Friday, May 12, 2017

Utilize Your Inner Dork, Live a Little

Interesting how the smallest of decisions, gestures really, can turn your whole world on it's head. They blindside you with an avalanche of happiness, joy, pain, frustration, anxiety and a reminder that it is never the wrong time to test the waters of what might be.

It was the summer of 2014, I have been working at the library for about seventeen months. What's interesting at the library is the amount of people you meet who eventually, and very quickly, get comfortable and accept you as a friend and confidant. We may just be their book or DVD connoisseur, but that qualifies you - in their minds - as an almost neighbor-like position in their world.

Some folks you see everyday, but only recognize faces (there are hundreds). These are the patrons who use the self checkout terminals and only require varying human assistance. You know who they are, but don't really know them. This makes for great people watching. It allows you to wonder, think and casually daydream about who they are, what they are about, their struggles, their wants and needs. You live vicariously through them with your minds eye's version of what their life is like.

Found this by accident, makes me feel old. This is/was
typical 80s.  I remember this movie well.
One in particular I only casually noticed every couple of days or weeks or so. She was tall, slender, short brown hair with a reddish tint, dark rimmed glasses and kept to herself. The kind of person who simply blended in unless you were looking for them specifically. Whenever I saw her - which was rarely as she seemed to stealthily make her way in and out without so much as a peep or out of the ordinary glance - she sparked my interest and curiosity. Jokingly, I thought I should one day simply stop her in mid routine and talk to her before she quickly vanished yet again. Nevertheless, I kept to my library work routine - though my interest was burgeoning.

She looked younger than I, but pushing 39 at the time I had discovered it was getting harder to judge ages. I thought her to be on cusp of that way-to-young/maybe-not-that-much-younger demarcation line - whatever that might be for you. It was simply my mind wandering as I went about my day job.

One warm, sunny mid-July day - the 14th I think it was - the cute mystery girl made her way into the library again. Being a less than busy day, you tend to notice everyone who comes in. Also, since it was an incredibly nice day we had been staring out the windows and plate glass doors with envy, wishing we, too, were enjoying the great weather. So, you couldn't be missed by our wandering eyes.

The tall, bespectacled girl went about browsing books, but with what seemed to be a little less determination today. She grabbed a few things, but then made a detour to browse the stacks of new books. This may not have been something new for her, but I had never before seen her long enough to be sure. My curiosity got the best of me and - too - I was a little bored with the slow day at the library, so I plotted a way to talk to her. With no real intention, I just wanted to challenge myself.

I didn't have to be some weird, enamored admirer. Rather, I could simply utilize the ruse of asking a basic library customer service question. I had no plans to ask for a phone number, for her name or twitter handle - I just wanted to put a voice and snippet of personality with the girl my imagination had been constructing. Biting the bullet and using the confidence of "I'm just doing my job", I took a deep breath and strolled out from behind the service desk and into the unknown.

I casually saunter over to the new book shelves and glance intently at each level - utilizing the premise of making sure the books were in the correct order and in the appropriate location was only slightly false. I did this everyday anyway, but it was not my purpose at this point in time. Slowly making my way in her direction, I get close enough to not seem like a creeper - but not so far away that It looked like I was preparing to defend myself or run in the opposite direction. Then, in my best customer service persona, I make contact.

The Triple Threat, that's me.
"Mrs....?", she turns her head slightly towards me, "Is there something I can help you find?"

"No, I'm just looking. Thanks."

"Well, let me know if you do.", and I walk around the shelves smiling ear-to-ear and giving myself a fist bump in my mind - yeaahhh, I killed it.

Headed back to the desk, all proud of myself, I couldn't help but notice she was much more attractive than previously thought. She left the library moments later and I spend the rest of the day basking in the glow of my super cool high school-like move. She had to be impressed, despite the fact she was unaware of what was really going on....

...then again, my ulterior motives were trumped just hours later.

My work day ended at 6pm and once home I begin unwinding, along with turning my phone back on (I have it off at work - while on the desk - so as not to be a distraction). Finally relaxing, I pick up my phone noticing the notifications indicator flashing. Among a variety of things, I have a Facebook friend request - but I don't recognize the name. Who is Dawn Ellirob?, I think to myself. Near certain its spam, I click on the name to see if I can make out who she is.... and I'm sure you've probably guessed the answer by now.

Suddenly, I'm sitting there with my mouth open in shear surprise that Dawn is none other than the library mystery girl. Not sure what I should do or how to approach this - since my feeble mind never planned for my gesture to be returned or even thought about a next step - I try to weigh the reasoning for accepting or ignoring the request. Yeah, the confident adult Craig from a few hours before was supplanted by a shy near 40 year-old unsure of how to talk to women.

Me Dawn?
She, Dawn, is 23 - fifteen years my junior. This isn't a complete negative, since I don't know her, but it does make one think hard about engaging in such things. After wrestling with my confused mind, I decided to grow up (just a little) and throw caution into the wind. With timid fingers, I accepted Dawn's request. Moments later we are trading messages. Nothing to detailed, but rather short, basic, get to know you blurbs between two awkward people who are entering new territory: think Tarzan happening upon Jane for the first time.

Before ending our introverted interaction, I mention that she should say "hi" the next time she visits the library. Still a little stunned and unsure of the can of worms I just opened, I was excited - giddy even - for what possibilities might be ahead.

The next afternoon, not really thinking about anything and going about my work day at the front desk - and just like that...there she is. Just as timid and shy as I (though I think I was better at hiding it). We meet eyes, share a smile and she slowly comes up to the desk.

"It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Ellirob," as I try to lessen the weirdness circulating between us.

"And you as well," she says in a way a stray animal attempts to determine your motives.

Some further short pleasantries and I, being at work, go back to assisting patrons. She finds a nearby seat and opens a book. With butterflies going crazy in my stomach and a stupid smile plastered on my face, every now and then, I glance in her direction and but can't help but notice her eyes darting back onto the book that's sort of hiding her face. To be sure I continue staring for a moment or two and slowly a sly smile emerges as she realizes I have caught her staring at me. Without acknowledging me, she's holding back laughter.

Warren G. Harding Memorial & Tomb
Before Dawn leaves, I suggested we meet up for a walk later at the Warren G. Harding Memorial. This is connected to a historical cemetery which is surrounded by a walking and biking trail. She agreed and that shy person I was just 24 hours earlier had disappeared.

I couldn't wait to get off of work - and I was still amazed that my "fake like I'm working just to talk to you" planned worked, going far beyond I ever thought it would. Maybe a little too eager, I arrive fifteen minutes ahead of time, despite living less then five minutes away. Shortly thereafter I see a red pick-up with cap pull up and park, its Dawn. Though, I see her exit the passenger side. Did she have someone drive her here? Maybe she did, but nevertheless, I get out and head over meet her - trying hard to hide my eagerness. We walk and talk, feel each other out with questions, inquiries and general who are you wonders. She is somewhat quiet and reserved to start, but is slowly opening up and a personality begins to flourish.

The first date steps
We find some steps to sit on and bombard one another with laughs and get comfortable enough to let our guard down. At easy now, I'm simply curious, "Did you get a ride over here?"

"Why do you ask?", as a look of confusion develops.

Pointing out that she exited from the passenger side of her truck when she arrived, she smiles sheepishly and rolls her eyes, "No, I parked parallel and I didn't want to open my door into oncoming traffic, so I slid over to the other side to get out." A little embarrassed, she looks away from me as if some cat was let out of the bag.

Failing to hold back a huge grin, What a dork, I thought...and I loved it. With that, she had me hooked. I wanted to kiss her before we parted ways, but I didn't want to push my luck. That, too, I was probably too shy to initiate it anyway.

Over the ensuing days we hung out quite a bit. And one of those times, also at the Harding Memorial, we were sitting along the ledge of the structure and decided to head back to my place to grab a drink on this rather hot summer day. So we parted ways to our separate vehicles. There, I did kiss her and I was grateful for the fact that she seemed much more mature than what our fifteen year age difference would suggest. Also, I'm likely less mature than my age would suggest, so we got along swimmingly.

I would find out months later that when we left the memorial on that day, she went to step off of the ledge we had been sitting on to head to her car, but didn't realize it was about a four foot drop. So when she came off the ledge she fell forward and had to stick out her arms to catch herself in order to avoid face planting the ground below. Somewhat horrified, she immediately looked around to see if I had observed this - though I had already made my way around to the other side of the building and didn't witness her fall. She then quickly jumped up, brushed herself off and nonchalantly headed to her truck as if nothing happened, keeping the mishap under wraps until she was comfortable with sharing it. Like it would cast her into a bad light somehow.

Also, it was made known to me that she was unsure of my name and had overheard me answer the phone at the library a few times but wasn't close enough to determine what name I used during my greeting. Too shy (or smart, rather) to come up with a stupid plan like I did, she went to see if I could be found on Facebook. She tried plugging in Greg and Craig, along with the name of the library to see what would come up to see if she could connect the dots. Thus, her investigation proved successful.

These are exactly the kinds of things I tend to do and it made me want to pursue what we had going on even more. Two dorks had found one another by complete accident, goofy worlds do collide sometimes.

We dated for 2 1/2 years and even lived together for some time, but with as much as we had in common and enjoyed one another - what we wanted, needed and expected from a significant other was just simply different. The things required to make a relationship last were the same, but at the opposite ends of the spectrum for someone who is 25 and one who is 40. Alas, in the long run, those things just simply didn't correlate.

As disappointing it was to see it all come to an end, my whole point of this is how simple efforts, whims or curiosities can turn into something much bigger and worthwhile. I wasn't really looking for anything and, at the time, was simply feeding my sometimes waivering ego - but that's all that was needed. Unbeknownst to me, I created the spark and a smoldering fire turned into a great blaze. Though, fires do get put out sooner or later.

Even still, I don't regret what we had or how it started. Its those kinds of stories which create memories and I challenge all of us to be more confident and follow up on a hunch or throw caution into the wind. Sure, they will not always evolve the way you want them to or how you imagine, but its the only way to be more alive and in the moment.

Don't just wonder what could be or what might have been - make it what happened, not what COULD have happened - create your own reality.

Embrace your backwardsness and let your dorkdom fly.

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