Occasionally, I write about the piano that lives in our home. This is the story of how the piano came to be ours.
Part 1: Awkward Beginnings
June 2002. At a Christian camp for teenagers. Joel and I are 16. We don’t officially meet each other. I catch him out in Ultimate Frisbee. He writes me a fuzzy. We have crushes on other people at the time. Camp ends and we go home.
1st January 2007. It’s 1am on New Year’s Day. I am at a Christian camp for young people to celebrate New Year’s together. Some of my friends and I take the ferry across the river to see the view. When we get back, there’s Joel. He’s been wondering where we all were. He’s drunk. He puts his arm around me as we walk back. I shrug him off. He sits next to me when we get inside, then gets up and asks me not to go anywhere until he gets back. When he’s gone, I immediately leave, not interested in a drunken hook-up. He later doesn’t remember this.
That afternoon, I am sitting next to him to hear a guest speaker. I suddenly feel an overwhelming attraction to him. I want to jump in his lap and make out with him. Startled and shy, I hide for the rest of the afternoon. Fiona seeks me out and I confide in her. Later Fiona talks to Joel and suggests he focus his attentions on me rather than on Penny.
In the evening, we are all dressed up for dinner for our last night at the campsite. Groups of friends take photos together. I am bold enough to request a photo with Joel, even though we’ve barely spent any time together over the week.
We sit down to dinner in the hall. There is one space free beside me at my table. Joel has spotted it and I see him making his way over, but then Carl makes it there first. Later, emboldened by wine, I go table-hopping and have dessert at Joel’s table. I feel flirty and curious.
Outside with friends, I sit next to Joel. If he’s interested, it would be nice to talk to him and get to know him. He starts rubbing my back. Disappointed with this come-on and still not interested in a drunken hook-up, I stand up and announce I’m going to bed.
The next day, camp ends and we go home.
Over the next few weeks, Fiona emails Joel and asks him “how the wooing is going”. Steph runs into Joel and tells him, “Esther just wants to get to know you when you’re not drunk”. I don’t see Joel at all. We’re not really part of the same social circles, normally.
12th February 2007. Joel, still hungover from an evening with his mate Kevin where they talked about possible future relationships, calls me at 11:30am. He asks me to have lunch with him. I say yes. I freak out and text all my friends. I meet him at 12:30pm.
Lunch conversation is stilted. Afterwards we walk around the city and sit in the gardens at the university. I ask Joel questions. He answers them. He’s talking a lot and I’m bored. I find myself tuning out, which means I can’t find a segue to be able to change the topic or talk about myself. I hate that I am a polite conversationalist right now, because he just keeps talking. I am a tired, drained introvert.
Also, I can’t stop staring at his nose and I wonder what it would be like to wake up beside that nose every day if we were to end up together. It’s not a bad nose, I just find myself thinking about it while I am not paying attention to what he says.
At one point he is talking about his experiences volunteering at a summer camp in the US, and a girl he dated there. My ears prick up when he says that they never officially broke up when he came back to Australia. I comment, “So, technically, you’re still together,” expecting him to vehemently object. His response surprises me: “Yeah, I guess so.”
We end the afternoon with a hug and no plans to catch up again.
Over the next few days I text or call or catch up with eight different friends. All of them suppose Joel talked so much because he was nervous, except for Steph who says authoritatively, “I’ve known Joel since we were kids and he always talks a lot when he’s nervous.”
My sister thinks lunch with Joel was a dumb idea and we agree that I shouldn’t see him again.
To be continued …