(If you haven’t read Part I yet, Part II will make a great more amount of sense if you do!)
The first time I went on a trip with “Barney” Barnhart was in 2000. But I didn’t even know it. We had both gone to the Brethren National Conference that year out in Estes Park Colorado. It’s funny to have similar pictures of our trip, but not even knowing that each other existed.
The first time I ever knew of this guy “Barney” was at my senior year of Camp Bethany, 2002, when I heard him talk at campfire one night. He was a freshman at AU and was counseling for the first time at the church camp I had gone to since the 8th grade. I only remember thinking and talking to my friends about how “hysterical this little guy” was!
THE E-MAIL. June 1, 2005. I’m back at school at the Art Institute to finish up my last few weeks of classes. Being on quarters, it was nice not to start the year until October, but by June we were all ready to get the heck home for summer vacation. I get this message with the subject “It’s Barney” in my inbox:
“Hey Ali, What would you say if I said, “Ali, lets grab a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze?” I was going to ask you on Sunday when I saw you, but it skipped my mind. I was involved in the service. Don’t take this oddly, I’m not asking for your hand in marriage. Since I have neither your phone number or email,” (he messaged me through my Xanga account and it sent me the email. Xanga, remember that old thing!? It’s like remembering ICQ!!! Okay back to the story…) “I figured I’d zip a line where we do all our communicating anyway. I hope this doesn’t sound odd, but a cup of coffee is nice, pleasant and friendly. Let me know if you’re interested. And, once again, I’m sorry for an impersonal email. I hate them. But, you really don’t live close at the moment. And, look at it this way, if you’re not interested, just say the email never got through and you’re off the hook forever! Blessings, Barney”
Wow. What? This poor chap sounds conflicted. Hand in marriage??? Holy crap! Why would I even take it like that, we’ve been camp buddies and AU buddies for a couple years and you dated my friend and I wouldn’t think anything of catching up with you when I’m back in town. Well, I wrote back and basically ignored his rant about my possible rejection of his coffee offer and said “…it’d be great to get some coffee sometime!” I included my cell phone number and asked him when a good time after I got home from school would be to meet up. And I didn’t hear back for days.
And then a list of dates good and bad came my way in a new email and as I’m reading I was getting confused on who actually asked who to hang out, because his schedule seemed nearly impossible to squeeze in a simple coffee meeting. But a paragraph in this particular e-mail caught my attention: “I wouldn’t have asked you to coffee if it was something non-important that I could just keep putting off. I’m looking forward to it and I really mean that too. You’re a nifty person.” Nifty. Nifty? And he has something important that he has to say that he can’t put off? I thought this was just catch up with an old friend time. I’m so confused. He signed off with the name “-Dr. Barnhart (HA…that’d be great!)” He included his cell number this time.
So I decided to put an end to the cryptic emails and just call him. I forget when I did, I’m sure it wasn’t immediately after receiving this last weird email, in order not to give him the wrong idea- between guys and girls (friends or not) you have to play the game, ya know? When I did call I got his voicemail, told him when I’d be available within his tight schedule and said call me back. By June 22nd (oddly enough our future son’s birthday merely four years from then), I decided to email this guy that had pretty much done the equivalent of a hit and run with me through e-mail. My message basically stated: “Didn’t know if you got my phone message…said you’d be available most of this week…you’re probably still busy…take it easy…Ali”
One month later. July 17th. New email. Said his schedule “barfed all over him.” Likely story. And his “e-mail crashed and he lost all the information” (like my phone number). So how do you not have my number in your phone when I called it a month ago? Did your e-mail crash your phone some how too? No no. This was way before smart phones and we don’t even have one now. Getting annoyed, I kind of just dropped the whole thing. He was the one to initiate this, I was just appeasing a request to catch up with an old friend, I had no interest in Barney romantically, so if he really has something to say to me, he’ll have to work hard to make this “meeting” happen. I hadn’t let a guy rule my thoughts for two years, and it was sure not going to happen this time. Not with my funny old friend Barney. Nope.
Somehow, apparently over the phone, because I have no email record of it, we finally arranged a time to meet at Cool Beans. (present day Common Grounds) I believe it was the first or second day of school for me (senior year and back at AU) and he was beginning seminary that fall. I remember it was a Tuesday, August 30th. I walked in the rain from my dorm room at Clark to the coffee shop in a thrift store baseball sweatshirt and jeans, frizzy red hair and all. Luckily I found another frizzy red head that day to commiserate with about the humidity- my lovely friend Jen Ditlevson. She was a comforting sight for what I felt was sure to be an uncertain and awkward meeting with Barney. I don’t remember if I was there or he was there first actually, but we sat down and exchanged pleasantries, acting as normal as possible. My dear friend Jillian Van Duyne was working and served us our drinks, and though I was prepared to buy my own drink, Barney insisted that he pay. Uh oh. At this point I was glad my hair was in frizz-mode and that my baseball style sweatshirt probably needed washed. The last thing I needed was for Barney to start liking me. I was perfectly content being single and focusing on my artwork. I would complete school, find a design job in San Diego and live my life, an independent and free woman, dedicated to her creative giftings and talents. Goodbye, Ashland! Goodbye, failed relationships! I was getting the heck out of Dodge and no one could stop me.
When the pleasantries subsided, he shifted the conversation to what his cryptic e-mails had eluded to. Let’s remember that I had thought this coffee meeting was just to hang out, catch up, but I was dreading that he may have another agenda.
My worst fears came true. There was another agenda.