Aaron rolls onto his stomach, punches his left arm under his pillow, and begins to fade. I roll to my right side, bend one knee and breathe, settling in for what I’ve dubbed as quiet time, but might actually be a mild form of insomnia. And tonight’s topic of self-conversation is my five-year anniversary, which dawns tomorrow. As I’m musing, Aaron shifts in his almost-sleep and slides his hand over my right shoulder and strokes my braid away from my neck almost as an answer to my reflective thoughts. I rest my left hand on my left shoulder and lock my fingers with his as he drifts off completely. The unusual hand-hold launches me into a memory and I inwardly chuckle at the irony.
I was eighteen and three weeks out of high school. To celebrate our independence, two of my girlfriends from home and I went and did exactly what we would have done at home: we found a dance party. About half an hour in I figured I should break away from my pack and meet a guy. The heavy music forced condensed pleasantries:
“Hey—Andi!” I pointed to myself, knowing from experience that repeating Andilyn seven times and finally conceding defeat gives me a sore throat.
“Air-ih!” he pointed to himself. “Where’re you from?”
I could have asked him to repeat his name, but I wasn’t interested in giving him a sore throat. He would have saved himself a lot of time then if he would have asked for my number; although, I doubt I would have given it to him. I had seen enough movies about college to know that twenty-year-old boys are predators, so I put him in the possibly creepy category and made my way back to my pack after the song. Poor Eric.
Three days of tireless Facebook searching/stalking later, I received a message and a friend request from Aaron Jenkins.
“Hey, Andi. I don’t know if you remember me, but we met at the dance at the flight museum. . .” The rest of his message that he undoubtedly spent hours trying to word perfectly escapes my memory now.
Aaron Jenkins . . . nope. I didn’t remember him. But he certainly went out of his way to track me down, so I figured lying would be the polite thing to do.
“Hey, Aaron! No, of course I remember you! Hey I’m having some peeps over at my apartment to watch Disturbia on Wednesday (tomorrow) at 7:30. Hope you can come. I’m at the Ridge.” I wrote my reply in thirty seconds.
So curiosity had me. I didn’t recognize his profile pic, and there would be a lot of people at the movie-night—a good chance to check him out. He would spend the next 24 hours desperately trying to find a wing-man, coming up short, and debating whether or not I was hoping he would come alone.
7:32 p.m. on Wednesday night found me sitting on our kitchen table, shoving a hot dog in my mouth before “people” got there. A young man walked in the open front door and I was face-to-face with creepy-Eric. But, I didn’t invite Eric. And slowly the shouted, “Air-ih!” rolled in my mind, and I realized I hadn’t lied after all. I definitely remembered him.
“Hey, Aaron!” came my roommate from behind me.
“Hey, Kaylin.” They hugged and began asking the “how-are-yous.”
“So what are you doing here?” Kaylin asked.
“Oh, well, I met Andi the other night, and she invited me,” he replied, bringing me into the conversation with a cozy smile. I studied him, contrasting my previous opinion of him as much as the black lights and strobes of the dance party contrasted my apartment’s steady fluorescent. Standing, I would only have reached slightly above his shoulders. Even in my highest heels, I would still be shorter than him. He had strong arms and big, steady hands with long fingers. And our skin color and complexions were almost indistinguishable, which meant he, too, probably had three bottles of sunscreen and aloe in his bathroom cabinet. His comfortable, striking smile pulled for my attention, and I complied.
“So how do you two know each other?” I asked.
“Oh, Aaron sang in an acapella group with my older brother in high school.”
I might have swooned. “Oh, what part do you sing?”
“Baritone and bass.”
I played it cool, “Sweet.”
At this point, Spencer arrived, a boy from my English class, and it suddenly became clear to me that both of these guests hoped I had invited them as more than friends. Aaron became cautious and pulled Kaylin in for conversation again, trying to judge my relationship with Spencer, and I cursed my naivety for inviting two boys stag. Tonight, one would go home a loser. And I now had to give Aaron the sign that he was not the loser without rubbing his victory in Spencer’s face. College was hard.
After the rest of the party showed
up, I directed everyone to the couches while I took my time putting in the DVD. Spencer had an open seat next to him when I finished. Aaron did not. But Aaron’s seat was right in front of the TV, so I sat on the floor next to his legs, leaning against the arm of the couch, saying I’d have more room to spread out. Spencer sprung over and joined me, resting his hand between us. I glanced down, surprised I didn’t see, “Hold me,” written on his open palm.
When the suspense escalated, I sat up, brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my fingers in my pixie-cut hair at the nape of my neck. Spencer stayed lying on his back, conceding defeat. Then I felt Aaron’s fingers lightly brush mine. I thought about pulling away to save face for Spencer but worried that Aaron would take it as a rejection. So hoping my fingers were sufficiently blocked by my head, I reached my right hand over my right shoulder and locked my fingers with his, effectively setting off a roller coaster that would lead us to the eve of our five-year wedding anniversary, fingers locked over my shoulder.