Hold My Heart – Part II

FullSizeRender (10)When I went out of town for a weekend with my sisters, the constant chimes of incoming text messages from Cory was a great source of entertainment for them. “Ooh, what did he say this time?!”

Sometimes it was a light-hearted, flirtatious text or an innocent comment about his day of lectures. Cory would tell me what he was learning about in med school or send me selfies of himself wearing his stethoscope on his way to clinic.

One rainy afternoon while he studied, Cory sent a text saying he wished he had a snuggle buddy. I wrote back, “It’s a good thing I’m out of town or you just might end up with one! 😉 ”

His reply:”I fail to see how this is a ‘good thing’ 😉 ”

Cory told me later that his puppy Stout had stood in for me as a snuggle buddy, and “Stout says you owe him belly rubs.” Aww.

Partway through the weekend, my younger sister got a deep gash on her back that required us to take her to the emergency room (long story, but she’s okay). I kept Cory abreast of the situation and, once everything was settled, he sent this text: “If only this happened a couple years later and I was there. I’d suture her right up. 🙂 ”

I know. Wish you were here 🙂

Just for suturing? 😉

Hahaha… I plead the fifth 😉

Come on. Tell me the truth. 😉

The truth is… I don’t know.

I mean, I know what I want, but I also know what I WANT 

Do you wish you were here?

For something other than suturing?

I might. 😉

……. 🙂

You’re a fantastic kisser by the way.

Haha thanks. So are you. One of the best ever, in fact.

You’re just saying that.

“False,” I texted back, face flushed from his admission. “When some people kiss, they are takers. You are a giver in the way you kiss, and it changes everything.” And it did.

Occasionally, Cory would lead us into a more serious conversation. At one point, he asked me, “What are you good at? Besides dancing, singing, kissing and the ‘come hither’ look?”

I smiled to myself before I typed back, “Guess you’ll have to stick around and find out!”

But he legitimately wanted an answer. “Come on. what is something you are passionate about and that you consider yourself good at?”

After I answered (citing primarily music and other artistic skills), he said simply, “Tell me a secret.”

I admitted to eating straight out of the peanut butter jar, and Cory said that he drinks milk straight from the jug. I don’t know how to parallel park, and Cory secretly loves HGTV. The last secret I shared was: “Kissing in the rain is on my list of life goals.”

“I’ve done that… It’s amazing.. You know it’s been raining all day? 😉 ” He never missed an opportunity to flirt. And my heart never missed the opportunity to flip-flop.

Religion also started to come up a lot more during that weekend away. I’d known from that first night we went swing dancing that Cory and I needed to talk about his Universalist leanings and tendency to bring Buddhist and other principles into his so-called Christian doctrine, but I wanted to approach the topic with care. Fortunately, Cory initiated bringing up our faith differences during one of our evening phone conversations.

Cory shared with me that he considers himself a Christian – that he believes Jesus died and rose from the dead as an atoning sacrifice for his sins – but he also thinks that all gods are the same god; that God reaches different people groups in different forms. I’ve heard this argument countless times, so I went right into Jesus’s declaration that He is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” and statement of, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Cory was ready for that argument and told me that he is of the opinion that Jesus himself wasn’t the only way to a right relationship with God, but that Jesus’s way of living – loving others and exercising servant leadership – is the way to salvation. “When Jesus talks about being the Way and saying that no one comes to the Father except through him,” Cory explained, “He’s talking about, not himself in particular, but his way of living. If we live like Jesus did and love other people, that is how we get into heaven.”

I was dumbfounded. Cory is a brilliant man. He’s intelligent, educated, articulate, perceptive, insightful and someone who also has a longing to live well, love deeply and make a positive impact in the world. So how such a man could be so blinded to the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel was beyond my comprehension. I mentioned John 1:29, Romans 10:9 and other verses that clearly state faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus himself as the method of salvation, but Cory wasn’t having it.

I tried to explain Ephesians 2 – that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast about “earning” their salvation – and Cory countered with James 2, that faith without works is dead. I explained that the Apostle Paul and James had the same viewpoint but came at it from different angles as a result of their audiences. James, writing to a Jewish audience, reminded Jewish followers of Jesus that although they were no longer under the Mosaic Law, if their faith was genuine, that faith would be evidenced by living rightly. Paul, on the other hand, wrote to a Gentile audience who needed to hear that they were not subjected to the traditional Jewish laws in order to enter into the family of God; they were saved purely by the grace of God when they placed their faith and trust in Jesus’s sacrifice on their behalf.

Cory and I are both competitive, intelligent, passionate people, so although we each tried to respect the other person, the conversation soon began to get rather charged, and we agreed to table the discussion for another time.

We briefly sent light-hearted, humorous texts to ease the mood; then Cory took us right back to a heavy topic: “I hate to change the subject to something less smiley… But I don’t think I ever heard your insight into my situation with Mary, and I would actually really value your input.”

Ugh. Did he really want to talk about his ex-fiance? I’d told him about my own broken engagement and had, at the time, been enthusiastic about sharing my journey and the lessons I learned from that season. But as much as Cory and I had bonded emotionally of late, it hurt to have her brought up. I could tell he still had feelings for her.

Nevertheless, I wrote back, “Okay. I would be happy to share my insight, but only if you really want to hear it and only if we discuss it in person.”

“I really want to hear it. But I’m impatient and you’re far away. Haha.”

I told him I could try to call him later. Then we had a long break between texts while I spent time with my sisters and tried to emotionally distance myself from the conversation for purposes of my own preservation. When I eventually checked my phone again, I had another text from Cory: “I’d still love to text if you want. 🙂 I get a general, nonspecific good feeling from talking to you.”

That made me smile. He enjoyed my company, even if his heart was spoken for. And I soon discovered just how spoken for his heart really was.

Over the next few days, I discovered that Cory and his ex-fiance were still talking on a weekly basis. I’d known Cory wasn’t healed from his broken engagement to Mary, but I hadn’t realized they were still in communication. “What’s the purpose of that?” I asked him. “Is that healthy for you?”

Only then did I find out that he is driving to see her over Christmas, with the intent of winning her back. He’s taking Stout with him (it turns out Stout is a dog they got together as a couple). And this Christmas visit is the reason he’s been studying so hard and working out so much. He is a man on a mission to win back the love of his life. And that love of his life is not me.

Their relationship is doomed to fail. Even if they do get back together over Christmas, their relationship will not last. They each have three years of med school left and are both stubbornly staying at their respective med schools in states 1,600 miles apart. They are both career driven, already have trust issues and now a broken engagement behind them.

Could they make it work? It’s possible. But I have serious doubts that three more years of long distance – with all this baggage as the foundation – is going to result in a lasting, happy marriage, especially considering how much of their relationship was physical in nature. I think it would be better for Cory to escape the situation now and begin the healing process.

I don’t think Cory’s Christmas courtship is going to end with them getting back together. And frankly, it would be better for Cory if it didn’t. But for my sake – for the sake of my poor, foolish, battered heart – I hope it does. Because then, maybe, I will stop torturing myself pining for a man I know will never be mine. 

Authentically Aurora

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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

 

My Gold-Plated Shanty

7S2My new apartment complex is like an upscale resort. It touts not one, but two pools, two exercise rooms and an arcade.

Interested in a private yoga instructor? Just show up at the gym on Tuesday evenings to sign up. Need a conference room for a business meeting? Step right this way! Have a thirty year old bottle of wine that needs to be kept at a crisp 48 degrees? A swanky wine cellar and cozy movie den are just some of the other amenities available to residents.

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After touring the floor model, I figured I may be paying a bit more per month than before, but I believed that gaining wood floors, granite counter tops and cutting my commute time in half made the extra cost worth it. That is, until I saw my particular unit for the first time on move-in day.

The prior tenant clearly had a dog named Jaws, as evidenced by the chunks missing from my window blinds:

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More Jaws attacks are evident in the bathroom, where the edges of the cabinets have been gnawed on, the toilet seat is crooked and there are pieces missing from the toilet, revealing a rusted exterior.

“This was clearly a bachelor pad,” I thought to myself as I cringed at the damage. I’ll probably find stale pizza behind the refrigerator two months from now.

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Probably most distressing of all Jaws’ attacks is his frenzied attempts at returning to his natural shark-dog habitat by flooding the entire apartment with water. The bathroom sink leaks into the cabinetry below, where months of water damage have caused wood rot.

When I opened the bottom cabinet, the stench nearly knocked me over. Why didn’t the guy before me ever call this in for maintenance?! He must have just lived at his girlfriend’s place – supposing someone like this shark-owning sloth would be capable of landing a girlfriend!

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The entire moving process was a disaster. Not only was my new unit in a disgusting state of disrepair, but the movers (who were supposed to show up at 8:00 on Saturday morning) forgot about me completely. At 8:20 when I called to ask where they were, the manager said that my move was “unconfirmed”, whatever that means. So I spent Saturday morning moving myself with my aging parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

On Saturday evening, after a full day of frustration and toil, I got a call from the leasing office that a package had been delivered for me. My mood immediately lifted. Someone was thinking of me, hoping to welcome me into my new apartment with beautiful flowers or a lovely gift basket! What sweet friends and family I have!

I hurried down to the leasing office to pick up my delivery. I eagerly accepted the box and was about to tear it open when I read the name on the address label: To Anna.

My eyes widened with shock. This package wasn’t for me. It was for my apartment’s prior tenant. And this disgusting prior tenant wasn’t a slothful shark-dog-owning man. It was a woman.

#assumptions

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Authentically Aurora