DEANNA

The start of a new relationship

 The past few weeks have been a total whirlwind. You’d think that my last few days of college would be full of things winding down, but in fact they’ve been ramping up.

The big item is that I now have a girlfriend. As recent as a month and a half ago, I would not have seen that one coming. The fact that I’ve waited until a week before graduation makes melaugh.

The other great twist of irony is that we’ve been friends for three years. Really good friends. Meaning we could’ve gotten this relationship started a pretty long time ago. We had pretty much every opportunity.

Instead, Deanna and I have been friends since much earlier in college. She talked me through different crushes and flings and past relationships. Then, for about the past year, I’ve been on a full hiatus from any romantic activity. Not intentionally. I just didn’t take a strong interest in anybody and that was reciprocated by nobody really taking a strong interest in me.

Except for Deanna, but just as a friend. At least for most of the year. We’ve always got along well and we’ve always had the easiest time finding endless things to talk about, but the whole time I was certain we were just friends.

I knew this, because we got asked a lot. Pretty much all of our roommates and close friends have asked. And every time, it was a pretty quick response. We’re just friends.

I think the first time things started to shift was a few months ago during Lent. As her lenten sacrifice, Deanna decided to give up… me.

Okay, it wasn’t quite like that, but she felt a strong urge from God to slowly create some space in between her and her close friends. She would stop being the one to pursue conversations or hangouts. She felt that she was supposed to do this and wait and observe. Who got closer? Who drifted?

I drifted.

I didn’t really intend to. But I found myself getting pretty busy pretty quickly. I went on that trip to New England, and came back in sort of a trance of enjoying life. Playing baseball on Monday mornings just because I could. Hanging out with the international students before they all went back to their home countries.

Little did I realize that by the time Lent was up, it had been 40 days since Deanna and I had actually hung out. My sudden absence hurt her, and so one night after the period had passed, she confronted me about it.

We had a good talk and I apologized, and that was about it. Still no romantic feelings. At least on my end.

We went on to hang out a little more often, and I would later learn that this was when Deanna started to see me as a man of my word. I still just thought she was a pretty cool girl who was easy to hang out with.

Meanwhile, Deanna had started confiding in just a few close friends how she felt. She got another spiritual urge, this time telling her that if this relationship was going to happen, that I would need to be the one to get things off the ground. She made a bold move and resolved to herself to set a deadline for me. She would be running a marathon in San Diego in June. If I didn’t do anything by the time she crossed the finish line, she would simply move on.

The first time I actually did start to take an inkling of an interest would be about a month ago on my 22nd birthday, and it wasn’t much.

A whole bunch of us went out for dinner. All the guys I lived with, everyone she lived with, and a bunch of other mutual friends. We went to this Lebanese place, Zaytoun, and the thing I remember the most about that dinner was how of all my very close friends at the table, the one who decided to get me a birthday present was my newest friend Ben. This guy who I’d known for maybe three weeks got me some Taiwanese green tea, and I thought that was hilarious. I wasn’t really expecting gifts anyways.

The other thing that I remember was that Deanna wrote me a birthday card. It was a sweet and simple card, hardly romantic, just telling me that she valued our friendship.

I began to wonder, though, if it was supposed to remain a friendship. If we got any closer, it couldn’t.

Mostly, I started thinking about how improbable that would be. After all, we only had a couple weeks left of college. She was planning on going right to graduate school, and I was getting ready to travel and see the world. Not a whole lot of overlap between our plans. I wondered, maybe, if after I had traveled a bit and moved on to something else, and if she happened to still be available, and if we were all a little older, something might spark then.

But anything now? Didn’t seem likely.

The thoughts stuck with me, though. I wondered if I should ask her out sometime, or at least let her know that all those years of friendship wouldn’t have a platonic ending.

Those thoughts started to morph into prayers. And subtly, very subtly, I found myself shifting from asking whether or not I should tell Deanna I was interested in her to when I should tell her.

Once those thoughts started going, things turned into a total freefall. Our impending conversation seemed inevitable.

I sent her a text. I asked if she wanted to join me in paying a visit to UCSB’s touch tanks. Our school had some hands-on aquariums anyone could go and check out, but we had never taken advantage of that yet.

She said she was free on Friday.

We walked onto campus and went to the aquariums, playing with the marine life. I don’t recall us talking a whole lot while we were there. Afterwards, though, I asked if she wanted to go get sushi. I had gotten real comfortable with my ironic sense of humor.

We walked our way to Sushiya and ordered ourselves a pair of combinations.

I started.

“You know how a lot of people ask us if we’re more than friends?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ve never closed the door to that possibility.”

“Of being more than friends?”

“Yeah.”

“What does that mean?”

I would’ve gone on, but at that point, some guy who I met years ago came in and recognized me. He was a transfer student, a little over-excited about the college party scene in our neighborhood. He picked the most climactic part of our conversation to unload a ten minute story of some fight he watched these guys get into, with bats and everything.

In retrospect, I should’ve dismissed him a lot sooner, but sometimes my patience runs a little too generous.

When he finally left, Deanna and I decided that it would be right to go on a date.

“Next weekend?”

“I can’t.”

“No?”

“The marathon.”

The same marathon that she turned into my deadline to make a move was the following weekend. I invited her and a few other friends to stay with me at my parents house when she was running.

That was the other weekend.

Six of us took a caravan down to San Diego. Me and Deanna. Daniel, Caytlin, Bre and Bree. We all converged on my parents’ house on a Friday night. I told my mom that we would be trying to carboload the night before, so she looked up ideal carboloading recipes and served us large and generous portions of pasta.

The next day I dropped Deanna, Caytlin, and Bre off close to downtown. They were the runners and their check-in time for the race was far too early. I would have enough time to drive back home, sleep for a little longer, then come back with Daniel and Bree just in time to watch them cross the finish line.

That is exactly what we all did.

We pushed our way through marathon traffic to find somewhere to park and made it just in time to watch Deanna and Bre cross the finish line. I put a heat wrap around her. They gave the runners a 90 calorie beer at the finish line, which she didn’t want, so I finished hers. For this little moment, we were perfectly in limbo between the friends we’d been for the past several years and the dating couple we were about to become.

We finished the weekend out with some burgers at Islands, with more hanging out around my parents’ house, and then with going back north to Santa Barbara.

Another week went by with us talking more intently every night. Then last weekend we had our first date.

I made a playlist, washed my car for the first time all year, and got dressed up to pick her up.

Our first stop was to the Santa Barbara Mission. The city had just hosted its yearly Maddonari Chalk Art Festival, so the ground in front of the mission was still covered with brightly colorful chalk murals.

A little searching led me to discover Le Petit Valentin, a severely underrated French bistro in the middle of downtown Santa Barbara.

We went there to eat and to talk about small and simple things over dinner. We actually talked about our parents for a little while, which I thought was surprising, but it kept the conversation interesting.

I had planned to take her to the drive-in movies afterwards, but after we had already spent so long at the French Restaurant, I decided we would probably be better off saving that outing for another date later in the future.

Instead, I drove us to the Goleta Pier. We walked out until we were above the ocean, directly across from the UCSB campus where we had met and grown into adults together.

She had a few questions ready for me. She asked me what I would be most excited for about the two of us dating. I told her it would probably be the continuation of what already felt like a great and naturally developing friendship. I imagined there would be great conversations and more adventures to be had together. I returned the question. She looked forward to the simple and mundane moments. Going to do our groceries together, filling up on gas. That sort of thing. It all sounded magnificent to me.

We were under some soft moonlight when I then asked her the official question– if she’d be my girlfriend.

She said yes.

Waking up this morning, it hits me that I now have a girlfriend. That a new relationship has begun, the first one I’ve had in quite a while, and quite possibly the last. It’s exciting, and it’s also a lot to take in at once, so I’ll instead take this one day at a time and savor each season of this thing.

Next week, we’ll both graduate. Then we’ll be starting our new futures and diving into whatever comes next. It’ll be interesting to see what exactly happen. For now I know it feels good to have somebody else to do this with.

I do think it was no mistake that I didn’t start to take an interest until now, and that when I did, it was such a gentle but natural freefall into our relationship. It almost happened without thought, just like it was supposed to have happened all along.

Philippe Lazaro2012