I don’t know what we were. I don’t even know what you would call what we had. It was exciting, warm, loving … but too serious and too fast. He was older, about 6-7 years older. I had known his name for several years, but had never interacted with him — until a warm October night.
We met at our small town’s Oktoberfest. I was in town photographing a friend’s engagement photos and decided to go to the festivities after we were done shooting. I was talking with old friends when I saw him. Standing at a tall table a short distance away, he was wearing a black polo, jeans, cowboy boots, and a baseball cap. I liked his height, the way he stood up straight and the way his broad shoulders made me feel like he could protect me. My best friend was standing at his table, so I knew I had an in. I walked over and introduced myself. A bright street light was behind his head and I could feel my face totally illuminated by the light. We smiled at each other and the flirting began. Playful hitting and touches here and there, jokes back and forth. One on one conversations. I learned that he was in the military, but had recently left and that he was living in our small town once again. As the night went on my face grew more flushed as we all drank more and more beer. I could tell my confidence was soaring when I, in a tipsy state, called a friend from high school who I never talk to and left him a voicemail. *facepalm*. The night was drawing to a close and he wasn’t making moves to ask me on a date. I decided in my drunken stupor to take the reins. I grabbed his phone and asked for the passcode. I then went into his phone, plugged my number in, then went into his calendar and set a reminder for him to “call the coolest girl he knows” (aka me) the next morning at 8am. As we were walking away I was high, high on a night of flirtation and the possibility of something new — and very proud of myself for that calendar move.
I could barely sleep that night. A combination of beer and much needed flirtation I was wide awake. The next morning he texted me at 8am, right on time. He said that the calendar reminder was a very clever way to get his attention, he was impressed. He asked me if I had time to get coffee before I left town. I was already on the road when I texted him that I didn’t have the time. During my 5 hour drive home we talked the whole way. What we talked about I don’t know but I ate every second of it up. He wanted to know more, more about me, more about my life, he wanted to truly know me — a feeling that was all too new to me. It was a day or two later of constant texting that I suggested we talk on the phone. When a call came through with his name on the caller ID, my heart leapt into my chest. I nervously answered and we both awkwardly had small talk before we relaxed. That first night we talked for 3.5 hours. I was truly giddy. I felt like I was on a cloud. He told me he thought I was beautiful, smart, funny, and that he was so happy he met me. We continuously told one another how happy we were that we had chosen that night to go to Oktoberfest. Days went on and sometimes we talked on the phone multiple times a day. We sent photos to one another, shared movies with each other, our favorite tv shows, and like clockwork every night we would talk for 2+ hours.
It was one night in particular that I remember being so happy I could cry. We were on the phone going into our second hour of talking when I nervously and quietly said, “I need to tell you something.” He replied and said “Ok…what is it?” I paused, took a deep breath and said “I like you.”
There was a pause. Then he laughed and said “Well I like you too!” I let out a sigh, laughed and said “Well I didn’t know that!” He laughed and told me that of course he liked me, if he didn’t like me we wouldn’t be talking every hour of everyday. I told him I was worried he wanted to be just friends, he really laughed then and said “Trust me I don’t want to be just friends”.
It was only about a week into our “relationship” when I was abruptly rejected from a job I thought I was going to get. I laid on top of my comforter and sobbed. Sobbed at the loss of a job I had desperately hoped for and sobbed for my feeling of failure. He texted me and asked how it went. I couldn’t face him, I didn’t know if he could handle my raw emotion and sadness this early on. I told him it didn’t go well and left it at that. Right after I hit send, he called. I tried to cover up my tears but it was no use, he could hear it in my voice. He was sweet, kind, caring, and understanding. He gave me the type of comfort I hoped that a boyfriend would deliver.
In week two of our long phone dates and endless texting he told me how much he wished he could take me on a date. To go to dinner and the movies and hold my hand, kiss me. We were 5 hours apart and I desperately hoped that he would throw caution to the wind, drive the 5 hours, and take me out…but he never did. I felt silly for hoping that he might.
At the time we met, I was living with my parents. With recent and sudden deaths in my family, I had moved back to Texas, and back in with my parents to grieve and sort out my life. He was also living at home. He had recently left the military and was saving up money to make his next career move. For some reason neither of us told our parents. We would talk for hours behind closed doors, deciding to only tell close friends. I think neither of us knew what to tell our families, because neither of us knew what exactly it was we were doing.
It was in the middle of the second week when I was strolling the aisles of Target, trying to distract myself from my recent job rejection. I chatted on the phone with a close friend, filling her in on every detail. She wasn’t impressed. She pressured me to ask him serious questions, to ask him his intentions. She believed because he wasn’t coming to see me he was stringing me along. A total ball of confusion, I reluctantly listened to her advice and decided to ask him some tough questions. Things I had moved so fast and had become so serious it didn’t even occur to me that 2 weeks was way too soon to ask him the things I wanted to ask. My concept of time was completely thrown. With our constant talking, I didn’t know what was “normal” anymore. Our “relationship” was already in a pressure cooker, and I decided to turn up the heat.
As soon as the questions came out of my mouth I regretted them. I quickly learned that we had very different goals, he was ready to settle and I was eager to travel and move all over. I knew I was too young to settle. Our conversations shortened, our texting became less and he told me he needed a few days. I tried my best to not panic. Had I just ruined this? Did I destroy what we were building? I beat myself up internally and overanalyzed every conversation, every word I had said looking for the part where I messed up.
After a few days of nothing I knew it was over. I didn’t want to accept the inevitable. I had just decided to move back to Alabama and knew if we couldn’t manage 5 hours there was no way we were going to manage living states away from each other. After three days of not talking I was in full on panic mode. I texted him begging for an update, I wanted him to just talk to me. Was it over? Had I destroyed it? What I found out was he had a family crisis happen right when he said he needed a break. A crisis that shook his family to its core. I wanted to be there for him, I wanted to comfort him, but I could only do that through the phone and I knew that wasn’t going to be enough. He was pulling away, and sadly I was too.
It was a Saturday afternoon when he called me. I saw his name on the caller ID and dread filled me. I took a deep breath and said hello. His tone was somber. We were silent on the phone for what felt like minutes. He told me how much he liked me, how he had finally told his dad about me. When he did, his dad asked him if it was fair to me for him to date me from so far away? He said he knew it wasn’t. With every word he said I could feel myself holding in my breath. He told me how sorry he was that he hadn’t kept me updated and had left me for days not knowing what was going on. I told him that I knew in my gut what we had had come to an end. I said everything I felt very matter of factly. I told him what we had had been wonderful, but that I too felt like it was over. I was shocked that I was keeping it so together. I told him how I felt like we wanted different things, and that I was still very thankful for our time together. As he told me how special I was, I felt a lump in my throat the size of a boulder. I tried to swallow it for the sake of my pride, but I couldn’t stop the tears. Through tears I told him that I wanted to thank him for showing me what it was like to have someone like me, to show me how I should be treated, to show me what it felt like to truly be pursued. His voice cracked, and he cleared his throat. The conversation started off very cordial, but as we both realized the conversation…and our “relationship”…was coming to an end we let our emotions take over.
The end of our conversation was a blur. When we said goodbye I sat there in disbelief. I couldn’t process what had just happened. The boy…this man, who I had let into my heart only three weeks prior, who I had only seen in person once, who had completely captured my heart … was gone. No more late night calls, no more sharing photos, no more endless texts, no more anything. We decided to be “friends” but I knew that was just the easy way for us to end the phone call. I sat at my desk and cried. Had we broken up? What was I supposed to call this? What had happened?
Over the months that followed, drunk texts happened once or twice between us. Especially when I was tipsy and was hoping that everything that had happened between us was a bad dream. Late one night, sober and thinking clearly, I went into my phone, looked up his contact information and hit “delete”. I realized that was my only way to truly let him go. I had to delete the possibility. This was my way to finally accept our “break up.”