Friday, May 18, 2012

Beauty & the Beast: Chopping the Tree (Chapter 12)

If you're joining in late - see previous chapters HERE.) There's an old Korean proverb that says: "If you chop at a tree long enough...eventually it will fall down." Mind you, I had been chopping so long my ax had whittled down to a chopstick. (FYI - I'm pretty sure this is how the word "chopstick" originated) but I was not going to let a little summer retreat gone bad deter me. If Lloyd Christmas was not going to let "one out of a million" odds discourage him, I would not let it discourage me either. Besides, I had been ignored once, what's the big deal in getting ignored twice? I guess it just makes me an "ignoramus". (Wait...did I use that word right? Or did I just confirm I am one?)

Anyways, unfazed I resumed calling Kim about once a week or so from the summer of 1998 until the rest of the year. Although I gave Kim the impression that I was fine with "just being friends", I would be lying if I didn't say that deep down inside, I was holding on to the "one in a million chance" and secretly praying that we could eventually be something more. That said, maintaining long-distance relationships are hard. But maintaining a long-distance friendship in which the female clearly doesn't want to go beyond friendship is darn-near impossible. It's like trying to push a wet noodle.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't like my existence was pinned solely on this one relationship. I mean I was living the high life of a Midwest public accountant traveling to cosmopolitan cities such as Farmington, Missouri and Peking, Illinois auditing milk cartons for dairy farms and counting dynamite inventory in underground mines. My life was sexy  I tell you. And as for my social life? Let's just say that all my older couple friends were constantly trying to set me up on "blind dates". I mean I could have easily hitched up with any one of these fine young women but I finally raised my hand and said, "No Mas!! My heart belongs to Kim!" (By the way, when I used the word "blind" I meant it literally. The only girls that would agree to go out with me had severe visual impairment).

Well, I knew that if there was any hope of anything ever happening God was going to have to intervene, and God finally did. It was December of 1998 and since the partners at PriceWaterhouse LLP in St. Louis were already aware that I would not stand for any more second-tier assignments, they agreed to send me to one of the most culturally-vibrant cities in the country....Gary, Indiana...the home of the one and only Michael Jackson. (By the way, did you know Gary is also the hometown of Janet Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Tito Jackson and Latoya Jackson? I mean....what are the odds that this much talent could come from one town?)

I was commissioned to audit the Indiana Water Company which was located in the heart of beautiful downtown Gary. It was the first job in which I was actually instructed to not stop at intersections and run red lights. I drove to the site only to be met by an armed security guard with a barbed wire fence surrounding the perimeter. I didn't know whether to feel relieved or disturbed that adjacent to the water company was an elementary school. Well, I mention all this because Gary, Indiana is only about 30 miles SE of Chicago, Illinois. So being the smooth operator that I am I decided to come up the weekend before and arrange some face-to-face time with my "long-distance one-in-a-million" friend. Surprisingly, she was open to the idea of hanging out. (must have been because I suggested meeting at The Cheesecake Factory)

We ended up spending the day on Michigan Avenue, having Cheesecake Factory for lunch and going up 95 floors to the Hancock Observatory. We took a picture with Santa after enjoying some stunning views of the Chicago skyline and had a great time hanging out and talking - nothing serious but I could tell she was more comfortable around me. Or so I thought. The strange thing was the following night I ended up spending the night at her cousin Bernie's house and apparently he had a conversation with Kim the previous night (after our "hangout") and she basically told him that she was very unsure about us. Huh?

Kim wearing my coat before Rejection #2
This was a mystery to me. I didn't get that sense when we were together but I couldn't make sense of any of my senses anymore. It didn't make any sense. (stop using "sense"!) I think Kim could sense...I mean picked up on my frustration and so the following month (January, 1999) she agreed to "talk about our relationship" and so I flew up and we hung out at Morton Arboretum. I asked her to pray about a relationship again and it felt like deja-vu. She agreed but very reluctantly. It was clear to me that I was forcing something that was not there - just like before. So when I got on the plane to leave Chicago, I wrote her an email saying maybe it would be best if we didn't make a commitment to pray about our relationship. I could sense that it was not something she wanted and so I thought it would be easier for her if I just went ahead and suggested it. I was saddened when she emailed me back right away saying she was so relieved and agreed wholeheartedly and thought it would be better if we were "just friends".


I guess in the back of my mind I was hoping she'd respond differently but unfortunately my hunch was correct. This was when the doubts started to really creep in. I mean, if after two years she still wasn't even open to being more than friends than maybe this was it. Time to call it quits and go on some "blind" dates. I began to seriously wonder if it would be possible for me to be friends with her and keep myself from getting hurt. After a few days of soul-searching, I realized it would not be, so I told my sister Lydia that it seemed like things were over; at least in terms of being more than friends in the future. I was very sad, but in another way I felt like for the first time, I had completely let her go. Not that I ever had her. But I let go of all my own hopes and dreams and threw them into the ocean. Kind of like in Top Gun when Tom Cruise takes Goose's dog tags and chucks them into the Pacific...yeah, just like that.

It was totally in God's hands now...

But then it happened. Exactly one week after I sent the email suggesting we stop praying about it. I get another email from Kim. It was a very long email basically saying three things:
  1. She wanted to continue talking and spending time together.
  2. She felt like God had given her enough faith to step forward and make a commitment to pray about our relationship.
  3. She thought it would be nice if we lived closer to each other.
This was without a doubt the turning point in our relationship. I didn't realize it at the time but it hit me a couple days later. The night she sent me that email saying she was willing to pray about it was February 10, 1999. That was exactly two years from the night that I first asked her to pray about it in Champaign, IL. God was working.  It took exactly two long years...but He was moving and so we began to pray...

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