It was Helen. Unassuming and beautiful, she approached me with a curious little smile on her face, arms folded and hands pulled into the sleeves of her sweatshirt to buffer against the chill. The dew had fallen, but I hadn't noticed yet. But there is something about the dew falling - sooner or later, you will feel its chill in your bones. She was genuinely curious why I had asked her to meet me at the campfire.
I sat on a log and Helen sat on the log next to me. The fire dying, I tried to create some small talk, but it felt forced. The clock was ticking and I was stalling. Helen was patient - tonight. But she had lost her patience with me a long time ago. It was two weeks before Helen would go 800 miles away to college and I would go back for my senior year in high school. I wouldn't see her again until Christmas.
We had known each other for six years. Every summer we spent weeks together at camp. We had been to lock-ins, hay rides, and new year's parties together. We talked to each other on the phone and wrote letters to each other. At times she would show up unannouned at my summer baseball games. I called her from work one night during my break, complaining of how miserable I was, hated my job and missed her so bad. When I left work that night, there was note from Helen, sitting on the front seat of my car. I was worth her time and effort. It was like this for six years.
So no one was to be faulted for wondering when we would get together. She liked me, they say. She liked me. The thought of it confronted me - conjured up my fear. Failure. Rejection. My deepest inner dork exposed for all. Was I likable? I mean, as more than a friend. Could I be in a relationship? The thing was, we were friends, good friends - and that was the problem. I didn't know how to be anything else. The safety of our friendship was so comfortable. The idea that it could be more was enough to keep it exciting enough for me without the requisite risk.
Six years of wondering how to be more than friends, but being afraid to do anything about it, was about to time out, right there at the camp fire ring. I had to make one desperate effort at doing the one thing I didn't have the courage to do. Six years of chances ended tonight.