When I flew to Israel at the tender age of 19-years-young to spend a semester studying in Jerusalem, I didn't plan to fall in love with anyone. After all, I already had a boyfriend--a fellow music major from my college--and, although we weren't engaged, I was pretty sure I would marry him* after we graduated. So when I arrived in Israel, romance was not on my mind.
* He, by the way, later married one of my friends from college, and they have three handsome sons and are living happily ever after in New York, so this story has a very good ending for him, too. :)
But...well...you see...there was this guy... *blush*
I have to admit that my first impression of him wasn't exactly spectacular. I saw a guy with a longish beard and a plaid flannel shirt--a lumberjack-type from the mountains of California (and I, being an East Coast girl, didn't even know California had mountains!). I didn't pay much attention to him for the first month and a half after my mid-January 1996 arrival; and in fact, I don't have any pictures of him, except as part of a large group, from the months of January or February. But time went on, and I began to realize that...
...there was this guy.
This guy who was often seen writing lengthy entries in his journal.
This guy who could break into the heartiest of laughs but was also serious about his studies--not doing a semester abroad to P-A-R-T-Y like some students seemed to be doing--and was especially earnest in discussions about the Bible.
This guy who showed up in one of my pictures, taken March 2, at the site of Aphek...
I well remember the feeling of having an antenna up and having it always tuned into his presence. If he entered a room, I knew. If he looked my way, I blushed. Suddenly this guy was consuming my thoughts!
I've written before about how our relationship began, that St. Patrick's Day nearly 17 years ago; but in that post I skimmed over the intoxicating, sometimes agonizing period of time between the beginning of my noticing "this guy" and the night we talked honestly and revealed our true feelings for each other. In between were days and weeks that sometimes seemed to stretch forever...and many, many moments of watching him and wondering:
"Who is this guy?"
This guy who often picked wildflowers while we were out and about in the countryside, giving them sometimes to me. But he also gave some to Brooke...and to Cindy...and to others.
This guy who listened sensitively to me and drew out my heart. But he also did that to Rebecca...and to Genia...and to others.
This guy who, after a class field trip to Ashkelon, stayed behind with some of my friends and I as we went to Tel Aviv and Jaffa for another night and day before returning to Jerusalem.
The night he got dressed up and, along with some of the other students, went to an organ concert with me, I strongly suspected this guy had some ulterior motives and wasn't just there for the lovely music! :)
When I would see him writing in his journal, I would often wish for a peek into it so that I could see if he was writing about me! :)
By the time this guy rode a white horse into the gorgeous ruins of Petra in the country of Jordan, I knew I wanted to follow him anywhere and everywhere he went.
When this guy was around, he had my full attention...
And speaking of pictures, this guy and I finally showed up in a picture together. Halfway through April, when we were still pretending to be "just friends" and trying to fool all our classmates and teachers, we somehow ended up in a picture together at the edge of a cliff after a long, hot, dusty hike in the desert. As far as I know, this is the first time we were photographed together--just the two of us. "This guy" had become so much more.
In the final couple of weeks in the semester, we were photographed together a number of times...like during this special Shabbat meal...
This guy--who had, a short time before, been a complete stranger...
I really didn't mean to do it when I went to Israel, but somehow I fell in love.