“You said you grew up in Exeter, right?” I asked as he opened the car door. “Does your family still live there?”
He waited to answer until he walked around the car and climbed in the driver’s seat. I repeated the question, thinking he hadn’t heard.
“No.” he said. “I mean, not anymore. My mom and dad just moved away this week.”
“Really? Where did they go?”
“The car dealership where my dad works closed down and his boss transferred him up to another one in the same chain up in Mansfield.”
My face must have reflected my vague comprehension of Ohio geography, because he quickly explained.
“It’s a hundred miles or so northwest from here if you take the back roads.”
I thanked him for the clarification and then started to list all the places I had visited in Ohio by going on field trips with CSF or staying with roommates and friends over holiday weekends, those breaks too short to fly home and too long to stay alone on campus.
As we pulled onto the highway, he put his hand lightly on my knee. We drove in silence for a few miles.
“I wonder why there are so many buses on the road tonight,” I said after a few minutes.
“You know, I was wondering the same thing,” Brad said. “It’s kind of crazy. We’ve passed at least fifteen buses, all with names of churches painted on the sides, and they’re all going the same direction. It’s like they’re migrating for the winter or something.”
We passed a few more buses, and Brad pointed out that all the faces looking back at us had been male.
“That’s it!” I jumped in the seat and clapped my hands for emphasis.
“When I went to church with Lacey on Wednesday night, they mentioned something about some sort of event for Christian men in D.C. It’s this weekend.”
“My oldest sister is a big-time is a feminist and hates that sort of thing,” he said. “What do you think?”
“I’m not sure. My dad says the world needs more strong men, and women are happiest when they have a good man to follow.”
After a few more miles in silence, I said dreamily, “Just picture it: all those men in one place, all worshiping God. It would be so amazing to see it in person.”
“So why don’t we?”
“You mean just drop everything and go to Washington D.C. on a whim?”
“Sure why not? What’s a few hours sleep and a tank of gas compared to being part of history? It’s only a five hour drive, more or less. We even have time to stop on campus and find another couple to go with us so we can take turns driving and sleeping. I bet we would make it by sunrise.”
“That’s crazy,” I said.
We drove in silence for a few minutes while I imagined the possibilities. More time with Brad. Being part of something bigger than myself. Listening to God’s voice?
“Let’s go for it!” I exclaimed.
“You mean it? Dude, I can’t believe you’re being so cool about this. A beautiful face, a rockin’ bod, a razor sharp mind and a sense of adventure? I was right—you definitely are the woman for me. Zoey’s got nothing on you.” He grinned as we stopped at one of Elkridge’s three traffic lights. “Now, who would be crazy enough to come along?”
In Washington D.C., we stood in a line at a McDonald’s. Not so unusual, except that the queue wrapped around the block, and was made up almost entirely of men. Ian and Brad chatted ahead of me. At my side stood one of the girls from the Volleyball house. What was her name again?
“So, Sylvia, what’s your major?” I asked to make conversation.
The girl stretched at length before answering. “Actually, it’s just Sylvie. Sorry about yawning in your face like that. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done. I can’t believe I let Ian talk me into it. One minute, he and my housemates are watching Monty Python in my room, and the next, he gets your call and is all gung ho to take off for DC. Oh, wait, you wanted to know my major, not my life story. Sorry again. It’s early childhood education.”
“No problem – I’m feeling pretty loopy too,” I said. "So, how’d you decide on your major?”
“I’ve just always really liked kids, I guess. I grew up babysitting my five younger brothers and sisters. I’m an old pro at it by now, so why not get paid for it?”
On the Mall, we four students found a place to stand near the back of the crowd and immediately joined in with the opening worship. A sea of men singing with one voice surrounded us, some raising their hands, some even prostrating themselves on the ground. We joined in the chorus of praise, our voices joining thousands of others of all colors and backgrounds. It felt like a glimpse of heaven.
All too soon the worship ended, and a speaker came to stage. The crowd began to sit in lawn chairs, on tarps or directly on the grass. A kind stranger offered us an extra blanket.
Before the speaker had even finished his introduction, Brad tapped me on the shoulder. “Enjoying yourself?”
“Definitely! Why, aren’t you?”
“Not so much. The worship was cool and everything – but I can barely hear this guy,” he said.
“Yeah, me either. I can barely keep my eyes open,” Sylvie said, leaning her head on Ian’s shoulder.
“There’s so much cool stuff to see in DC,” Brad said. “It seems like a waste to drive all the way out here just to sit and listen to a lecture – heck, I can do that back at school. Whaddya say we all walk around? We could go to the Smithsonian or something. It’s free, you know.”
“Sounds cool to me. Ian, Sylvie, you up for it?”
“Actually, I’m more interested in taking a nap,” Ian said. “What time do you want to head back to campus, Brad?”
“Two-thirty all right with everyone?”
Ian and Sylvie nodded assent as they folded their light jackets up to use as pillows.
Brad held my hand as we wandered through the American Art Museum. Exhaustion and exhilaration made me alternately quiet and bubbly. What I felt at this moment for Brad was so intense. Was this what it was like to be in love?
“Hey, beautiful,” Brad said, pulling me into a corner of the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. “Come here a minute.”
“Why?” I asked, wide-eyed.
“Because I think we should have a little privacy.”
With that, his lips softly touched mine. I kissed back, opening ever so slightly. He took the invitation and swirled his tongue across my lips and into my mouth.
“Wow! Did I ever tell you that you’re a great kisser,” he said when the kiss finally ended.
“Thanks. You too,” I said automatically.
“No, I mean it. I’m a little surprised actually.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You look so innocent, so nervous and sweet. But there’s a hidden side to you, isn’t there?”