[Read Parts I-X here.]
The day's labor was over and Mr. Amazing was driving me back to the farm. I was still reeling from my brief encounter with Janet (or more accurately, from his brief encounter with her), and sat staring blankly out the window.
I have the navigational skills of turnip, but I knew somehow we weren't headed for the farm. He asked, almost as an afterthought, "Would you like to see some scenery?"
That's one question I am powerless to refuse. I suffer from severe wanderlust, and few things get me as excited as the prospect of a roadtrip.
The ride that had begun on a four lane highway had twisted and turned to a dusty gravel road, climbing higher and higher.
"Peter's Plunge," read one of the bullet-riddled street signs, heading off toward a steeper slope.
"Hunters come up here a lot... and teenagers," he said, answering my puzzled expression.
"Oh," I said quietly. I wasn't sure where we were going, or why, but I didn't question it because the scenery was becoming increasingly more breathtaking.
Finally, I couldn't contain my excitement any longer and broke the silence.
"This is exquisite! What is this place?"
"I thought you'd like this. These are wheat farms, but some of it is government set-aside land, too. I just wish I could take you to the dryland wheat country; you'd really love that."
He was clearly delighted that I was so impressed by the countryside.
"Hm," I thought. "What is this guy up to? Does he like me? Maybe he's just being nice." The shadow of Janet's visit loomed in the back of my mind.
I was seriously confused.
But for the next forty-five minutes, I took in the sublime surroundings, and enjoyed Mr. Amazing's pleasant, humorous, and always fascinating conversation. At last the dirt path wound back to a main road, and we said goodbye to the hills.
He started to slow down but then gave a disgruntled grimace and, as if changing his mind, sped up again.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Oh... this is kind of a neat road," he said, nodding in the direction of a pot-hole ridden sliver of a gravel path that hugged a careening precipice, climbed into the stratosphere without a guardrail, and eerily brought on the feeling of certain death.
"It's the ditch bank, and it goes behind our farm. You could see the whole place, but the road is probably too bumpy for you."
"Too bumpy!?" I said, perhaps too eagerly. I trusted him implicitly.
He flashed me a cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin, and off we went.
I white knuckled it at the beginning, but relaxed a bit when I saw a fuzzy gray bunny hopping fearlessly close to the sheer dropoff. There were birds I had never seen, and flowers I couldn't have imagined. It was beautiful, and the view of the farm was quite impressive, too. I believe, however, that I was most taken with the sight of the driver. He looked so pleased, and proud, and confident, and competent, and happy... not to mention outrageously handsome.
"I really like the sage brush," he commented.
"Really?" I wasn't too much for it, but could say with honesty, "It is rather pretty in the sun."
That night we had another late night porch conversation, serenaded by frogs and crickets. I don't remember what we talked about, but I remember laughing and debating, and perfect ease. I still knew very little about this man, but I felt I'd known him all my life.
The end of my visit came at last, and I hugged each member of the family goodbye. Meg was going to take me to the airport. I briefly and a little awkwardly shook hands with Mr. Amazing, and after thanking my hosts profusely, made my way to the car. I purposely left rather abruptly, hoping to make a break from the family and get to see him alone. I was trying to give him ample opportunity to make his move; my plane was due to take off in just a few hours, and I couldn't go home without some resolution to my long-standing crush, one way or the other!
So I sat in Meg's car in the driveway for a while, windows rolled up in the desert summer, making an effort not to sweat. She was getting something in the house. The front door opened and he came out.
My heart leapt. He was coming towards the car!!
The world was moving in slow motion... except my heart, which was galloping.
*crunch, crunch, crunch* on the gravel drive
He was most clearly not looking at me; his eyes were on the ground, or on the dog, or on a bird overhead... but each step brought him closer to the car.
After an eternity, he reached it, and I quickly rehearsed in my head how I would accept his declarations. I would look up at him just so, and then look down, and then give a little half smile, and then shyly return his compliments and affections... and then attempt not to blush, which would make me blush more.
But he didn't open my door. He opened the trunk.
I turned around, awkwardly, while he said something through the back window.
He pointed to some blankets he was carrying. "Meg asked me to get these blankets out a while ago, and I just remembered them."
"Oh... he was looking for an excuse to come out here." I thought. "Alright, any day now... go ahead and declare your intentions, Sir," I thought impatiently. "Meg is on her way out! Hurry up!! Tell me you'll call me, or something, anything, just do it quick!"
But he just waved a half-wave, said, "bye," and ambled back to the house.
"THAT'S IT!!!" I screamed in my head. "Oh, I am SO over you!!" I hurled at him, internally.
I was frustrated, dejected, rejected, humiliated, and filled with the fury of a thousand Irish grandmothers. With all the hot wrath I could summon, I mentally bellowed after him, "AND I DON'T LIKE SAGEBRUSH!!!"
A few weeks later I took a new job as a Religion teacher and began courses for my Ph.D. I went to a ballet in the city and sighed bittersweetly, "this is where I belong."
To be continued...