Ten years ago, on one cool August night, it looked like someone sprayed the sky with jet black ink. Everything pitch black sans the sparkly stars dotted across the canvas like silky pearls. It was perfect outside. Inside, it was much the same. I was a ripe sixteen years old then, spending a lazy Saturday night with some family friends at their giant two story house. Popping in I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, the lot of us enjoyed the atmosphere and took in the ambiance of the whole evening. It was an absolutely breathtaking night
The sort of night that never leaves your memory
10 summers later, I've had a summer that is just as memorable as that one night... spread out over three months. It wasn't without some heartaches, but for the most part, it was amazing. It's a summer I will look back on ten years from now and no doubt note as one of the most important summers of my life. Yes, Bryan Adams, it was indeed the summer of '09
I apologize for not updating RVGFANATIC in over three months. I've been kept busy this past summer, meeting not just new friends, but new LIFELONG friends, learning a lot more about myself, and just plain enjoying this season of singleness. It's a long story that all started on May 30th, but before then, the seed was planted for the events to come. Let's rewind a bit
DAYS OF TURMOIL (AKA FIRST HALF OF 2009)
In the early parts of 2009, I was involved in a very close-knit group of four. Myself, my cousin Mike, and two out-of-state girls (dorm mates), Teri and Tammy. It started out as a great time. We chatted every night for 3, 4 hours. Webcam chats, two hour phone calls, three-ways, four- ways... it was an absolute blast
But secrets got out, things happened, and while I certainly accept my share of the blame, I also know I wasn't the only one who could have handled things better. The others, however, took no responsibility whatsoever for their own actions, instead choosing to dump everything that went wrong at my feet. I was the heavy. They ganged up on me and basically booted me off the island
For nights in late March and April, I struggled with this sudden change. I felt very lonely and the chat and humor-filled nights suddenly became very quiet, so quiet I could hear myself blinking in the darkness. Those weren't happy days, needless to say. I was in a mental wreck, and I was just getting through those days. Not really living life, JUST GETTING THROUGH
I did not turn to drugs (never did a drug in my life) or alcohol (only a very light social drinker), but I was just sort of floating around. I didn't wake up with the same kind of joy as I did earlier. The scenario of whatwent wrong, why and when replayed through my mind like a charging freight train with no brakes in sight. Where was the silver lining?
March-April '09 were some dark daysand nights
I still remember the 70 minute phone call on March 26, 2009, where Tammy and I had our final words. She was accusing and blaming everything on me while I tried, in vain, to show her my side of the situation
She wasn't having it though, threatened me and ended the 70 minute call with these piercing words: "You're an asshole. I hope your future is... rosy"*click*
It was the first and only time in my life that anybody ever called me an asshole. Ask anyone who knows me to describe me with one word... the last word you'd hear is "asshole" (well, so long as you don't ask Tammy!)
I remember after she hung up, I was still pressing the cell phone to my ear like somebody sitting silently and solemnly through the end credits of a sad movie
And it was the end
Of that era, anyway
I could hardly believe her final words. It lingered on my mind, refusing to exit like a moldy worm buried deep under the scalp. Disgusting, ain't it? And that's how I felt about the whole ordeal: disgusted, frustrated, confused, disappointed, and any other negative emotion you could cite
So yes, it wasn't a pretty breakup. Yeah, she lived far away and we had yet to meet, but we grew very close nonetheless. I also lost my ties pretty much with Teri and my cousin Mike all at once. From never-ending entertaining chat nights to complete silence... all in a single stroke
NEW GIRL (IN TOWN)
In early May, something interesting happened. In April I joined a dating service just trying to have some fun again. Hell, who knows, might meet somebody
And sure enough, I did. However, she didn't want to meet me, per se
Julie messaged me and wanted to meet my friend, Tom. Y'see, in one of my extra photos, one of them has a guy friend in it (Tom) who she found to be very handsome. I told Tom about this Julie girl, showed him her page and while he didn't find her to be his type, hey, a date can't hurt, right?
But Julie was too shy to meet Tom up one on one, so she requested a double date. She'd bring her sister along so I'd have someone to hang with. Now here's the problem, I found Julie to be pretty attractive. I didn't want to cross my boundaries. Julie asked me private questions about Tom. This time, I refused to be the middle man as I was with Mike and Teri. I learned that lesson already... or had I?
The double date was an interesting night. Her sister was touching me a lot (too bad I found her to be unattractive), Julie was trying to woo Tom, but it all went bad when at the end of dinner, Julie asked Tom if we could party at his house that same night. Tom is a conservative guy while Julie is more of a crazy party girl type. Tom declined, saying he was tired. This turned her off and she called me later that night to bitch about him. Long story short, she asked me if he liked her back or not. Would I keep my silent vow to not be the middle man again?
I refused to answer her, but then she said "Come on, if he's not into me, tell me now so I won't set up a 2nd date and waste my time or his"
Hook, line, sucker
So I told her he only saw her as a friend. Later on she asked me if *I* liked her at all. I decided to be honest and said, "Yes, I do find you attractive." Then she went into this bitch rage talking about how she can't trust me, how could she know I'm not making it all up so that she may forget about him, etc.
It was an ugly mess and she basically blew up at me. Later, she and Tom talked one on one and he told her exactly what I had already. She blew up at him, too. Go figure
Well, so much for that. For a while there, Julie and I were talking online quite a bit, and one night we even talked about life for two hours on the phone from 1 to 3 AM. It honestly reminded me a lot of Tammy (and how much I liked her)... I was starting to feel high again
And so much for that huh
So now, in as many months, I not only severed ties with Mike, Teri and Tammy, but now Julie too. I was starting to question my own self-worth. How could I destroy four relationships which all seemed so strong at one point? I thought with Julie it was my second shot at redemption, so to speak. They say life is the same situation repeating itself many times over, just in a new pair of pants. And that we take the same courses over and over again until we ace it. The Julie situation was quite eerily similar to Mike-Teri-Tammy. Alas, however much percent of fault I had in the Julie case, bottom line was I failed. I thought for a while there I was going to be lifted from out of the shadows... only to come crashing right back down
And then, it was the night that changed my summer, changed MY LIFE...
MAY 30, 2009
Saturday night. I was meeting up with Jane, a friend I had met three years earlier at a mutual friend's wedding. We sat at the same table and exchanged emails that night. We kept in touch over the years, but one night in mid-May it hit me I hadn't seen her in nearly three years. That same wedding night back in 2006 I went with my old high school bud Eddie (same Eddie and wedding experience as documented in Jessie's Girl). I emailed Jane, asking her to hang out with me and Eddie again for a semi-reunion of sorts. We agreed on May 30th
To be honest with you, while I was looking forward to this night (I hadn't seen Jane as I said in nearly three years, and Eddie, a half year; not since his 26th Birthday party in December), I also had the feeling it would be, in the grand scheme of things, ultimately forgettable. You know what I'm talking about. You meet up with some friends you hadn't seen in a while. You eat. You drink. You catch up. You laugh a bit. You reminisce. You project. And then come the inevitable "Take care's" at evening's end and, let's face it, you probably won't see each other for another six to 12 months, maybe more, or maybe even never
Little did I know, that night would change EVERYTHING
Jane brought a guy friend, Bryan. Eddie brought his girlfriend, Stacy. It was the five of us. We started out with bowling, and I bowled a career and game best 108. We all bowled well (by our own standards that is), all of us bowling at least 95. I was never much of a bowler as you can see (by that 72 score I got in another game), but 108 that night.... wheeeew-wee! it was JUST that kind of night!
Then we went to the mall to buy tickets to DRAG ME TO HELL. Jane and Bryan however did not want to see it as they hated horror movies. Instead, they bought tickets to UP. We met again in the food court. Before Jane and Bryan ate, they bowed their heads and said a prayer. I thought to myself, "Huh?" Mind you, I had never seen anyone say grace right in front of me before
Jane then told me about her friend Kristina coming. Minutes later, I see these two girls walking to our table. The one in front is tall, but I hardly notice her. For once I saw the girl trailing her, my heart fluttered (as corny as it sounds, it really did) and time seemed to slow down. She was like an angel, as terribly cliché as that is
"Hi, I'm Kristina"
"Hi, I'm Steven"
"Hello, I'm Linda"
Linda... it was infatuation at first sight
"Jane, UP is sold out!" Kristina bellowed
"Oh don't worry, we have an extra ticket for you," Jane replied
On cue, Bryan whipped it out of his jacket pocket like he had practiced it a hundred times before. The dark shades the only thing missing
"But... we had no idea your sister Linda was coming too," he said
I looked at Linda. She didn't seem to know what to do now. That's when the idea came to me swiftly and naturally
"Hey Linda, wanna join me, Eddie and Stacy to go see DRAG ME TO HELL?"
She had no idea what it was, so I told her it was a horror movie. When Jane told me uh oh that wasn't wise since Linda hates horror movies, I put on my best salesman suit and started pitching the movie to her from a different angle, talking about what a good plot it has, great acting and the whole nine. Eddie, being the good friend that he was, jumped in and lended me a hand. Linda, flashing us a half-smile, one half unsure and the other amused at our efforts, gave in
It was now 9:50 and both movies were playing at 10. The mall was just about abandoned by now, and we found ourselves the only ones left, power walking to the exit and to the nearby theatre. It was such a high. Here we were, Linda and I had barely known each other for 20 minutes, and now we're seeing a movie together. It was all so very spontaneous, thrilling and amazing how everything came together
The mall had become a GHOST TOWN...
I found out that she just came back from spending a year over in Kansas City of all places. We laughed, smiled... there seemed to be a connection... a spark... a vibe [... maybe gas? -Ed.]
Sitting next to each other during the movie, we shared the same arm rest and whenever she jumped (at least a dozen times) she damn near tackled me half the bloody time
After the movie the lot of us went to shoot some pool until 2 in the morning. At the end of the night Linda and I exchanged contact information and the very next week, we had our first date
JUNE 5, 2009
I wanted to make it up (pardon the pun) to her by taking her to see UP, the movie she originally wanted to see. My treat. So we agreed to meet at a local mall at 8 PM. However, she came two (yes, TWO) hours late when her friend's graduation started and ended later than scheduled. To make matters even more unusual, when she arrived in the parking lot, she accidentally locked her keys in her car!
Luckily, she had her cell phone on her so she was able to call me and I rushed out to the parking lot immediately. We waited for AAA to come. We could no longer see UP so we saw LAND OF THE LOST instead
What should have been a simple 1st date turned out to be full of surprises and oddities. Hey, at least it was memorable. I set up a 2nd date for the very next week before we said good night
My friends often asked me what the hell I did during those two hours. It really wasn't so bad. I walked around my old favorite mall from my childhood, partly reminiscing and the other part anticipating Linda's arrival, and I called no less than SEVEN friends, playing catch up, during those two hours. And then I got to spend the evening with Linda. All in all, I could think of worse things to do on a Friday night!
Enjoying the sweet sights of my old favorite childhood mall
JUNE 12, 2009
This time things went as planned. We played miniature golf to which she beat me 64 to 66 (and I was trying!), had a nice dinner and then we finally saw UP. I wanted to make a move or tell her that I liked her, but I never could muster up the courage or find the 'right moment' to do so. I played it slow, partly because she herself is a conservative girl. At any rate, it was a good night
Oh, I found out tonight that she's a Christian. She said grace before dinner, and I asked her about it. I always laugh to myself, even to this day still, thinking about how... for our very 1st meeting I dragged a devoted Christian to a movie called DRAG ME TO HELL when the other movie choice was UP (as in Heaven)... *chuckles* [*sigh* -Ed.]
JUNE 18, 2009
We met so I could help her with her resumé. Then we had an impromptu dinner and talked about life. I felt a deeper connection with her than ever before. On our last date, I wanted to pick her up, but she preferred to meet up at the mall. Well, during dinner on this night I told her the reason why I wanted to pick her up was because I wanted her to be the 1st guest of honor inside my brand new car. She was flattered to hear this, nodding, smiling, and going "OHHHHHH"
She had a job interview the very next day, and I offered to say grace before we ate. I simply said, "Dear God, thank you for this meal and I hope Linda wins the job tomorrow." Linda flashed me a big smile and said "That was good!" It was my first time ever saying grace in my life
After dinner I asked if she would like to sit in my car for a while, that no one had yet been inside. She climbed in and we talked some more. I still was unable to tell her how I truly felt, however. We parted ways and as I drove home on the freeway that night, I began thinking more and more about Christianity... about how... if she and I are to work long term, I would have to either convert or at least be open about it...
COUPLE DAYS LATER
Ironically, things happen in life in mysterious ways. Calling Linda to ask her out again, she said she would be busy all next weekend. Then she invited me to church. I was caught off guard yet I wasn't really at the same time... much like someone expecting the worst, hoping for the best but hearing something in-between
I accepted her invitation and for the first time in all my life, I was going to church
JUNE 28, 2009
I sat in the lobby outside waiting for her. I remember watching the crowd of people and families gathering, forming, and chatting. A sea of humanity it was. People were enjoying refreshments, laughter and stories. I can also remember thinking to myself as I was sitting there, "Wow, how did I wind up here... to church after 25+ years? Do I know what I'm getting myself into?" I was feeling both excited and ever so cautious
Linda then came with her family, holding onto the hands of her younger siblings. I noted right away how she seemed to be good with children. That's always a good quality for a woman to have, I thought to myself. We greeted and she walked me in
Service was nice. I enjoyed the message. It wasn't overly preachy and I didn't find it dull one bit... it was nothing like how movies or TV shows usually stereotype church sermons to be (especially The Simpsons, lol). In fact, I rather enjoyed it. After service I was expecting to hit the dusty road when I stood up to leave and Stephanie, one of Linda's church friends, asked me to join them for lunch. So much for getting the heck outta dodge, eh?
I'll just have a quick lunch with them, I thought. It was a group of 15 to 20 people. Hey, this is her group after all. Might as well get to know them a bit, too, eh? A quick lunch never hurt anybody, right?
After a "quick" hour lunch, we went to see Transformers 2
After that we went to play tennis
After tennis we went to eat dinner
I finally got home at the witching hour. I was out with Linda and her church friends from 11 AM to 12 midnight. Good God huh! So much for a quick and early day...
JULY 5, 2009
2nd week of sermon for me, the Pastor speaking today was a mainstay, and he oddly looked like one my dad's friends from my childhood. An instant bond, however "artificial" it may have been, was created in my mind
The day before, I spent 4th of July with Linda and her church friends. We went on this grand old hill overlooking the many cities and enjoyed the firework shows. The day before that we had a BBQ party at one of the girls' place. They were very nice people, very welcoming. No pressure, just good people networking and connecting (who all happen to love God)
By now Linda's church friends had become MY friends too
But back to second sermon. The pastor at one point looked directly at me and uttered one magical, heart-changing word. Yes, he looked directly at me, as if he purposely singled me out of the crowd, to speak to my heart with one simple yet powerful word: FORGIVENESS
Right away I thought of my cousin Mike, Teri and Tammy... that whole situation, and I forgave them as well as MYSELF. For the things I did wrong, they did wrong, and the things I could have handled better myself. Right then and there, tears came streaming down my face. And I felt this sensation rushing through my body. I have no doubt it was the Holy Spirit. That's the moment I acknowledge as the moment I first found God
A NEW JOURNEY
A week later, I officially became a Christian. As I embarked on this new journey, I strengthened my friendship with an old colleague, Joe, whom I met in 2003. We were in the same major, as well as the same grad program five years later. I can still remember Joe inviting me to church one day in 2004, but I declined. I remember I wasn't busy that day whatsoever, but I had the "worldly stereotypical" outlook of church: BLAH. And I recall feeling guilty about saying no. I told Joe about this on one of our hikes, and he laughed. I know Joe was the first seed planted by God. Meeting Jane at the wedding in 2006 was the second seed, and the breakthrough third seed was no doubt Linda. I told Joe all about Linda on our hike, and I joked him, "See, I didn't accept your church invitation coz you weren't cute enough!" Our laughter reverberated through the valley
I have met so many wonderful people and new lifelong friends. And of course, I found God and Jesus Christ. I have already been blessed in many ways by the good Lord... including surviving an accident on the freeway that could have easily taken my life. Alas, the good Lord had other plans for me, His purpose for my life is yet to come...
As for what happened between me and Linda...
JULY 18, 2009
It had been a month since Linda and I had a 1-on-1. Finally, on this beautiful Saturday summer late afternoon, we had our 4th date. After I got home from work, I cleaned up and waited for her to arrive at 5 PM. I had prepared a card that I had written for her, and I can remember anxiously waiting and glancing at my phone, waiting for her name to pop up on the small screen
After she arrived, I drove her to a town an hour away. On the agenda: Dinner and a play. We had a wonderful conversation during dinner, and we both enjoyed the play tremendously. I walked her to my car at the end of the night and gave her the card. Maybe a little corny, but the end line was "I will forever be grateful that you led me to God, and that God led me to you"
She was flattered, thanked me for the nice card and said "I'll keep this" as she stored it in her purse. Here I was thinking, "Shoooot, you had better!"
I wanted to tell her how I felt about her, but I choked. Instead, I pulled us out of the parking lot, onto that dark freeway, and we drove home talking for an hour
I remember kicking myself that night, wondering where my balls went. I decided next time I get her 1-on-1, I was gonna tell her. Enough is enough, it's time to man up, Steve-O!
But praise God, for what a beautiful night that night truly was, truth or no truth. I will always remember it fondly. We both dressed up a bit for the formal dinner and play, and it was just a really good time
ONE WEEK LATER...
I joined my brothers and sisters from church for lunch one day. They asked me where I wanted to eat. I was a bit taken back by them coming to me. Linda asked if I had a preference, and I was like, "Uh... anywhere is fine, really..."
Wherever we go to eat, restaurant owners and workers cheer and groan alike. You see, that day we had a group of no less than 30! And after lunch was over, that's when I heard it...
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU...." everyone began to sing
I looked around like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. NO FREAKIN' WAY... a surprise Birthday party for ME?!
I swore it was for someone else, as my Birthday wasn't until the next day, plus I was so new to the group that this type of connection wasn't yet established, but sure enough, I heard it:
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR STEVEN...."
They were recording me with a camera and all cheering. "Make a wish!" one of my church sisters shouted. I closed my eyes, blew the candles out and thanked everyone for their thoughtfulness. Here I was, a newbie to the group, this was the last thing on my mind. It really made me feel like I was part of the family. It was unbelievable
The next day, my 26th Birthday, Linda and I had plans to go hiking at 6:30 AM. I decided there was no better time than on my big day to tell her the truth at long last. So... what happened?
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH ARRIVES
After hiking, we drove back to her house and I found myself alone with her in the kitchen at 8:30 in the morning. We chit-chatted for a while and then, I forced the words out of my mouth I had been longing to utter since the dawn of time ['Bout frickin' time! -Ed.]
"Hey Linda, you remember how I once said 'No longer can we delay what must be done today?' Well, I need to take my own advice. I like you. And have so from day one"
Her reply wasn't the one I was looking for... she saw me as a good friend she said, and we went into a 20 minute conversation about everything. She didn't see the four 1-on-1's as dates, but rather as two friends hanging out 1-on-1 [DAMN! -Simmons]
[... DAMN! -Ed.]
I drove home that morning in sort of a daze. I was exhausted from the hike, and the girl of my dreams supposedly, just told me the dreaded "friends" word. What a way to start off a Birthday
In the past, I would take quite some time to get over a girl. With Linda, honestly, it took about 24 hours. Matthew 5:4 states those who mourn, will be comforted. That night I had a talk with the big guy upstairs. I mourned. The next morning I woke up with amazing clarity, and treated my visiting cousins from Paris out to some local attractions. The disappointing words of Linda no longer pierced my heart. Miraculously, I understood overnight that this was part of His plan for me. The power and love of Jesus Christ gave me a whole new outlook on circumstances, and on life. Linda wasn't the one, and if someone isn't the one, why would you want to be with that person? Sometimes the wrong person has to get out of the way for us to find the RIGHT person
Looking back, I do see why things happened as they did. I no longer regret or think sadly of the Mike-Teri-Tammy situation. I had to learn that harsh lesson and because of it, it helped led me to God. If the four of us were still close, I don't think I ever would have reached out to Jane. And had I not done that, I never would have met Linda. And if I never met Linda, I never would have found the big guy. Yes, I did go to church initially to see if I could fit into her world, but the 2nd week on, I went to church for the right reasons... to develop my relationship with God. He reaches out to us in different ways. It's not about HOW you get there, but WHAT you do once you get there that matters most. I'm having a great time connecting with my brothers and sisters, and continually developing my relationship with Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Father. Praise the Lord! "So Father, lemme share something with you...."
It's been an amazing summer. The first half of 2009 was quite rocky, but this past summer changed my life for the better. I grew up a lot, though I still have plenty more to do. I learned many invaluable lessons. For instance, for as long as I can possibly remember, I love helping people out and trying to "save" people, even. I realized that I can't be anyone's savior. Only Jesus Christ can do that. Only he can do that. I am responsible TO people, not FOR people. I learned this the hard way, but praise God that I finally learned it now and not later. On a lighter note, I also learned you shouldn't wait two months to tell someone you like them when you are sure you're crazy about that person and you feel they might like ya back. In other words, you gotta take risks and not be afraid of failing. Sounds like such simple lessons that all of us KNOW, but how many of us actually APPLY on a regular basis? Myself, I'm trying. It's a struggle. I can't do it alone. I know I need God's help and love to guide and protect me along the way
And finally, I found my salvation. The Lord indeed works in mysterious ways. Just gotta believe. To my fellow brothers and sisters out there who may be reading this, I encourage you to keep walking, and to keep your faith alive and well. May you all be eternally blessed. To those who aren't (yet) in the Kingdom... if you are suffering from heartache, depression of whatever kind, I especially urge you to just go to a service and keep an open mind and heart. Who knows, it *JUST* might do wonders for you like it did for me... come for the healing, stay for the love
I will always remember the summer of 2009 with a deep fondness and a child-like sense of awe. It indeed was a summer of discovery and recovery
Here is my favorite Christian song by the way, TILL I SEE YOU
Why is it my favorite? It just really speaks to me, I always get goosebumps when I hear it and when my fellowship group and I sing it. Great message, great melody, great meaning