Years ago, way back in my early 20’s, I fell hard for a guy I’ll call “Mr. K,” because his last name started with a K. He never asked for it, the poor thing. It was one of those unfortunate boy meets girl, boy wants to be girl’s friend, girl falls in love with boy, boy and girl have many “DTR” conversations, girl gets her heart broken, boy moves on pretty seamlessly, girl eventually recovers – stories.
He genuinely wanted to be my friend, but that was never possible, because my crush was too strong. To him, we were “grabbing a cup of coffee.” To me, we were “going out for coffee.” To him, we were “catching a movie.” To me, we were “going out to a movie.” To him we were being flirty. To me we were holding hands.
I wrote songs about him. I prayed for him. I thought about him as I got dressed for work. I typed long emails to him, then got all excited when he wrote me back, even though his responses were usually only a couple of sentences.
I was the girl they wrote about in the book, “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
It wasn’t pretty.
# # #
For his birthday that year, I wanted to make him something really special, something that would be meaningful to him and that he would keep on his bed stand or perhaps his dresser. He would think of me every time he saw it. It had to be something masculine, yet sensitive. Thoughtful – showing that I really knew him – yet simple. It couldn’t look like I was trying too hard.
So I made him a box. A small box for keeping little treasures in. He would be so moved by my thoughtfulness! He would be so impressed that I was so unique and creative! He would finally realize that the girl of his dreams was there all along, right in front of him, sitting between the gorgeous Emmy-winning soap opera actress and the gorgeous fashion model at church.
I scoured catalogs and design books at the creative firm where I worked at the time and cut out various images and letters. I went to a trendy store in Manhattan and bought a plain box and some ephemera and various bits and pieces for designing something really cool.
I cut. I pasted. I decoupaged. I shellacked. And what I ended up with was a classy, understated, very cool looking box for the man I adored.
And when you lifted the lid off, there was a “K” inside the bottom of the box. It was personal. It was elegant. It was hours and hours of my time.
For several days, before I gave it to him, I’d pass by the box, sitting on my dresser. I smiled each time I imagined how much he would appreciate it. He’ll be so moved, I thought to myself. He might even kiss me. He probably will, I decided.
When his birthday finally rolled around, a bunch of us got together to celebrate. When he opened my gift, he was talking with someone else. I remember him really engaged in his conversation, and when he pulled the box out of the gift bag and unwrapped it from the tissue paper, he looked at it briefly, then returned to his conversation, sticking the box in his bag.
He did thank me. At least, I’m pretty sure he did. He did not kiss me, however. That much I am absolutely certain of.
A few months after his birthday, Mr. K told me that he was moving to another state. There were some job opportunities there that he was really excited about. He had been thinking about moving for a while, and besides, he really wasn’t that excited about another New York winter.
I went home and balled my eyes out.
# # #
When it was time for him to move, we had a packing party. A group of us friends got together to help him get all his stuff ready, and when I got there, he had already been sorting and packing for most of the day. “The movers are coming tomorrow,” he said. “Everything here needs to be packed into those boxes. And everything on that table is going to the trash.”
I went over to the table to start bagging the trash, and there, beside crumpled up paper and a broken mug, was my box.
# # #
That was over ten years ago, and now I’m the one packing up my things to move across the country. The other day, I opened a drawer to start going through it and deciding what to keep and what to toss. There, in the back of the drawer, was the box. That night at the packing party, when I saw my box – the box that represented my huge capacity for love – I quietly and inconspicuously stuck it in my purse instead of the trash. I cried on the subway going home, as I realized how foolish I had been and how disillusioned I was. The box has been in the back of my drawer ever since.
When I picked it up, I reflected on how naïve I was in my early 20’s – how eager to love, how eager to give. I feel sad for the girl I was back then. She had her heart broken many, many times over the years. In fact, after the last one, she finally developed a profound penchant for guarding her heart. She stopped developing crushes, she stopped imagining herself in love again, she stopped thinking about marriage or romance altogether. She became very devoted to her work and ministry and friends, and she felt fully alive in those relationships. She traveled all over the world, working with orphans and oppressed, poverty-stricken people in Asia and Africa. She cultivated a rich prayer life, spending hours praying for people she knew – and many she didn’t know. She made the most of her freedom as a single woman, going to art openings and lectures and parties and weekend trips to visit friends. She even got a dog.
And then, out of nowhere, on a business trip in Seattle, meeting friends for coffee before flying home, she found herself sitting at a table in a doughnut shop beside a man she had just met. This man had gone to college with the guys she was meeting that morning, and since they had arrived first, when they ran into their old college buddy, who was typing away at his laptop in the doughnut shop, they sat with him while they waited for her to arrive. When she finally got there, she joined the little cluster of alumni, and she was introduced to this man.
And the rest, as they say, is history. She is marrying that man in a few months.
# # #
The thing that touched me most about finding the box and remembering that experience is not that I had my heart broken and I thought I would never love again and now I’m completely head over heels for the man from the coffee shop and he’s infinitely better than any other man I’ve ever known and we’re getting married soon. That’s cool, for sure. But that’s not what touched me most.
The thing that was most moving to me about discovering the box-of-love tucked away in the back of my drawer was the “K” pasted at the bottom. When I get married in May, my new last name will be Krispin.
Who says God isn’t in the little things?