1998, you walked up to where I was asking my favorite flavor while mocking my mary janes. I looked up to you (premonition of what was to come?) intimidated by your Chrysler building stance shadowing over me. I excused myself, and continued tending to the other costumers trying to find the best fragrance; not flavor, to gift to someone that holiday season. I remember the girls setting their self cautious eyes in your direction as you exited the store, but before disappearing into the holiday crowd, you screamed, “Its fine Rose, you don’t have to tell me your favorite flavor. I will be back and you will tell me then.” Completely embarrassing me and unaware that it would be one of the many thing I would later dislike about you. My scowl could set you on fire, but I was too busy to even try.
You returned every day for two weeks. Each day asking a different question and every day leaving with no answers to kill your curiosity, however that didn’t stop your dramatic exits, each day trumped the last. I believe that’s when I developed a love for grand gestures. Before those two weeks, I had very little knowledge for real life romance or a sincere interest. You set the bar so high.
One day you stopped showing up. I argued with myself for expressing disinterest, when I was completed interested, however, it was my life as a single mom that stopped me from answering all your questions or entertaining your skits or blushing whenever your green eyes smiled in my direction.
Fast forward, two months. I had taken some time off because I was dealing with my daughter getting diagnosed with Autism, which you didn’t even know I had a daughter much less two boys, but upon my return to work a very bright faced coworker handed me a paper. I opened it and there it was, your phone number. In my hand, I had your number and a thousand excuses for why I should not call. A thousand skits all ending in you not wanting anything to do with me because my story was so hard.
I went home and handed your number to my brother. “Look. He came back, and left his number.” Eddie begged me to call you, but I ended up throwing your number in the kitchen trash, and completely dismissing that my brother was the one who threw out the garbage in the house. I later found your number in my dresser with a note of his own which read, “If you don’t call him, you are STUPID.”
Needless to say I called you. You apologized for disappearing letting me know that, when you were here stalking me at my job was because you were on holiday leave, and left to tie loose ends for your return home because you had completed your training in Texas. I learned we were the same age, and you learned about the children and how difficult it was for me to get away even for a bite to eat, I was so sure I’d never see or hear from you again, but you showed up to my job with a car seat in your car, asking me for a date. How in the world did I land an a nice guy? An Army guy? And furthermore, how did you manage to find something in me back then?
Our dates were anything but private, I recall having picnics in the back of the Rodeo with MRE’s, the kids in their car seats eating Army peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while watching the sunset. That’s where my fascination for dry strawberries came from, the sunsets were always my thing because I loved watching the moon wake up. If we weren’t at the beach with the kids, we were at K-Mart dressing them up with everything on the racks just so they could burn all the energy they collected that day, but my favorite was when you would come over, and they would be in their footsie pajamas, and you would rowdy them up before saying good night while wearing yours. I felt blessed. Blessed for being cherished and that my children had such an awesome friend. Keanu still talks about that, and he hardly remembers what he ate last night. We spoke on the phone every day, for the next 3 years. We spoke about everything but the future. They say if you see yourself with someone in the future, that its special, and they are the one.
Well, Captain America, I didn’t see you in my future, and surely couldn’t recognize the feeling of knowing when someone was “the one”. For the one came in the form of a boy band, and you guy, were NOT a part of the band. You were just as crazy about music as I was, the salsa dancing, the comfortable silence. You playing video games while I read. One of the moments that sticks out the most was the Method Man song “All I Need” you made sure to embarrass me then by pulling stops at random traffic lights to sing the song in front of cars so that everyone could honk their horn at you. I still don’t know how that cop didn’t arrest you for disrupting the peace, but life with you was everything but peaceful, and ever the organized chaos, which I have somehow adapted as my own or perhaps we were so much alike that our inner chaos found peace inside us together. But I didn’t see you in my future and you drove me way too crazy to even consider you the one.
Then 2001 came, when everything changed and your love for me scared you so hard that it broke Valentines Day for me for a while. People who know that story still wonder how on earth we made it out in one piece. The only thing that stands out other than me throwing 49 red, white and pink balloons out of my apartment and watching them fly away was you arriving to catch the last one and holding it in your shaking hand as you asked me to forgive you. You took that balloon and wrote : If found please return followed by my address. I closed the door on you and watched you let go of the red balloon into the air. I closed my window on you and my relationship with you then… or so I thought. You showed up every day for two weeks just has you had done in the beginning of this roller coaster of a relationship declaring your love for me. Again, setting the bar way too high. You punched a hole in my wall after I asked you to leave and that was the end for me.
3 months later you asked me to lunch and gave me a mixed tape along with a few pages you tore from your journal. I couldn’t bring myself to read them nor listen to your songs so I ended up throwing it away before arriving home. I wasn’t being heartless, I was heart broken and the pain was hard to bare, I didn’t know what love was until I felt that kind of pain, I felt like I was dying because that throbbing heat reminding me with every thought of you that it was over was too real. I didn’t want to feel that ever again so I avoided anything like it even you.
On September 11, the world changed, however my life changed even more when you called at 3 am on the 12th to tell me that you were being deployed…promising you’d never forget me. To which you ended the call saying, “I love you so much. I love you and the kids and I will do anything for you because you are the one.” Morning came everything was a fog, I walked outside to smoke a cigarette, the first cigarette in years since I had stopped smoking while I was with you, and as I made my way to the garden, the mail man handed me my letters. There was a manila envelope with a name I didn’t recognized, and when I opened it there it was; the balloon you sent into the hands of the universe on Valentines Day. It was found in a farm in Ocala with a note that read, “Thank you for letting me believe in love again. Best, Dave.” That night I stopped dreaming. My dreams were always so cute and funny and then night set and everything changed. I never felt so alone in my life. Nightmares took over and sleepless nights entered my life. That could also be said for all the empty relationships I had after that. I’m honest, and its one of the many things you admire about me, and in that honesty I can also say that I looked for you in everyone I ever dated, and when I didn’t find you in them, I settled for whatever came my way.
Years passed, I moved …had a baby, got married, got divorced. Moved again and you…in Afghanistan fighting wars that didn’t belong to you and me. I voted for a President most disliked because he promised he would send you home in his speech. Your platoon was the first ones to come home, and I started watching TV again. All the while you were writing every night. You wrote for 13 years, and I had no clue until my mom fell ill forcing her to move in with me in 2011, and one night she walked into my room with a letter in her hand. I thought it was some hospital bill, but I looked at it closely to see your handwriting screaming at me from her hands. My mother the horter saved it, “I have more, I just cant find them now” she said. November 11, 2001. That was the date on the seal of the stamp. I didn’t read it. I couldn’t. Erika read it and told me all about it. Out of sight out of mind kinda feel. If I didn’t read your words, then the pain wasn’t real .
I told myself then, I would make peace with us. In 2012, I moved on with my feelings and my love for you right into the arms of the Red Skull, I subconsciously knew he reminded me way too much of you. There they were ALL THE RED FLAGS, and i ignored each and everyone of them. One day in the beginning of my relationship with him you asked me to let him go, and I couldn’t. I need for you to understand that it wasn’t to hurt you. I wanted to love him, and I did. I didn’t want to let go of love again because I had with you and it hunted me forever. At that moment I didn’t understand that love was always there no matter the relationship I was in. Love was always in me and was with me. But it was too late the tables had turned, and you were right, he was me and I was you, and before I knew it there was that ugly feeling again.
Anyone who was ever important showed up in my life after that break up, even you. You walked into the house that I had adorned with memories of him and I, standing in the door way I had refused to beg him to not walk out of as you placed in my hand a box. Inside that box were the rest of the letters you kept while being away from me. You expressed keeping the pictures because those showed the more beautiful side to us. I asked if you were finally giving them to me to have because you wanted me to read them or because you were finally over me, and in the most cordial fashion you said, “because I know you love a good love story, and I want you to read them.” You told me you loved me. Funny how I saw myself growing old with him, yet he made sure to kill anything and everything that would ever birth life in us, and yet by the same token the man I didn’t see a future with had not left my side. You made peace with us then, I just didn’t want to believe it. You finally became stronger than me to walk away from who we were in all the seasons of our lives. I stopped hearing from you. It was the first Christmas, New Years, Birthdays, Mothers Day, Father’s Day and every day, that I didn’t hear from you in years.
In the middle of all that, I began to work on every corner of my being. I took time to lick my own wounds and harvest myself. One night in December of 2014, I began to dream again. What?!? After so long? My mind had finally made peace with my past. I was finally dreaming, and they were nice and they were pretty. And it felt good. I was in a cabin in the Netherlands and I woke up to the sound of the Northern Lights. I woke up feeling whole. Feeling beautiful. Feeling like I had not been broken. For the first time in a year I smiled, and meant it. I began to paint that night and haven’t stopped since. The next day you sent me a picture of the sunset. You had a beautiful way of breaking silence.
I had long stopped believing in fairy tales, and gave up on love songs, and I grew tired of love films, I cared very little for love books and I refuse to think of us as one, but I will recognize that after all these years you’ve had my heart and it’s time to take it back.
Life with you has been a missing connection type of situation. I’m going one way, you’re going another, but somehow with parts of each other. I’m spent it looking for love in all the wrong places and you spent it showing me how I never lost it.
In letter #85, (I finally read them all) you said “your birthday is coming, its the first birthday I don’t get to be with you. You would think the stars would shine here. I just want to make it home to you, but I don’t know when that will be. Spending days without you guys makes the nights long and they are already long enough. Tonight we go into the city. Tomorrow we hunt.” I thank you for writing 275 love letters during a time when the world was so cold. Thank you for fighting for this country when most in it don’t even fight for anything much less love, I believe that is why you have stayed in my life for so long …grand gestures, you are the master of them all. Thank you for your friendship, that right there –is what I love the most about us, being able to be me with no excuses, in all loud colors and with all the ugly scares, but most importunately I thank you for not putting an end to us, and for loving me no matter what and for showing it always. Even from a far. Your loyalty has not gone unnoticed.