Chasing Anna - March 4, 2002

by Joe Ruelos

These writings are an attempt to help preserve my sanity as I anxiously wait, week by week, to continue encountering Anna each Sunday after mass with the hope of starting some form of relationship beyond friendship or acquaintance. While it doesn't help that I work in the town of Annapolis, it is my hope that writing this will make it easier for me to make it through the week, almost as if talking to someone about it. So who is Anna?

Almost a year ago, just shortly after 2001 rolled around, I began noticing a cute girl, with a fair complexion, dark hair and mysterious eyes, sitting in the congregation, religiously with few exceptions, every Sunday during the 8:30 morning mass at St. Joseph Catholic Community in Eldersburg, Maryland. She is regularly there with her grandmother, but she has on a few different occasions attended mass with her nephew, with her sister's family, and with a full-bearded thirty-something man who wore a leather jacket. The latter fellow was almost a regular occurence in the weeks approaching Christmas 2001 (which is why he wore the leather jacket), but I haven't seem him since then. At this point, in my limited knowledge, he could be one of the following: the husband of Anna's sister; Rick, the brother of Anna's friend Vicki (sp?); or some dude she met and tried to bring into church with her. Whoever he was, he hasn't been around since Christmas. More later on these relationships and the people in Anna's life.

I had been playing piano with the folk-choir group at the 8:30 mass for at least two years, with some exceptions (unemployment-related tardiness, mainly in 2000). I was with that same group several years back, from around 1991 to 1995 (or later), in a different capacity, playing saxophone. People get the same answer when they ask if I am the one playing the piano during mass: "Yeah, that was me trying to play the piano", with a careful chuckle after emphasizing the word "trying". I began learning the piano in my second year at college, around 1993, without any formal instruction. Although I've come a long way mechanically and artistically, I still lack the discipline to faithfully adhere to what was prescribed by the composer/arranger. I'm constantly developing my style (mainly based on improvisational jazz) which focuses on maintaining a high degree of freedom when playing. I avoided the classical route because there was too much structure. Although, structure and discipline is important if we are to acheive freedom, according to some Polish math professor in Tennessee. More on my musical struggles some other time, since this piece is about Anna.

To be infatuated or not, that has been my eternal struggle. Even before Anna. And each time, it's different than the previous time. It won't be like last time, etc. Like in this case. Anna goes to church. Big plus that she practices the same religion as me. And it doesn't hurt that she's cute. How often do I see cute females at church, each a possible candidate for friendship or lifelong partnership, who come correct and religious every week but are already married or otherwise involved?

This one was different. It must have been something in her eyes. Whenever possible, mostly when her grandmother reserves her a seat, Anna would sit in the pews to the right of the center aisle facing the altar, about two rows back from the first row of seats. There are two rows of chairs placed before the first row of pews. Anna and her grandmother, or whoever she brought with her, occupy that first pew to the right of the center aisle facing the altar. So how did I meet Anna?

I met Anna a week ago yesterday, on Sunday 2/24/02. It was probably one of the best and, simultaneously, one of the most awkward moments of my life. Ironically, a member of the choir, also named Anna, was the one who introduced us. I still ponder whether that meeting was arranged, or if it was one of those, "Oh, by the way, our piano player wants to say hi to you." Anna and Anna had a professional relationship outside of church and the choir Anna felt it would be inappropriate for her to introduce me to the new Anna. But this particular Sunday, the choir Anna caught me before mass and asked, "Do you still want to meet her?" I replied, "Of course." And the choir Anna said, "Good, because things have changed and I think I can introduce you now." More on this meeting later. Right now, a little more background information.

For almost a year beginning in early 2001, there were many Sundays -- optimisitcally, less than or equal to 52 Sundays -- that I had opportunities to approach Anna and introduce myself. Yet I always, and I mean always, found a way to justify such actions as inappropriate, and I simply left, feeling bad that I did nothing. On a few occasions, she would come up to the choir area after mass and greet the choir Anna. One would think that these were perfect opportunities to glide over and make an entrance. Not so for my fearful, moral side, who preferred to ride off into the sunset of self destruction after realizing how much of an idiot I was for deciding to be like Hamlet. I convincingly fooled myself that church is not the best place to meet people. Well, at least, not in this sorta way. I can go up to any complete stranger in the church for any reason, even one as simple as to introduce myself and say something nice. But not to this girl. All my years of learning myself and becoming mature simply disappeared when it came to Anna. "It's inappropriate. I won't do it. I'm scared." But I wouldn't have minded if we met somewhere else, or if she made the first move, even if in church.

Many Sundays, I would sit at the piano, mostly with a good clear view of where she was sitting, usually at the end of the pew, the aisle seat. She wore black a lot, almost matching her dark hair. She had a quietly assertive look in her face.

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