“…genuinely sweet…”

Something recently happened…and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.

I’ve been talking to this classmate/friend of mine, who I just met this summer in class. (Let’s call him Ace.) I’ve been getting frequent phone calls from him asking for help on the codes we need to write for homework. I’ve been talking to him here and there about classes this fall. I’ve been getting along with him very well. I’ve enjoyed his existence in my life. I’ve known that I like this friendship.

Let me explain. In a world where phone calls seem to have been replaced by texting, and texting seems to be replaced with apps such as Snapchat or Facebook Messenger, I don’t get phone calls. Even my family doesn’t call me (unless to ask when I’m coming home, if even that). So, for me to receive phone call after phone call, despite the topic always being the fact that Ace needed some guidance/help with his programs, it caught my attention. I also don’t have many friends nor anyone who puts much effort to have me in their life. So, it was different for Ace to put that effort to call me and talk to me. In general, he caught my attention.

I saw him as an attractive young man who is extremely friendly, hardworking, and determined. There was something carefree about him yet rushed and responsible. There was something with deeper meaning yet not masked or guarded at first glance. He asked questions in class. He asked/got help when he needed it without hesitation. He has gone out of his way to help me here and there. To be blunt, he was different than what I was expecting.

After weeks of summer classes and work, I hardly interacted with anyone outside of a classroom. I was getting sick of just having the four walls around me to talk to. Conveniently, my coworker wanted to get dinner and I had a perfect set-up to ask Ace to spend some time with me outside of class. He is easy to talk to. He is funny. He is smart. He is…genuine. Not only did I simply want to get out of the house and have some time off, I wanted to get to know Ace a little bit more.

I ended up asking Ace if he knew anywhere that was good for dinner in Irvine. We talked a bit and then he got lost in another conversation with our other classmates. He and I ended up texting back and forth for a little during our break, despite being only a few feet from each other, and I asked him to go to dinner with me and my coworker. He declined saying he didn’t want to third-wheel. I asked if he wanted to skip a class one night and get dinner. He declined saying he was behind on an assignment. We both then got lost in something else and I had to bring it up again a little later, saying I was serious about the dinner. I genuinely wanted/want to get to know the guy. He told me he’ll talk to me after class. It was loud in the classroom and we couldn’t hear each other very well with the distance between us, so it was a good idea.

After class, he walks behind me like he usually does to get to the door, barely touches me, and asks if he can talk to me outside. I said sure, a little wary of the sudden seriousness in his voice, a certain tone I hadn’t heard from him before. I knew there was something there, that something was going to happen once I walked out with him. If I’m completely honest, even though I was intrigued, a part of me didn’t want to find what was it was. I lagged behind a little after telling him to give me a minute. I cleaned up slowly and gathered my things after asking the professor to clarify the class schedule. Then, I went to meet him.

Since our class is at night, the campus was beautifully lit up with white lights everywhere. Something about the darkness of the sky and the white lights covering the campus created a very soothing and calm atmosphere. I’ve always wanted to stay back and just be on campus at night, but I’ve never had a reason to. That night, I did. I was happy about that.

We sit down on some cement steps. The cold sandpaper-like surface cuts the first layer of skin on my finger as I set down my binder and laptop. I sit next to Ace, barely holding my nervousness to myself. I accidentally cut him off when he tries to start talking, and I immediately look down at the ground. He continues and soon I hear him tell me he is married. Unsure whether I heard him correctly, I hold back any reaction that I might’ve had. Soon after, I hear him tell me again that he is married and have a kid. Though I can’t deny the fact that I was surprised, I can’t say I was worried for him.

Ace wanted to talk to me to make sure no one got hurt, meaning he didn’t want me to get hurt if I developed feelings for him, meaning he cared for my mental well-being. He had tried to clarify if he was reading the signals correctly, and though I had answered, I hadn’t had the chance to explain my answer (I had said “yes and no”.) The conversation continued and he explained that he had enlisted at 17, married at 18, went to Afghanistan for a while and came back when his wife had their first child, a precious daughter. There was something about the way he talked about his family that created a light in his eyes. I couldn’t help but feel so, so happy for him.

We continued talking about relationships in general for a while. He repeatedly asked me if I was okay and made sure we were still friends. And, let me say, the fact that my classmate, who isn’t terribly older than myself, told me he was married and had a 6-year-old daughter wasn’t what made that night significant. It was the amount of effort he took to talk to me and explain the situation and make sure I didn’t get hurt; it was how genuinely caring he was being; it was the number of times he stopped to ask me (again) if I was okay; it was how much he wanted to make sure we were still friends; it was him telling me how sweet and funny he thinks I am and how he knows I’ll find someone; it was him giving me a hug; it was him…being genuine; it was…the realization that I had a great friend in him.

I already thought he was a great guy, but now…I have this new respect for him too. I know he’s a great husband, and he is a wonderful father. I feel honored to have such a irreplaceable friend. I hope he sticks around.

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