Chapter One: We Should be Friends

 Photo by  Aubrey Renee

Photo by Aubrey Renee

I am not a love expert and actually am pretty far from it. I was never the girl who had it all together when it came to relationships and guess what--in my seven years of marriage I still don't have it all together! What I do know though, is that a story like this one is absolutely worth reading.

 

 If you had told eighteen-year-old Ashley that she would be married in two short years, she would have straight laughed in your face. My freshman year of college brought me heart-ache, disappointment, unsafe situations, unpredictable bosses and all of those things just proved to me that marriage was not something I felt called to. I wasn't the Christian girl who prayed for her future spouse and her hypothetical children. I didn't pray for his purity or his heart because honestly, I didn't trust too much that he was out there. At one point before I moved out of my Michigan home, my mom and Grandma suggested to me that I may need to learn to cook just in case I did get married someday. "No I don't," I responded. "God knows the desires of my heart." And guess what? God did. I wasn't concerned with cooking for a man or him cooking for me; if I had to eat cereal and Easy Mac every night, I was going to college and would celebrate my independence.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be with someone. I've been a hopeless romantic since I was a little boy, claiming that I would marry my mother and live with her forever. It was no big secret. I spent most of my teenage years falling hard and fast for different girls. Some relationships were certainly better than others, each one was important in my growth as a man. To be fair and honest, I learned the hard way that I was needy and clingy. I wanted so desperately to be in a romance like you see in the movies, to be with my forever love and to live out our happily ever after. I am positive along the way that I creeped more than a few girls out. Truth be told, I've thought about emailing an apology to them, but even that sounds creepy. I hope they have chalked my exuberance for love up to being immature.

After my heart had fallen, broken, repaired and fallen more times than I really can remember, I started writing in a journal. It wasn't a fancy handmade leather bound journal, but I thought it was pretty.  This journal was the outlet my heart needed. I wrote love letters and notes to my future wife. I told her that I was praying for her, and day dreamed about lazy snow days together, and the exciting trips we would take. I speculated where we would meet, and hoped that where she was, she was happy. I used this as a journal to temper what I was saying to my girlfriend (whomever she was at that time) so that I could try to hide the fact that since I was eleven-years old, all I ever wanted was a wife.

I entered Sunergos Coffee Shop on Preston Street one crisp morning in October of 2007. I wore black gaucho pants (I am so glad those went out of style, but then again maybe they weren't ever even IN style...??) and a black and white striped tee. I had a speech that morning to give that was worth a doozy of my overall grade, three finals and a ginormous paper due that wasn't quite yet complete. With my arms piled high with textbooks and a laptop (I was the weird one who has never carried a bag, or at least a useful bag), the Barista offered me a free cup of coffee. He began making casual conversation, smiling a lot, and when I told him the giant workload that welcomed me that day, he said, "I hope you have someone at home who can rub your shoulders at the end of all this!" I smiled and without really thinking twice, said, "We should be friends." I sat down, chugged my cup of Joe and went on my way. Little did I know, those four words would be the most important thing I said all day.

During my undergrad, I worked the morning shift at Sunergos Coffee. I had to be at work at 6:00 AM to open, and lived a good twenty minutes away. So naturally I woke up every day at 5:45. I loved working there. Let's be honest, everyone coming through the shop at that hour needed the drug I was serving, and so they were all really friendly. I knew most of them by name, all of them by their cup of coffee. On October 4th, 2007, someone new walked into the shop. She was blonde, gorgeous, carrying a huge stack of books and went straight to a table where Pastor Tim (Coffee, Room for Cream) was sitting and started talking to him. I knew Pastor Tim, and I knew this girl was beautiful, so I did what any hopeless romantic would do: I flirted shamelessly and unabashedly. I'm not even sorry.

"You look like you have quite the day with all those books, your coffee is on me." As I started making her a Café Miele, I asked her about the day. She was describing to me the tests and speeches and papers that were ahead and that she needed a place to get some work done. I remember saying "I sure hope you have someone to rub your shoulders tonight after all this." I was testing the boyfriend waters. She said, "We should be friends. I live with Jill, but I don't think she'll rub them." (Jill, Peach White Tea, keep the leaves for a second steep).  "We should be friends, I'm Asa".


I left Ashley alone to study. I didn't want to be any more forward. I knew how to reach out to her if I wanted. Pastor Tim and Jill I saw every day. I'm very sure I was much happier and friendlier with everyone else who came in the shop that morning. I was hoping Ashley would take note of my good nature- Hoping she would want to talk some more. She didn't. She had work to do. She brought me the empty mug and thanked me for her coffee, and I watched her leave. I finished my shift wondering if and when I would see her again.

Later that evening, I attended a Cru event (Campus Crusade for Christ) and I just started to crash- emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I was tired. I hardly slept the night before but I thought, Hey, this will rejuvenate me and I'll feel so much more rested. Five minutes in, I was ready to walk out. The topic was marriage and the guest speaker was talking about how college was such a great place to meet your future spouse, especially in ministries and events such as the one we were in. Whatever else he said apparently royally offended me and struck a nerve because I walked out sobbing hysterically. That night on my drive back to my house I called my mom in tears. "It was stupid, Mom. I didn't come here to find my husband. I especially didn't enroll in college to find one. I came to pursue horses, get an education, and stand on my own two feet. I just don't get it--what is the BIG deal?! Besides, if I ever get married, which I won't, it will be to someone like the man I met today at the coffee shop."

It was so late, and was probably even crossing into early morning, but I (like most college kids) wanted to check Facebook.  I stooped a pot of tea, washed my face with hot water and changed into comfy clothes (my love language to myself). Opening my laptop, I decided to search. How did I find him? I have NO idea, because I don't remember us exchanging names, and surely not first and last names? But with a name like Asa, perhaps I searched all the Asa's local to Louisville and I recognized his face immediately. Not in the mood to 'friend' him, after all, he had only given me a cup of coffee and we had only just met; I messaged him instead. "Thanks for the cup of coffee," I wrote. "It really helped me get through my day." I remember closing my eyes that night, wondering why my heart skipped a little beat at the thought of him messaging me back.

Then I had an idea: (This is why I owe a lot of girls an apology for being creepy...But again, still pretty sure that's a creepy thing to do.) Ashley told me she had a Biology mid-term and a speech to give for her Communications class. I knew the school of Natural Sciences and the Communications building were just across the street from each other. So I went and found a bench in between them to "read" and get "fresh air". I waited on that bench for longer than I care to admit hoping to see her. I went to the coffee shop on campus hoping she was there getting refueled. And I left campus, not sure if I would ever really see this girl again.
Defeated, I went home. I'm sure I buried myself in homework, TV, or any other number of distractions. The hard part about hiding is that you can't escape your own head. And I couldn't stop thinking about the Blonde in the white and black striped shirt. I couldn't stop hoping she had been successful with her tests and speech; wondering if she was happy and finding some rest at the end of this long day. I prayed for her, prayed that despite the stress of life that she would have peace, and a reason to smile. And just as I was climbing into bed I got a Facebook message. "Thank you for the cup of coffee". And I knew it was time to fall one last time.