It was my first meal in the dining commons. The table was filled with other resent 1991 high school graduates, now college freshman, there for orientation weekend. The only exception were our two seasoned veterans – our orientation leaders.
I had just finished my meal when I heard a familiar voice behind me. “May I take that for you?”
As I turned, it was him. He had his hand outstretched. His chin pointed at my tray because I waited too long to respond. “Oh, sure.” I handed over my tray. He stood there without a word for a moment too long.
“Maybe I’ll call you some time.”
“Ok, sure.” I really didn’t think he would; he didn’t have my new number.
One of the freshman girls sitting across the table from me asked, “Who was that!?!”
“Are you dating?”
“No. He works here.”
Her face searched mine and then her brow furrowed. “He didn’t offer to take any of our trays.”
We had dated for two and half years. We were each other’s other half. He was peanut butter, I was jelly. He was Rocky, I was Adrian. He was the melody, I was the harmony. Where ever Paul was, I was. Wherever I was, Paul was.
A long discussion after returning from a mission trip resulted in my confession that Paul had become my central focus. All that I did was weighed by how it would affect Paul. I just couldn’t live without him. The time away from him allowed me to realize it. I also realized I missed the time I once devoted to God; I had replaced that time with Paul. During this discussion, we agreed that my current practices and way of thinking was neither mentally nor spiritually healthy. I had a lot of work to do to get my priorities straight. So we had broken up. For good.
In fact, I attempted to replace two and a half years of memories by dating several poor guys. Looking back, they never had a chance.
Ring. Ring! RING! The green, push-button phone with its uncharacteristically long curled cord was inconveniently located in the bathroom between two dorm rooms. Each ring sounded louder than the one prior as it echoed off the cinderblock walls. “Hello.” There was a pause, “It’s for you, Beth.”
My heart sank while my ego grew as I answered. It was Paul. He claimed he wanted to be sure I was doing okay and encourage me to keep my mind centered on Christ.
Looking back, I see it was his window. He was watching to see if I had changed. I couldn’t let him in my heart. It would have been too easy to fall back into my prior Paul-centered mindset.
I really don’t remember much about our conversation, but one topic I clearly remember. “Have you heard the new Bryan Adams song?”
Of course I had! It had been on every radio station multiple times a day for the previous month, and it was the theme song for the latest Kevin Costner movie, Robin Hood. I would have had to been living under a rock to have not heard it.
I was hoping he wasn’t talking about that song. “Which one?”
My stomach sank as the said, “Everything I Do.”
“Do you like it?”
“It’s nice.” I was more than nice, but I couldn’t or wouldn’t confess it to him. Not now. It was sung with such emotion and the words were so romantic. It was the kind of song I would have enjoyed playing in the background as Paul and I carried on our long conversations in his car while we were dating not wanting to say good night.
“It could be a Christian song. It could be like singing it to God.”
“Except for the part about lying for the other person.”
There was an awkward silence. I assumed he gave up the topic. Until he finally admitted, “It reminds me of you when I hear it.” His confession brought a burn to my throat.
He dropped it.
Over the next month, I heard Everything I Do on the radio daily and I would be lying to say that I didn’t think of him every time I heard it. My stomach always became unsettled with the line, “Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for, You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for.”
The most frequent place I listened to the radio was in my dilapidated, yellow 1979 Pontiac Station Wagon. I never locked it because no one would ever want to steal such a hideous vehicle. One Friday, a pink carnation sat on the front bench seat with a note attached from Paul mentioning that he was praying for me. The melody from the radio taunted as I turned over the engine, “Take me as I am – take my life, I would give it all I would sacrifice.” Was I ever to be permitted to erase or replace the old memory of him?
Another month passed. Paul called me off and on. We were learning to be cordial despite our previous relationship.
In November, it came to my attention that a local production of the Phantom of the Opera was being performed at the Marion Civic Theater. I mentioned that I was planning to attend during one of the phone conversations with Paul. I asked him if he wanted to join my roommate, Renee, her boyfriend, Gary, my suitemate, Tara, and me. In my mind it was purely a friendly gesture.
“I won’t go out with you again unless I know it is forever, Beth. I can’t go through what I had to go through these last four months again.”
My heart felt like lead. It wasn’t as though it had been easy on me either. All of our memories were a lot to pack away. It was as though we had grown up together.
I didn’t believe I was ready to date him much less commit to marrying him at that point. I had worked so hard at attempting to erase the love in my heart for him.
I recalled how every time we walked together I didn’t hold his hand – he held my hand in the bend of his elbow. I recalled how each time he hugged me I fit perfectly into his arms: my head rested just under his chin; my shoulders rested just under his. I remembered how we spoke of our deepest fears and grandest dreams together. Never had I been so emotionally transparent with anyone. I knew he had never even kissed another girl other than me; how could he be certain I was the one for him? Then there was the mission trip back to the country of my birth – the breaking point. Had I taken the time I needed to find my center – my plumb line – outside of Paul? Each memory and question crossed my mind in a split second.
What I did next I am not proud of; however, I would be lying to say I thought anything else. I told myself, I would try going out with him just one time. If I could not commit to him after that first date, I would tell him so and pray God sustain him as he attempted to heal – again. “Ok, do you want to meet us in the dorm lobby on Friday night or do you want us to swing by and pick you up?”
We drove to the old Marion Coliseum. Paul, Tara and I crammed in the backseat of Gary’s car. There were no sparks. In fact, there was no talking at all – only awkward silence. The ease of conversation and comfortable behavior we had while we had dated was absent. I was embarrassed. I knew I was conducting a litmus test.
Would he forgive me if I hurt him again? That was the question which prevented any words from leaving my lips.
He held the door for my suitemate and then for me. I stepped out into the dark, cool night. He walked beside me. Instinctively, I reached for his elbow. The test results were in.
He was so warm in such contrast to the cool of the world around me. He was always so warm. I had been attempting to get used to the cool without him in it.
He smelled like Paul… my Paul. It is the smell of comfort, security and cologne in a human bouquet.
Even beneath his leather jacket, my hand could feel the strength in his arm as he led me through the dark, cold night. It was the same steady arm in which he had always led me.
It was to be Paul for the rest of my life. It seems strange to admit even now that it was in that single moment that I was willing to remain with Paul for the rest of my life.
Why he ever gave me this second chance I will never know. But I am grateful for it!
He recounted after we got back together how difficult it was to tell me that night on the phone that every time he heard the song he thought of me. I mentioned that due to his confession, I too thought of him every time I heard it.
Why he told me that this song reminded him of me I will never know. But I am grateful he didn’t give me the chance to forget him.
We did not dance at our wedding, but if we had, this would have been our dance song. However, in the privacy of our home we have danced to this more times than I can count.
It has been almost twenty years now. I don’t hear it on the radio much any more – not even the “oldies” stations. The entire time I have been writing this I have been playing and replaying the song. When I listen to this song, it doesn’t have the same heart wrenching effect it once had. The pain has been replaced with warm, fond memories.
The words are far more true today than they have ever been. Everything I Do is now a song of endurance and victory to us. We treasure all the memories. Yes, even the not so fond ones because in all the memories our story is told.
Every word is our theme song!
“Look into my eyes – you will see
What you mean to me.
Search your heart- search your soul
And when you find me there you’ll search no more
Don’ tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for
You know it’s true
Everything I do – I do it for you
Look into my heart – you will find
There’s nothin’ there to hide
Take me as I am – take my life
I would give it all I would sacrifice
Don’t tell me it’s not worth fightin’ for
I can’t help it there’s nothin’ I want more
Ya know it’s true
Everything I do – I do it for you
There’s no love – like your love
And no other – could give more love
There’s nowhere – unless you’re there
All the time – all the way
Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
I can’t help it there’s nothin’ I want more
I would fight for you – I’d lie for you
Walk the wire for you – ya I’d die for you
Ya know it’s true.
Everything I do – I do it for you.” Bryan Adams
I ask you, what’s your song?