Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How We Met

     Walking up the stairs, I froze for a second. I recognized his face from the photograph, but this was not the same scrawny boy. I wondered how old the photo was that Andrey had showed me. Because Sergei, most certainly, did not look like he was a seventeen or eighteen year old boy. This was a man. He was incredibly tall, well built, broad shoulders, dark hair, and ample lips; he was very handsome. All of a sudden I was nervous, he was not at all who I had expected. My heart fluttered in its cage as I took a deep breath and walked right passed him.

     A few months prior that day, Andrey, a friend from church, asked if I was dating. When I told him I was not, he said that he would like to introduce me to his brother-in-law who lives in another state. Soon after, Andrey and his wife showed me a photograph of Sergei. Then one day called and said that he was visiting and was going to be at church.
     I decided to wait until everyone left the church to go talk to him. After all, in our church and Russian culture, girls never walked up to boys and start talking to them. It was not modest; not proper girl behavior. Yet, he did not know who I was or what I looked like. I had no choice but to be the first one to strike up a conversation.
     After church service, while chatting in a circle with my girlfriends as we usually did, Sergei asked us where the restrooms were. Years later he told me that he asked in the hopes that only the girl he was there to meet would answer, but we cheerfully answered in unison, “Downstairs.” The girls looked at each other, giggled, and wondered who he was, but I stayed quiet. I did not want anyone to know anything yet. Who was I kidding, even I didn’t know anything yet.
     When only a few people remained, I went to look for Sergei, but walking through the church building, could not find him. I started feeling nervous. This stranger drove 9 hours to meet me and I was not there. Had he left? Did I miss him somewhere? I walked through the building again, but he was nowhere to be found; he was gone.
     Feeling slightly heartbroken and anxious, I went out into the dark and empty parking lot. It was a chilly October night and as I exited the warm church building, I wrapped my arms around me. With a quick glance around the parking lot, I hoped to find Sergei waiting for me there.
     I stopped a few steps past the door and there he was. He was getting out of his white, beat up truck. He looked strong and rugged, but well dressed in black slacks and crisp white dress shirt. As I started walking again, I tried to remember his name, I was flustered. I had never been the first one to start a conversation with the opposite sex; this was new territory for me.
     After only a few short steps, a friend of mine stopped me to say hello. I chatted with him for a minute and he, nudging his head towards Sergei, asked if I knew who that man was. Sergei was now leaning against his truck, his sleeves rolled and pushed up his forearms.
     “I don’t know,” I said, “But I am on my way to find out.” I hoped that I didn’t sound as nervous as I felt.
     “Great! Make him feel welcome here. See you later.” With a smile and a wave, he walked away.
     Here I go, I thought to myself, no turning back.
     As I walked towards Sergei, he watched me. I felt my face heat up and the evening no longer seemed so cold. When I reached him, I outstretch my hand and his large tan hand engulfed it. My hand seemed so tiny and pale compared to his.
     “Hi, I’m Lena.”
     His curious expression changed and he smiled generously.
     “So you’re Lena!”
     “Yes,” I said shyly, wondering what Andrey had told him about me to make him say it like that. “What is your name? Andrey told me, but I forgot.”
     “Nice to meet you, Sergei.”
     His warm hand let go of mine.
     “Well, it’s getting late. There isn’t much we can do tonight. How would you like to hang out tomorrow?” His confidence was captivating.
     We made plans for the following day, said our good byes, and I walked away. Although I found him somewhat attractive, strong, and kind, I felt no other feelings toward him. I had dated a few boys before and knew that such feelings were fleeting. Physical attraction was not enough to sustain a relationship. So I decided, after my last failed relationship, that I would no longer follow my own foolish heart. I wanted to leave it in God’s powerful hands. After all, He knows better who my future husband would be. Little did I know, that I had just met him.

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