putting on an accessible and entertaining show. Even the high note at the end was sung beautifully, and I remembered in passing something that my mom whispered to me a decade ago in the back of my high school auditorium: “You have to be careful with boys like that, Aurora. You’ll fall in love with their voice and think you’re falling in love with them.”

Once the talent show had ended, all the performers mingled for a bit. One of my fellow sopranos, Noelle, has similar taste in men to me, so I was not at all surprised when she ran up to me, eyes wide, and gushed, “Did you hear that Cory guy? We have got to talk him into auditioning for our group!”

It’s true that we are in desperate need of more tenors and basses, so with my encouragement, Noelle hurried off to recruit him. She returned just a few moments later looking disappointed. “He says that he’s already really over-committed,” she told me in a dejected tone.

“Hmm, we’ll see about that.” I gestured for Noelle to accompany me as I walked over to introduce myself.

Cory looked up as I approached, and I reached out to shake his hand. “Hi, Cory. I’m Aurora. I sing with Noelle, and we both loved your performance tonight. You are a really gifted vocalist.”

“Thanks,” he replied casually, seeming to know what was coming next.

“We’d love to have you audition for our group. We meet on Tuesday nights,” I began, but Cory was prepared to tell me the same thing he’d already told Noelle.

“You know, I love singing – and I miss it – but I’m already really over-committed. I’m a first year med student, and I’m also currently training for a Triathlon with a running club on Tuesday nights.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Wow, that is a lot. Well, disregard then. Singing is supposed to be a fun, creative outlet, but it sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate, and singing with us would just be an added source of stress for you.”

I started to step away, wishing him the best of luck with everything, but he took a quick step forward. “Wait – I mean, would anyone mind if I came late to rehearsals? Or came sweaty, straight from my running group?”

I turned back toward him and shrugged nonchalantly. “No, I don’t think so. We technically start at 7:30, but we don’t usually actually start singing until around 8:00, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Okay,” Cory paused, gaze locked onto mine. The air between us sizzled momentarily as he peered into the depths of my eyes as though searching for something. Whatever it was, he seemed to give up on it because I blinked, and the intensity of the moment passed. He glanced between Noelle and me. “So who would I talk to if I were interested in joining?”

“Let me introduce you to Michael,” I told him, leading the way toward our director and attempting to hide my smile. Choir would definitely be more interesting with Cory in the group!

Once Cory and Michael had been properly introduced, Cory took his leave, and Noelle and I gave each other a quick high five, grinning ear to ear. Best recruitment team ever! Little did I know what I had just gotten myself into.

That night, I got what I thought I wanted. The attractive and mysterious Cory was considering joining our group, my crush Michael volunteered to walk me back to my car, and all seemed like it was going according to plan. But sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you actually want. In fact, sometimes what you want is exactly the opposite of what you need and what would be for your good.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” -Proverbs 19:21

Authentically Aurora