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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Hold My Heart – Part I

Queen's throne

In the weeks following our kiss in the parking lot, Cory and I saw a lot more of each other. One evening, he came over for dinner, and I made a savory pumpkin sausage soup. His grandmother called near the end of dinner – Mimi, he calls her – and since I knew from our conversations that she basically raised him, I waved him off to answer the phone while I washed the dishes.

Once I had finished scrubbing the pots and pans, I ventured into my living room where Cory was laying sprawled out on the couch. Seeing my approach, he scooted over and patted the spot next to him with the hand that wasn’t holding his phone. When I sat down, he pulled me down to a lying position and maneuvered me on top of him so that I was laying flat on my back on top of his stomach.

We laid there for a long time, Cory talking on the phone to his Mimi as he gently stroked my arm, my body rising and falling with his breathing. There was nothing sexual about the interaction, and yet there was a profound emotional intimacy in sharing those moments together.

When Cory got off the phone, he’d had enough down time and – like his puppy, Stout – was eager to do something active. So he taught me AcroYoga, a combination of yoga and acrobatics. I’d never heard of it before, but I have a yoga mat, so we put it down and started with some basics – throne, queen’s throne, front plank, plank on plank and front bird. It was terrifying and thrilling and silly and sexy and exhilarating all at the same time.

Cory mentioned that AcroYoga is something he did a lot with his ex-fiance and that it’s a great trust-builder in a relationship. I wondered what he meant by that and why he shared it with me. Was he looking to build trust with me? Was he testing how much I trust him? Was he hoping to build new AcroYoga memories? Was he thinking of her when he was with me?

When Cory and I did the plank on plank position, Cory did some push ups with my weight on top of him. “Show-off!” I teased.

In response, he flipped into a handstand against the wall and started to do handstand pushups. His untucked shirt fell and flopped into his face, so he righted himself, took off the shirt, and resumed his handstand pushups. He knew I was watching, and he wanted to be watched. He liked showing off for me. 

After a few reps, he turned around so that his face was to the wall. “This way you can see the muscles in my back,” he told me. Oh geez. This man made me feel so many conflicting things all at once. Was he attractive to me? Yes. VERY. But his desire to show off and the bluntness with which he directed my gaze to the muscles in his back quickly reminded me that he is very much a still-maturing 24-year-old.  I smiled to myself, enjoying the moment but also chuckling internally at the absurdity of the situation. Guard your heart, I told myself. Too late, I replied, looking into his happy face as he righted himself again.

Later in the week, Cory had me over for dinner. He’s rather health conscious, so he made us fish and broccoli with a side of mac-n-cheese, a personal favorite of his. After dinner, he showed me his bedroom, gesturing for me to sit on his bed while he perched in his computer chair. He pulled out several old folders of weathered sheet music – mementos of his days as a music major. Then he rummaged around in his closet for a moment, emerged with a small box and opened it to reveal a conductor’s baton.

He held it gingerly, and I could tell it was very special to him. “This was my first wand,” he told me. “My college choir director bought it for me when I graduated,” he added, handing it carefully to me.

I took a few swishes with it, smiling at the electric blue handle – an expression Cory didn’t miss. “Yeah, he teased me about the color I chose, but it suited me.” He looked at me and grinned – an adorable, innocent, sideways smile that reminded me of all that could have been… and perhaps all that still could be.

Returning to the pile of sheet music spread out on his bed, Cory instructed me to pick out a few favorites; then proceeded to serenade me for about an hour, giving me a private performance as he sang some of his old pieces from his undergrad showcases. I occasionally harmonized, but I quickly learned that Cory derives great pleasure from showing off and being delighted in, so I let him shine and showered him with praise.

After a while, Stout was ready to go out, so we took him for a walk around the block. Figuring I should head home so Cory could study without distraction, I gathered my things on our way out to walk Stout.

As Cory walked me to my car, I reached over and interlaced my fingers with his. I was a bit shy, but it felt natural after all we had shared together, from kisses to stories of our pasts; our joys, our hurts, our hopes and dreams.

Cory allowed the interaction, but I sensed a slight hesitation from him. Ah, so it’s one thing to kiss me in the privacy of an apartment but another to hold hands walking through the parking lot. Funny how holding hands can be so much more intimate than kissing. And his reaction was telling. It hurt a bit, but I chided myself that I shouldn’t be surprised.

When we reached my car, Cory opened the driver door for me, as I had come to expect. He briefly kissed me goodbye and closed the door for me after I climbed in. I started to drive toward the exit gate of his apartment complex, but just as I reached the gate, I saw Cory and Stout in my rearview mirror running toward me. I slowed to a stop and rolled down my window, wondering what I’d forgotten.

When Cory reached my car, breathing hard, I started to form a question with my lips, but before I could speak, Cory bent down and kissed me. “Stout wanted to say bye,” he said breathlessly by way of an explanation.

I couldn’t help but smile. It’s obvious that his heart is spoken for, but as much as he hurts me sometimes, this man is adorable. 

Authentically Aurora

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