I had plans to pick up another friend at the airport, so I asked Radley to come and keep me company during the trip. Looking back, I realize that so many of our first memories seemed to be just that simple: driving in the car, walking along the boardwalk, just him and me and maybe music or the ocean or the sound of our steps. Everything was effortless. I liked that.
As always, my friend's flight was delayed, so we drove to the cell phone lot to wait. I instantly felt nervous, as if I knew that the sudden stop — the lack of motion — would force something to the surface. It did.
For months we'd been playing an on-and-off, yes-and-no sort of game — a game that was mostly my fault, and mostly because the sincerity of it all left me terrified. He was good and true and honest, and not in the least bit afraid to say that he loved me. Not in the least afraid of what that love meant for tomorrow, the next day, and the next. It was all new to me. The purity and the clarity of his feelings were something I'd never known, and so I kept one foot out the door. For months, one foot was ready to run.
I couldn't quite tell you what we talked about that night, probably the weather or some other small-talk topic to keep the silence from settling in. A CD was playing through the stereo, a mix filled with Mat Kearney and Dave Matthews, Ingrid Michaelson and so on. Lots of guitar and piano. And for whatever reason, in the middle of whatever conversation, the two of us suddenly became quiet. We stopped speaking, staring through the open windows and then the sunroof and then finally through each other. He stared through me. Whether it was the song or the bay breeze or the stillness of the silent parking lot, the simplicity of the moment pushed me to actually feel. To stay. (I didn't run.)
It was early August, surprisingly cool outside for a San Diego summer night. He wore a dark t-shirt and his hair needed to be cut and he hadn't shaven for at least a week, and I remember thinking that I'd never known such a beautiful person in my life. Not just beautiful in a handsome way, either, but the kind of beautiful that can be felt in the quiet of a car and a song and a breeze.