Friday, March 20, 2009

The Road to the Country, Part II

And that’s how I found myself on a familiar highway heading for unfamiliar territory. I was nervous about everything. What does a person wear to go farming in the country? How would I know where to go? Were there lots of these combine things in fields around? What was a combine? I turned where I was supposed to turn and kept a lookout for something that appeared to be farm-ish. I wracked my brain trying to think of any time I had seen farming. I grew up in the valley, grass seed capitol of the world, surely I should know what a combine was. I don’t think I was looking before, because the big boxy machines slowly puttering through the field on my left looked completely foreign to me. Could this be right? I looked at my directions again and drove the ¾ of mile length of the field slowly. I turned around when I reached houses and no more big machines in fields. I drove by again, slower this time. I couldn’t make out anything that looked familiar so I kept going. By my third time by the field, I had convinced myself that this must be right and turned down a gravel driveway and stopped in the middle of a large turn around and waited for someone to tell me what to do.

What happens now? I was more nervous that I had ever been. The voice recital where I almost passed out on stage last the year before had nothing compared to this situation. My arm pits were pouring sweat and the little metal car was heating up like an oven. I got out of the car and shielded my eyes against the afternoon sun, looking at the big machines in the distance. One of the machines changed directions and sped up as it headed my way. The thing was roughly the size of house and I didn’t know whether to stay or to run as it pulled up inches from where I stood. I saw him inside the large windowed cab and he was smiling at me. He waved to me like, “Come on.” Come on where? Then I noticed a ladder on the side and assumed I should climb it. I was thankful I had gone for country casual with my denim cut-offs and not-white t-shirt since the whole machine was covered in powdery dust. I finally convinced myself I would have to touch the dirt rails and I climbed to the top. He quickly opened the door and I walked in bent over. My face was about 2 inches from his and I tried to turn around to find a place to put myself. This was awkward and I wanted to turn around and leave, but the thought of climbing down that dirty ladder changed my mind. He scooted over and folded an arm-rest down until it was level with the seat, leaving me about 6 inches for me to put my bottom directly next to his. The alternative was sitting on the instrument panel, so I sat, closer to him that I had ever been. I also believe my bottom was clinched tighter than it had ever been as I willed myself to stay on my 6 inches of the seat.

He said,
“So, you find it okay?” He had an undeniable smirk on his handsome face. I looked out the large picture window of the cab and saw the terrific view of the whole field and the quiet country road right next to the field. Heat rushed to my face as I realized that he had seen me drive by not once, but 3 times. I was overheated and sweaty and so thankful for the cold air conditioned wind blowing on me.

“Be nice. I believe you said the alternative is sitting here in silence. I know this road pretty well by now, so I could just drive myself home if you’d like.” I said, mustering any sense of humor I had left.

“Stay,” was all he had to say. We talked for hours about everything. He told me about his family and his travels. He was the oldest of 5 and had been to Eastern Europe twice and to Africa twice. He also went to the Bahamas. All on mission trips. He told me about 4H and how his mom made him enter every competition as a kid. He even entered a flower arranging competition as well as countless food preparation competitions. He told me about the farm and how his younger brother was driving the other combine. He also told me about how he and his younger brother had made fun of me over the CB radios as they saw me drive by not once, but 3 times. He told me that his grandpa had died the day before. Our conversation went deeper and it felt like we had known each other for years.

It is amazing he had a chance to talk at all because I gave him my life story that afternoon. No details were left out, from my childhood as a carpet layer’s daughter to my favorite dessert: root bear floats. What could be better than a dessert and a beverage in one? It was so easy to talk, pressed close together in the quiet, going 4 miles an hour around and around through a wide open field. I told him about the previous summer and my epiphany on the rock when I clearly heard God say,
“I have something better for you.” He smiled and asked if I had found it yet.

My stomach flipped and I said,
“I’m working on it.”

It was perfect. He was perfect. But I was hungry. I was just a little confused at why he didn’t stop the huge machine instantly when I hinted that getting some food would be a good idea. I was hoping for a dinner invitation, but instead he said “goodbye” and “see you later” and “thanks for coming.” I crawled down the ladder to my car that now looked like I had parked it in the middle everything. It would be almost a year later as a married farmer’s wife that I would finally realize why he had not asked me to dinner -- he still had at least 3 hours of work to do until dark. On my drive home I replayed our conversation over in my head. I knew that even if I didn’t find romance, I had found a friend I wanted to keep forever.

The next day I reported to work and gushed to my co-workers that I had been out on a date. The year that they had known me I had been perpetually single. They joked that the mannequin in the corner of our tuxedo rental showroom was my boyfriend. He was named for the tux that he wore, Geoffrey Bean. “I have my own Jeff. And he’s real!” They wanted all the delicious details, but failed to be impressed that my grand “date” involved a dusty combine and no dinner invite. They said, “He was just using you to pass the time.” (In a strictly wholesome sense of course). If he was really that into you he would have asked you to dinner or set up another date -- a real date. I began to doubt the connection I felt during the long afternoon before. Maybe he only thought of me as a friend. Except for throwing a grape at me a month previously, he had never made any moves to be with me. Even yesterday’s activity had been connived by my well-meaning roommate and myself, not him. He didn’t even act excited that I was coming. Give up. Give up. Go back to the mannequin, I told myself.

At the end of the day, I drove home in the waning twilight defeated in the pursuit of my perfect guy. I had decided to end my crush once and for all and give up on someone who was clearly not interested in me. This was unfamiliar to me. I had never had feelings for a guy that were not returned. I didn't like it and I felt pitiful. I pulled into my familiar spot in the driveway and cut my engine, sitting in the silence of my car. I then looked up when I heard the rumbling of an unmistakable diesel engine. Despite my best intentions to give up, I jumped out of the car with a curious smile. He came around his truck to meet me with a grin, gesturing to the 6 pack of Mug Root Bear and the carton of vanilla ice cream he held in his hands.

"I thought you might enjoy this. You interested?" He said. And I melted.


Grace said...

This is so sweet Alysun! I love how you recall all of those old emmotions. Thinking back to those days are so precious, although I'm so glad not to be there anymore!

Choco Girl said...

Okay I just melted...*sigh*

Lindsay said...

Alysun...this is SO GOOD! Keep 'em coming! :)

Alyce said...

I'm really enjoying reading your story! :)

Stacy said...

You are a great story teller.

Annie said...

I've never heard this much of your story! I'm waiting for the next installment. I think I will read this to Paul - he will love it.

Cathy said...

I love it! I had this smile on my face the whole time I was reading your story. Great stuff...keep going!

Sara said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us - it's very interesting and sweet! As Jeff's cousin, I obviously never really saw his "romantic side" and I am quite impressed with him showing up with root beer and ice cream - how cool and creative! But I must also say that I cannot believe that a person growing up in the Willamette Valley didn't know what a combine was - that's too hilarious!!

Ratzlaff Reflections said...

{sigh} Be still my heart . . .

This is why I don't read romance novels.