Working a party for my summer job- an outdoor summerstock theatre at which I performed Rodger's and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! six nights a week.
The weeks following the breakup were a strange mix of sadness, excitement, and chaos. I had begun rehearsals for my summer theatre job and was at the theatre for nearly twelve hours a day. I would drag my sore, exhausted body into my dark room at the end of the day and turn on my computer, just hoping that my handsome young soldier friend would be starting his day across the world.
Your dad's first deployment to Iraq and the first tire he blew out in Baghdad.
When we talked online, my heart became lodged in my throat. My cheeks flushed. As we corresponded more and more, it became apparent that his heart was being pulled in the same direction.
Then one day, he told me he was going to call me. I panicked and told him not to. But a few minutes later, my phone rang anyway. A strange combination of numbers flashed on the screen and my heart began to pound to intensely that I could hardly catch my breath. It was Ryan. He had taken a holiday leave to Qatar and had some time to talk... if I wanted... and I did.
We talked about everything. Our families. Our jobs. His deployment. Our favorite foods, movies, restaurants, music. I was more honest than I've ever been in my life. There was no sense of pretense there. All I wanted to do was be sure that he knew who I was. All of me. And I wanted to know the same of him, to the very core.
The conversation lasted a short four hours. I don't even recall if it was morning or night, I only know that the hours blurred together and all too soon, it was over. Luckily, it wouldn't be the last time he would call me.
As July Fourth approached, I was preparing for a big event at the theater when the doorbell rang. I know what you're thinking, and no. It wasn't Ryan. But it was a HUGE bouquet of roses and calla lilies. He knew that The 4th was one of my favorite holidays and wanted to make sure it was a special one for me. The card wasn't sappy. It simply said "I hope this makes you smile." And it did.
The bouquet your daddy sent me for Fourth of July, 2006. He even remembered my favorite flowers!
I floated through most of the summer with that same goofy grin on my face- not really knowing what this was. Was this a relationship? Was he my boyfriend? Was I the only girl he was talking to? Part of me was still holding back worried that this person that I had been speaking with was not truly who he said he was. How could I really know for sure? I mean, I had never actually met him. He could be anyone. I could see him interact with family and friends on social media so I knew that he was in fact in the Army and deployed to Iraq, but how could I know that all of the things he had been telling me about himself were true?
We hadn't really discussed what "this" was. There was no definition yet. I think we were both playing it safe. I mean, who really meets a complete stranger on a random blogging site and falls madly in love, anyway? We were both okay with just going with it for now. But it did leave me open to a few awkward conversations that summer.
For example, one of our technicians at the theatre was extremely quiet but always very sweet to me. When mutual friends approached me and spilled that he secretly wanted to ask me out on a date, I had to explain the whole thing.
"Well, I'm kind of seeing someone... that I've never met... I mean, I think we're together... but I guess we're not... So I can't. But thanks?"
To which they responded,
"You *think* you're dating a guy... that you've never met? But you're not really sure?"
I was completely aware of how crazy it all sounded. I was also completely aware of how out of character this was for me. I am not an impulsive person by nature- especially when it comes to matters of the heart. So I stayed pretty tight-lipped about my new "friend."
But as the Fall semester approached, along with the knowledge that Ryan would be returning home in August, I couldn't take my mind off of him. Would we still talk when he returned home? Or did he maybe have someone waiting for him already? Surely he would have mentioned that... but in truth, I held no claim to his heart at this point.
My fears were put to rest when he mentioned that he would be driving from New York- where he was stationed- to Texas to visit his best friend and would have to drive right through Oklahoma City, "so why not meet for coffee or something?"
The plan was for Ryan to stay one night in a hotel in my little college town and then continue on to Texas the next day. Of course, I wanted him to meet my roommates and my best friend while he was in town so they could scope him out and see if he had mild creeper tendencies to which I had previously been blinded. I was completely giddy. It was ridiculous.
The rest of my summer crept by at a slow crawl as I anticipated returning to school in the fall and meeting the young man to whom I had been devoting so much of my time. And when I knew he was finally stateside, my heart became permanently lodged in my throat. I knew that in a few short weeks, he would be standing on my doorstep. He would be right in front of me....
To Be Continued...