I had an early morning flight into O'Hare and a window seat. We started our descent into the city and my first ever glimpse of Chicago literally took my breath away.
She was so beautiful and snowy. The morning light was gentle and I felt like I was about to land in the Celestial City from the Pilgrim's Progress. Or something.
My plane arrived a full thirty minutes early, so I went to the ladies' room and tried to get a grip on my nerves. Pessimism felt more comfortable than hope. As much as I liked Tim and couldn't wait to see him, he still wasn't entirely safe to me because of all the unknowns and I needed to put on a little bit of steel beneath the surface to handle the beginning of another few days together.
I walked out into the baggage claim and a thousand people were milling around, knowing where they were going. I didn't know where I was going, but soon enough I found Tim waiting for me. He was facing another arrival gate, so I walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. I'm sure we hugged and smiled or something, but I mostly remember instinctively reaching for his hand because I needed some kind of guidance and reassurance that he was going to take care of me in this strange city.
Of course, I immediately remembered that he had already established that fact...to my parents.
A week beforehand, I was at work when I got a call from my mom:
"Tim just called us at home! Dad's talking to him right now!"
"What?! How did he get your number?"
Keep in mind that I had never opened the lines of communication between Tim and my parents. They each knew about each other, but they didn't know each other.
"I don't know, but I picked up the phone when he called and he introduced himself and said that he just wanted to let us know that he was going to take good care of you when you go up to see him next week. He wanted us to have his phone number and know what you guys are going to be doing and where you're going to be staying."
I was in shock. And I knew my parents were positively LOVING this.
"What are he and Dad talking about?"
"Oh, now they're talking about Moody and France and stuff."
"Let me listen!!"
So my mom and I sneakily listened in on my dad's side of the conversation. He sounded positively jaunty, like he was talking with an old friend that he went to school with or something.
"That's just really impressive, Bethy. It means a lot that he would call and talk to us."
My mom's voice rang in my ears as I watched Tim heave my suitcase off the conveyor belt and wheel it back over to me. I took his hand again and we walked out of the airport into the cold parking garage.
He had wanted to make it explicitly clear that he did not plan to take advantage of me as soon as I got on his turf. He planned on showing me the best sites in Chicago, introducing me to his friends, and he had prepared my sleeping arrangement to either be in the same room with his brother's fiancee who would also be visiting or at another (female) friend's apartment down the street if her plans got cancelled. My parents felt honored to be included in our plans. He was winning on every front, and I started to relax as we drove out of the airport grounds.
We did so much that first day.
Ogilvie and Grand Central Stations, Millenium Park, Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Cultural Center, ice skating...it was a really terrific melange of perfect dates.
After lunch, when we were walking to our next activity, Tim complemented me on my boots. I had been waiting for this complement because I had just spent more money on those boots than I had ever spent on any singular piece of clothing I'd ever owned, so he did good to notice.
Then he said; "My girlfriend's got style."
To which I challenged: "Your girlfriend?"
He hadn't cleared this role definition with me.
"Bethany, do you know what a DTR is?"
Of course I knew what a DTR is. I grew up in Christian circle too. A DTR is a conversation to Define The Relationship. It usually happens at a Starbucks or some other common ground and there are always sweaty palms involved. A DTR rarely goes well for both parties, because one party either doesn't want the conversation to happen or they desperately do want the conversation to happen and will come out on the losing end. DTRs are painful and awkward and everyone hates them but some people think you just have to have them. I used to be one of those people.
"Yes, I know what a DTR is."
"Great. Let's skip it."
I was surprised, and then a second later I was delighted. I wanted to be his girlfriend and I wanted him to be my boyfriend and I didn't want to have to dish up all the stray feelings packed around and hanging loose from that desire. We just skipped it.