Even when I was in college I was not much of a night owl. I kept pretty busy with work and school and lots of babysitting in the evenings. Which is why I surprised myself when I agreed to meet up with Marcus on March 12th 2008. I was at a babysitting job and had just put all the kids to bed, settling into a good book to kill time until their parents would return around 10 pm. He called me and told me he was in Virginia Beach for spring break and was hoping to get together before he left the next day to head back to Virginia Tech. He wants to see me tonight?! I won’t be able to hang out until at least 1030 tonight! Disappointed, I explained I would be working pretty late and had to be up early the next morning. Besides, I thought to myself, you barely know him! We had met less than a month before helping out at a retreat for teenagers. Never mind that he was godly, charitable, talented, kind and incredibly good looking. Never mind that you hung out with him one other time, visiting a different friend at Tech. Never mind that he took you to mass and out to breakfast and did not make fun of your lack of stick shift driving in hills talent. You really don’t know him, I tried to convince myself again.
I’m sorry, I told him, I just really can’t. He understands and hopes we can talk again soon. Not sure if I felt responsible or lame, I tried to go back to my book. I was distracted by the quiet and a grumbling stomach. I’m not sure if it was the knowledge that I would need a late night snack anyways, or just a bit of appropriate 21 year old recklessness, but I knew I was not going to be able to focus on my book. After going back and forth with myself for a couple minutes, I quickly sent him a text before I could change my mind. And before I knew it I was climbing out of my car at Applebees at almost 11 at night. We went inside to be met by a lengthy wait time so we decided to drive to a different Applebees just up the road. We decided to just take one car, so I hopped in his truck, and headed for bite to eat.
We smiled and talked through our desserts and I remember thinking I was so glad I decided to come out. He asked me question after question and seemed to want to know everything about me and my life. Almost feeling like I was part of an interview, albeit a warm and friendly one, I was nervous with his undivided attention. My fidgety hands found a soggy napkin and began to tear it into little pieces as I shared struggles and fears. You talk too much, he doesn’t want to know all this, I reprimanded myself mentally as I looked down, feeling a bit ashamed of my chattiness. I looked up to see his brown eyes full of love and understanding as smiled at the napkin pieces and shaky hands, telling me I was adorable. We quickly noticed we had shut the restaurant down and they were waiting on us to leave, so he paid the bill and opened the door to his truck for me as we left.
He drove me back to my car, and I remember his smile and the time on the clock. The 12:30 in red mocked me, telling me I would pay tomorrow morning for staying up this late. It was a short trip to my Nissan, waiting there in an empty parking lot, but it was the beginning of a long evening. We began talking again, and telling each other all about our families, our college majors, and our Catholic faith and heritage. Laughing and telling stories, we reclined our seats, and chatted until we heard the birds starting their morning song. Sure only thirty minutes or so had passed, he turned on the car to check the time. We were both shocked to read 4:30, unsure of how two people can talk for FOUR hours in what seemed like minutes. Marcus laughed sheepishly, apologized for keeping me out so late and started the car. Before he got out to come open my door, before the early morning chill sobered us to the lack of sleep, before he sat up from his reclined seat, his eyes met mine in pure wonder at what we had found. The lights on the dashboard allowed me to see my own reflection in his eyes, and I knew only God could be behind such a connection of two hearts.
As we went our separate ways, and perhaps caught a couple hours of rest before the next day, the previous worry.. you barely know him.. was null and void as far as I was concerned. That 4 hour long conversation, that vulnerability, the shared stories and struggles, was a spring board to a deep friendship. Though the end of his spring break took him back to school, it was the beginning of many four hour long conversations in the future, prayers for each other, and pursuit of God’s will for our relationship.
Our favorite place to talk, whether serious or lighthearted, is still driving in the car, drawing deep glances from each other in sheer amazement at the Lord’s blessing in our life. Marcus still teases me about tearing that napkin to shreds, but his voice overflows with affection. He remembers me telling all about my family and feeling stressed out about remembering everyone’s name and place, but wanting to soak up every detail. Anytime I hear the birds in March, waking and chirping before the light, a smile creeps onto my lips as my heart goes back to March 12th, Applebees parking lot, 4:30 am.