My awesome moment of feeling fun, free, and lighthearted about the whole situation fleeted as soon as I realized that our time together was drawing very short, he was planning on leaving in the morning, and we hadn't talked squarely about what was going on between us or where to go next. I channeled that uncertainty (in classic Bethany style) through feeling pressure to say and do the right thing, and I had no idea what that was in the moment. My greatest fear was that he was about to ask me to be his girlfriend, and even though I wasn't ready to say yes to that, I really didn't want this process of getting acquainted to end. I could feel the conversation coming soon, and I was right.
After walking a couple of laps around the park, Tim piped up:
"I know this is kind of early, but I really like you. And I'd love it if you came up to Chicago to visit and meet my friends and my brother sometime."
To which I replied:
I know this was awful. But it was the only honest reply I could give right then. He looked confused. Of course he was confused, he had asked me an important question and I had completely thwarted his answer.
"I'm so glad you came down here, Tim. It really means a lot to me that you were willing to go through all this work so we could get to know each other in person."
"Yeah, of course. I knew if I didn't come now, I wouldn't have the chance for the next couple of months and the emails would fizzle out before then. I wanted to give this a good shot."
He was so straightforward. Clear-thinking. Decisive. And my thoughts were all half-baked and soggy.
"I had a lot of fun today."
"I did too. It's too bad I have to leave in the morning."
"What time do you have to leave?"
"Well, don't you have to be at work by 9?"
"Well, yeah, usually...but I took a personal day so I don't have to go in tomorrow."
"Really? You don't have to go in at all?"
"Very nice! My flight to France is on Tuesday afternoon, and I haven't done any Christmas shopping for my family yet, so I better be back in Chicago by tomorrow night."
"So we have until around noon tomorrow."
Taking the personal day was my little insurance plan for giving us more time together: if we didn't like each other, I was just going to tell him I had to be at work and then he'd have to leave early the next morning. But that wasn't the case, and it was a good time to tell him we could have the next morning together. It's okay to
Maybe the conversational tangent about having until the next morning distracted him, or maybe he was encouraged by knowing that I was enjoying myself with him, but either way he didn't bring up the unanswered question of whether or not I would come visit him and I was grateful to have some more time to think about it. We still had one more hurdle to conquer that evening: meeting all of my friends.
My church in Kansas City was the heartbeat of my social life. Most of my friends attended the Sunday night service and I never missed. I was excited to see what Tim thought of it and wanted to introduce him to all of my people. I had told a few of my closest girlfriends the unfolding story of our initial contact online and they were eager to meet him in person. Everyone got the same line:
"This is my friend Tim. He's visiting from Chicago."
Most everyone glided right passed this and asked all the normal "what do you do" and "where are you from" questions followed by the "great to meet you, gotta run!"
A couple of others who weren't in the know shook his hand while giving me a look that said "male visitor from out of town? this is interesting."
It was important to me for Tim to see that part of my life, and after I'd had some more time to think about it, I decided I did want to make a trip to Chicago to meet his friends and see his life out there. Unfortunately, I forgot to actually tell him this.