Welcome to Sunday Stories, hosted by The Annoyed Army Wife. If you haven’t seen her fabulous blog yet, please go check it out! While you’re there, link up and share a story of your own.
Read Our Story from the beginning.
In October of 2005, I met a guy. He even seemed normal. Three days later, we made a lunch date. That same night I found out he was deploying to Iraq in a couple of months.
I spent the next two days swinging between elation – I had a date! – and confusion. My logical side told me that there were a million things wrong with this situation. My emotional side was drawn to the romance of it. It felt like something out of a WWII movie. I pictured myself in a pencil skirt waving a white handkerchief at my new husband in uniform as the train pulled out of the station.
Then I would crash back to Earth with a shattering noise that sounded suspiciously like a heart breaking. Namely, mine.
By late Friday morning, I was sitting in my cubicle, sweating with nervous excitement. T and I were to meet at the Tandoor at noon, so at 11:50 I ran to the ladies’ room for a quick look in the mirror, then burst out of the front entrance into a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and I was walking.
I love walking. It helps clear my head, calm me down. And I needed it. I tend to sweat the small things and the whole way there I worried about how we were going to meet up. Would he be waiting outside the door? Would he already be inside and seated? What if he was but I didn’t recognize him and just stood in the doorway like an idiot? Oh no! What if I got there first? Was I supposed to go in? Would I look like I wasn’t self-confident enough to get a table for us if I didn’t?
Sometimes I wish I could shut my brain off.
I checked the street signs and made a turn. A few steps later I located the infamous green awning. So far, so good – I had found the place. Now I just had to find T.
After another few steps, I noticed someone walking towards me at a brisk clip. We recognized each other at the same time and a bright smile lit up his face. The kind of smile you feel is just for you. I beamed back at him, not least because I was so relieved at how easy that had been. We reached the door at the same time and walked in together. Perfect!
We settled into a booth and picked up our menus. I kept stealing glances at T. His civilian job requires a tie and between that and his shined black shoes, I thought he looked very neat and distinguished. My employer allows dressing down on Fridays, so I was quite a bit more casual in jeans and boots.
Never having been to an Indian restaurant before, I asked for his recommendations, but ended up ordering something I could pronounce. With that out of the way, we began to talk.
And the talk came easy.
We rehashed the low-carb craze and I mentioned my irritation at the current marketing that labeled anything and everything “Low Carb!”
“Actually,” T said calmly, “when I cut back on carbohydrates, I find that I tend to lose weight very, very quickly.”
I remember being absolutely staggered by this one comment. I know that I can be opinionated enough that I sometimes intimidate people without meaning to, yet here was a person who had an opinion of his own and was not afraid to voice it. And he wasn’t doing it in a combative way – he was simply stating his view. I clearly did not intimidate T or make him back down. I liked that. Respected it.
We continued our conversation.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith had been released earlier that year and fanatics had shown up at theaters in droves, dressed as their favorite character. We laughed at the thought of grown men parading around as Jedi. I told him I thought there was something phallic about it. He laughed.
It was the first date I’d had in a long, long time that didn’t feel like an interview. We didn’t tell each other our life philosophies. We didn’t talk about our goals or dreams. We didn’t ask each other super-personal questions.
We just talked.
Once we finished eating and the bill was paid (another awkward moment, but he wouldn’t accept any money from me), we got up from the table.
Before we went our separate ways, I thanked T for a nice lunch. He turned to look at me.
“Would you like to see a movie this weekend?”
My heart stopped beating. I had been enjoying myself so much I hadn’t thought beyond the here and now. I’d been so focused on talking to T that I had forgotten all about the elephant in the room. Suddenly it was there and larger than ever. Mammoth-sized, now.
It was the point of no return. I could say no, and walk away – away from the deploying soldier, away from the heartache, the hurt, the lonely nights.
I looked into his kind, blue eyes.
“Yes, I’d love to.”
For me there was never really any choice.