Going LongBy: Ginger Scott
Waiting on the Sidelines 2
The first time I thought about marrying Nolan Lennox, she had just saved my father’s life. The thought was fleeting, and it scared the hell out of me. I was only 17.
Nolan and my dad were the only two people to have ever seen me cry. I mean snot-dripping-from-your-nose, gasping-for-breath, body-shaking cry. And I was a child when I cried in front of my dad—not so much a child when I let it all out in Nolan’s arms while my dad lay under some surgeon’s knife, his heart cut open and failing.
It was something about the way Nolan knew what to do, the way she took care of my dad when he had a heart attack—the way she took care of me. The moments were brief, bit-flashes of time, but they also filled my mind with visions of forever. I recognized it right away, but chose to ignore it for a while. It happened again when I thought some asshole had raped her, and all I wanted to do was go to jail for having beat the shit out of him. And it happened the first time I kissed her, I mean really kissed her.
I stopped ignoring it, though, when I drove through the desert from Tucson to her dorm room at ASU, 110 miles away. The sun was setting, and I had just read her name in the newspaper story about the accident that broke us apart our senior year in high school—her words so sad, full of regret and guilt. I let her go because I didn’t think I was good for her, didn’t want her to give up her dreams for mine. I didn’t want to carry that weight on my shoulders, I guess. But she blamed herself anyway. And I just had to fix it, had to hold her. And when it hit me that I never wanted to stop holding her, I hit the gas hard and made it to her building just as dusk was setting in.
The guy working the front desk of her building recognized me and let me in, but not before ribbing me about playing for the wrong school and letting me know that ASU’s line was going to flatten my ass more than a few times. I let him heckle me for a bit, before he reached for my hand and shook it—almost like he was star struck, and I was his bro. I was going to have to get used to this kind of attention.
He gave me Nolan’s room number, and I charged up the steps three stairs at a time. When I got to her door, I pounded on it manically. The hallways were quiet, her neighbors gone, and most of the doors were closed and dark underneath. A short, mousy girl opened a door down the hall, and I walked over slowly, smiling so she wouldn’t freak out. She told me everyone had gone to some dance on campus. I just thanked her and told her I’d wait so she didn’t wonder why I was hanging out in the hall.
I must have dozed off after a few hours, my head buried in the music pumping in my ears, my hat shielding my eyes from the florescent lights of her hallway. I jumped when she kicked my feet apart, but when I saw her face, I remembered why I’d come all this way.
Being in her room felt so right, everything so familiar, even though it wasn’t a place I’d ever been. It was full of her. When I saw the pictures of her and me on her wall, my pulse sped up a bit. And when I saw that damn hat I’d given her—my lame attempt to let her know I still loved her—I knew I still had a shot.
I’ve never been more careful choosing my words than I was for that brief conversation I had with Nolan that night. And I probably should have led with begging for forgiveness from the start, but instead I wanted to make sure she knew that everything was because of me, not her. I wanted the blame, all of it.
And with that one small word from her breath, yes, I knew I was done. The sensation of her lips on mine was an addiction. The miles on my Jeep read 93,728, and all but 3,000 of those miles were treaded by my many drives from Tucson up to Phoenix, just to see the girl who rules my world. I knew she was worried when I first came to surprise her at her dorm room two years ago and begged her to give me one more chance. But I made a promise to her then, and I had every intention of keeping it.
I wanted her to know that she could count on me being there to greet her as soon as her classes were done on Thursday afternoons. I didn’t give a shit that it meant I had to turn around and drive the same miles back to campus for light practices on Fridays and games on Saturdays—sometimes making several trips each week just to see her. And when games were done, I spent my nights with her, holding her close, and letting her call all the shots.