Did I ever mention that I fell in love last year?
Yeah, I did. It was Advent, just two and a half weeks before Christmas, and I met him on a cold—really cold—Tuesday night, the vigil of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. We both showed up at a D.C. church for a holy hour, only to find out it had been cancelled. He had an “in” with the priest and got permission to stay and pray, provided he locked up when he was all finished. In a highly unusual burst of courage (I hate hate hate asking for special favors), I asked to stay, too.
We ignored one another during our prayers, of course. Though I couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t bad-looking… Afterward, as he locked up, we exchanged the usual pleasantries: names, jobs, home parishes. I liked him right off. He was open and chatty and obviously holy. Once outside, we shook hands, said, “Maybe I’ll see you around soon,” and went our separate ways.
Nothing special. Really, nothing. Except that I have this awful habit of assigning deeper meanings to events that have no actual meaning. Part of that Catholic upbringing of mine: I love signs, and asking for signs. And I guarantee you, if you ask for a sign, you will find one—whether it’s real or not. It’s amazing what you can read into something when you’re determined to find “meaning” in it.
It was the vigil of one of Our Lady’s feasts, and I just happen to be consecrated to her: a sign!
It all happened in a church, and one of my prayers as a romantic and overly pious teenager was to meet “The One” in church: a sign!
He mentioned in the course of our brief conversation that he’d just gotten out of seminary after two years, and I’ve always wanted to end up with a guy who gave the priesthood a try: a sign!
He had a really cool biblical name, which wasn’t in itself anything I’ve “always” wanted, but was nevertheless fascinating and therefore probably significant.
So even though the chances of me ever seeing this fellow again were pretty slim, the incident stuck with me for weeks and weeks—and yes, the hope that this “nothing special” might be repeated or followed up and become something.
In a turn of events that will surprise no one, when at last I did see him again (at the same church about six weeks later), he was with another girl. C’est le vie.
Why am I bringing him up only now? Honestly, I’d almost forgotten all about him, and then I ran into him at a house party some friends threw a couple weeks ago. Literally. The room was very crowded and at one point I took a step backwards and bumped into someone who said “’Scuse me” in a kind of peeved way, and I turned and said, “So sorry,” but he was already walking away. No flicker or gesture or movement of recognition. You fall in love with a guy for six weeks, you at least hope for the eyebrow raise and the, “I think we’ve met before” handshake when you see him again a year later.
It’s amazing, the way we can take a fellow human being and stick him (or her) in a particular role in our own imaginary worlds. And even more amazing how angry and sad we become when that fellow human being gets his lines wrong or misses his cue. Don’t you know God gave me a sign? As if everything in the universe boils down to me and my silly daydreams.
And this all came over me as I watched him walk away at this party, clearly not even interested in introducing himself. Humiliating? You bet. But also incredibly freeing in its own way. I spend so much time asking what significance this or that event has to me in my life. But maybe this particular event wasn’t about me at all.
Maybe God just wanted someone to carry that boy around in her heart for a few weeks.
You just never know…