Last week’s winds of change brought hurricane effects to Virginia sufficient to close schools early on Friday, which gave me some spare time to go jeans shopping in preparation for my date on Saturday. Prince Charming read my blog, and he wanted to see me again after all. Given the setting for our second encounter, I can conclude that he is, in fact, charming.
We met at a halfway point again at a shooting range. While making plans for the day, it was unclear how the weather would affect travel, but despite the ever-present rain, we fared well. Sufficed to say that spending the day together did not disappoint. Charming maintained the intellectually stimulating tone of our story swap a week earlier while reassuring me of his gentlemanly qualities.
I drove home in the dark of night with a cover of rain so thick my fingers ached from clenching the wheel by the time I pulled into my driveway an hour and a half later. The rhythmic drops on the windshield quieted my enthusiasm following the date as I sobered to full awareness. Soon after I had moved to Nashville, I hydroplaned and crashed my car into a curb. Since then, whenever I feel a flood of rain beneath my tires, I slow down, put on my flashers, and proceed with caution, focusing on the tail lights of cars ahead.
If the weather had suited my mood, it would have been sunny and seventy with blue skies… okay, go ahead and throw in a rainbow. Charming had me in the clouds above the storm such that if I weren’t looking down, there might not have been a hurricane at all. As I gripped the wheel and narrowed my eyes on tail lights, I was grateful for the distraction. A few weeks earlier, he didn’t exist. Now, I was hard pressed to stop psychoanalyzing our date conversation.
Once home at after one in the morning, I dropped myself on my writing seat on the front porch before even unlocking the front door. The same raindrop percussion that called me to alertness in the driver seat soothed away any anxiety on this perch. I watched the water stream from the roof, heard the occasional branch land on leaf-crested lawn, felt the damp of the drops through my new jeans. The focused frown was overtaken by a smile. It was a perfect date. And I wanted to remember how I felt in that moment, a way that I hadn’t felt in years, where hope was tangible if only because I felt it. So I took a selfie.
In the days that followed, Charming expressed an interest in being cautious with me. I discovered that he’s learning to fly a plane, and being cautious is most certainly a prerequisite for that task. I myself had been cautious driving through the storm, and my first instinct was to willpower my way to join him in his defensive game. A teacher friend this morning asked if she would get a giggly girl hug from me after my date, and I gave her an emphatic no, proceeding with a dismissive retort about distance and reality checks.
It wasn’t until Chuck that I had peace of mind. When he first started chatting with me at the gym, he told me he was a retired cop. I later found out he is the retired Chief of Police of Hampton. Through deep, surprisingly meaningful conversations over the elliptical, he’s ultimately become a part of my writing process. Last week, he admitted to having read my blog from start to finish because he enjoyed seeing my progress from then to now.
Today, I told him that I wasn’t going to write about Charming. He seemed disappointed, but listened as I explained that it was too new and putting so much emphasis on it might complicate things. Chuck is invested… he is, after all, the one who convinced me to wear jeans in lieu of my go-to dress and flip flops. After twenty minutes of cycled conversation, Chuck explained that the only mistake I could make would be to not be myself. He asked, “If you write genuinely, is there a chance you could jeopardize this?” I nodded. “Is it worth the risk?”
And all of a sudden the fog cleared. I looked away from Chuck’s smile to my phone and pulled up the hope selfie from a few days ago. Charming is cautious, and he should be. I’m a fan of traditional gender roles. He’s in the driver’s seat. He needs to be alert and aware and defensive. He’s navigating through an unexpected storm. I wasn’t on his radar a month ago. The winds picked up and he’s in an unfamiliar landscape. Let him focus on the road.
I, however, am not driving. I’m not a particularly cautious person. I would prefer to relish in the joy of my covered porch then brave the storm on the road. Cautious describes him. Passionate describes me. Glancing back up from my phone to Chuck’s still-grinning face, I knew then that if the urge descended to write about Charming, I would not be my own writer’s block.
Chuck might well be one of the hope-restoring forces most impacting me these days. He uses stories of his wife, his son, his time on the force, and his own school days to illustrate little life lessons perfectly constructed over the course of a workout. He could publish an inspirational column. I recently discovered he was a believer, and that further broadened the scope of his ability to advise me. Some days he’ll direct me to a song lyric or a video, other days it’s his life anecdotes, and one day he even brought me a book.
Though an unlikely friend, Chuck emerged at a time in my life where I appreciate the wisdom and perspective. He said he was drawn to me because he sensed I was genuine. To preserve the authenticity of writing nights, I have to sit down in this very spot and write whatever I’m led to in that moment. That’s where I’m most genuine, unplanned and raw.
I understand Charming’s need to be cautious. I remember the moment when my car careened through water on the streets of Nashville, and I am careful to avoid that. I also remember that moment after our date, right here, where I felt a hope that comes from another quality that defines me – my passion.
Don’t worry, I’m still in love with fall. The vanilla pumpkin air freshener greets me at the front door and my country apple bottle spray keeps my lover close to my skin. When I feel, I feel deep. When I hurt, I hurt deep. And there are so many hardships that I get my fill of that without trying.
But the joy, the excitement, the hope, the passion. You have to capture those moments. They’re precious. It’s not about Charming. I may never see him again, and though that would be a disappointment, it wouldn’t change the face in that selfie.