[Note: if you are reading this on Facebook and it doesn't look quite right, the original entry can be found at http://peaceofferings.blogspot.com/.]
Introduction: when I first started contemplating this blog entry, I never anticipated that the relationship would end before I posted it. My relationship with Julie, so soon after beginning so well, is over as I type these words. Part of my way of dealing with grief is writing about it, and there is nothing I wrote here that is not still true, so I post this as part of my blog, which is, after all, “a journal of my journey with God”. Part of my reasoning isn't just that in some way it's an expression of my current grief, but it contains some good writing (I think) and is funny (I hope) , so I hope you can read it that way. I have not edited the original entry except for adding this short into.
I have been writing about change and possibility for the past few entries of this blog. Sometimes, change catches one unawares. So it is with what I now write.
“ You rang?” I was driving back to Topeka on a Saturday afternoon. Terry had been on vacation, so I'd been driving solo all that week. I was tired. I was thinking of all the things I had to get done when I got home. I was annoyed because my phone, which I had previously baptized in a truck stop bathroom , was not working right. I had just recently been to Georgia when Deb, a cousin whom I loved dearly, had passed away. (I wrote about Deb here .)
I had set up my old phone so that it let me know I had a message by emitting a sound like the gong they used on The Addams Family to call Lurch. Lots of times when I would hear that gong sound, I'd say, “You rang?”, trying to imitate Lurch. I know, I know, but if you know me, that won't surprise you that much.
So, anyway, on that Saturday I was almost to Salina, Kansas, when my phone gonged. I said, “You rang?” to the silence in the truck, and when I stopped in Salina, I looked at my phone, thinking I had a text from Terry or my sister probably.
It was not.
It was a message saying someone had sent me en e-mail on Match.com, an online dating site that I'd signed up for in January, but that never went anywhere. I had intended to let my subscription expire, and had largely forgotten about it. And here was a message from someone. Oh, well. Probably spam.
It was not spam. It was a message from someone in Emporia, Kansas (of all places), named Julie.
That first message basically said that she liked my sense of humor and that my profile had made her laugh. I answered her e-mail, and a few hours later, we were talking on the phone for the first time. We talked an hour and twenty minutes, laughing for much of that time. From the very first time we talked, I felt comfortable with her. I wondered if that would translate if we ever met in person.
We talked and texted quite a bit every day after that first day, and we soon decided that we would go out on our first date on Saturday, April 2 nd.
“ What day is it?” Things were going well. The day before we were to meet for the first time was April 1 st , which is a day I love because it's an excuse to play jokes on people.
I was driving nights, and all that previous night, I was thinking and planning about possible jokes and people to try to fool. Honestly, my list has grown rather short in recent years because I've pulled stuff on my family for so long, they are on to me most of the time.
I knew I was going to try to get Terry. But who else? How about Julie?
I could see the clouds of potential disaster on my horizon. We hadn't even met yet, and we were supposed to go out the next day. Would I risk it all just to play a joke?
I had considered several scenarios and had discarded most because I didn't want to traumatize her too much. I wasn't sure how she would respond, even though I knew she had a good sense of humor. Finally, I settled on a possible scenario.
It was about 6:00 am, and Terry had started driving. Julie was at work. I composed a text and just before hitting “send”, I told Terry, “Watch this. My phone will ring in about 15 seconds.”
I sent the text, something like this: “I know you are at work, but I heard something disturbing last night I need to talk to you about. Call me when you can. Have a good day.”
Literally, 10 seconds later, my phone rings. It's Julie. I started cracking up before I even answered.
“ What? ”
“ Oh, hey Julie. Well, last night I was at the warehouse in Topeka, and I saw another driver there who lives in Emporia, Earl Crumbley. [Of course, I know no one else from Emporia, and no one named Earl Crumbley. Ain't I mean?] We were just shooting the breeze, and I mentioned that I was about to go out with a woman from Emporia. He asked who you were, and I ended up showing him your picture.”
By now, I can hear Julie's breathing start to get heavier. She is hooked.
“ Well, he saw your picture, and he said he didn't know you personally, but said everyone down there knows who you are. He said about two years ago, you were arrested and convicted for embezzling funds and got off on a technicality, but that you were guilty.”
I could literally feel the tension through the phone as the breathing got even heavier and more rapid.
Finally, she couldn't stand it. “ You can do a background check on me! I haven't ever been in the paper for anything like that!”
“ Julie, do you know what today is?”
“ It's Friday.” An exasperated pause. “Are you messing with me?”
“ Happy April Fool's Day!”
A short silence as I heard her breath catch, followed by some declarations I won't quote here.
Then we both laughed and I knew everything was okay.
But she did vow revenge.
“ The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.” I swear it was an accident. Sort of.
You see, we were on our first date. We had gone to Longhorn Steakhouse in Topeka for a late lunch. We laughed, talked, and started getting to know one another better. It was all going so well.
One of the things that happened is that when Julie excused herself, I called her cell phone right away, hoping she had taken it with her, and that I could cause a little excitement or consternation in stall number 2. Well, she had left her phone in her purse in her seat, and when it went to voicemail, I started leaving her a message and then saw her coming back. I then started acting like I was talking to Terry (all the while still on her voicemail), acting like he was saying we had a surprise load and I would have to leave right away, that kind of thing.
When she discovered what I had done, we both laughed for a long time. It was a good beginning. Until afterward.
We finished our meal, finished tormenting the poor server dude, and we walked outside, still laughing and joking around.
Suddenly, I knew it was coming. You know how you know it's gonna happen, but you're not sure just how serious or loud it's going to be? I thought I knew myself pretty well in this regard. Not nearly as well as I should, it turns out.
I thought it was going to be silent. Honest to the Lord, I did.
The moment finally came to launch or abort, and I felt confident that it would pass unremarked since Julie was a safe enough distance away. Past the point of no return now.
When an older couple walking across the parking lot at Olive Garden hundreds of feet away turned around to see what the noise was, I knew I had grossly miscalculated. And it was too late. It was one of the loudest and longest of my career, and in the right setting, it would have been a proud moment.
The right setting was not a first date.
Julie heard the offensive cacophony, and started running away quickly.
“ Nice icebreaker, Allan!”
There was a moment of awkward silence as the aftershocks of the blast subsided, and then we both started laughing.
At that moment, I knew I could fall in love with this woman.
And I have.
There is much more to this story, but that is enough for now. Our journey together so far has been one of the greatest joys of my life.
Until next time . . . remember that there is a time and place for everything . . .