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April 21, 2020

Barefoot and Crazy

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” -John Green in The Fault in Our Stars

I was 16.  Chris had just turned 18 and was a month away from high school graduation.  Though we’d lived no more than 10 minutes apart practically our entire lives and shared a history of sports/basketball, it was kind of crazy our paths hadn’t crossed until that day.  An early spring track meet at Page County High School (Chris’s alma mater) and a last minute trip with friends that I hadn’t planned to take – so last minute even that I was wearing ratty old sweatpants and an even rattier nest of hair on top of my head.  I could say that the rest is history, but that would be missing quite a bit of the story.  You see, I had met up with another guy friend at the track meet, and he is actually the person who introduced us.  Chris later told me that his very first thought was, “What is SHE doing with him?”  Challenge accepted – 14 years ago this week.

I never wrote down the day or even tried to commit it to memory.  After a string of failed relationship attempts I was just over it. Looking back this sounds so ridiculous.  I mean, I was SIXTEEN. What was the rush?  Since every other relationship/date/whatever had either ended badly or fizzled before it even really began, I was content going for dinner and a movie and having absolutely no further expectations or plans.  When Chris uncharacteristically stalked found me on Myspace (yes, that was still a thing) and I even more uncharacteristically responded, I was just fine with the resulting casual dinner and movie date.  We watched a terrible movie and then I shared my love of ketchup with a side of french fries during dinner at Jess’ #2.  I even told him of my plans to never marry and adopt 3 abandoned girls from China.  He proceeded to gush and share pictures of his twin 1.5 year old nieces.  You know, babies and puppies. Instant girlfriend bait.

I managed to convince myself for a little bit that it wasn’t anything serious. No long term plans or hopes.  Just casual.  But, small towns = carnivals and carnivals = funnel cakes on the tailgate of an old green Ford Ranger.  And that’s when it happened. Slowly, and then all at once. Showered in the light of a spring sunset beyond Massanutten mountain, over a long conversation and shared fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar.

We shared a summer straight out of a Kenny Chesney song – traveled all over the place, did all sorts of crazy things, and fell hard in a way only teenagers can.  From getting lost during long car rides, bare feet on the dashboard, singing loudly and off key, baseball at Camden Yards, paddle boats on the Inner Harbor, roller coasters, mountain fed cold water springs, and getting in trouble for staying out too late…sweet summertime.

And then it was over.  Summer ended, Chris headed off to Blacksburg for his freshman year of college and I stayed behind for my senior year of high school.  I was convinced that it was over over.  That he would be a typical guy who went off to college and I’d get a phone call late one night saying something predictable like we’d “just grown apart”.  But if you know him, you know that Chris is anything but predictable.   And if you know us, you know that this story doesn’t have an end.

– Nikki

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