How often do they happen in our lifetimes? Moments which, at first glance, mean very little, random moments, turn the corner and there they are moments, what the hell moments . . . literally thousands of times, for each of us, the randomness of the universe, the gods playing with us, many seemingly meaningless, but a few, a very precious few, change our lives forever.
And so it was, for me, November 20, 2007.
A Normal Workday
I was managing a UHaul on that date, nothing special about it, one day out of two years there, arranging merchandise, answering phone calls, taking reservations, spending spare time wondering how the hell I ended up in that place, at that time, so far removed from the dreams as a teen, conquering the world, fame and fortune, the lofty goals just distant memories, when the door opened and she walked in.
She was in the neighborhood of fifty, give or take a heartbreak or two, reasonably short, curly, shoulder-length brown hair, a lovely face made lovelier when she smiled at me.
“I’m looking for packing boxes, but they need to be a specific size to fit a lamp my friend wants shipped.”
How is it possible for a grown man to suddenly forget the language of his country? The customary “good morning” was no place to be found as she looked at me. No “lovely day we’re having” or “right this way” or “how about those Seahawks,” just a slack-jawed stare at a complete stranger who held me spellbound.
Allow me to interrupt this tale right here to explain that my behavior was not out of the norm. I have always found it hard to speak when confronted by a lovey woman I am attracted to. I was the quintessential wallflower in high school and in college. I am, at the very least, completely confused by women, and I am, at the very least, mentally paralyzed when I see one I would like to see more of. I am not a player. Never have been, never will be, and on that November morning I was simply trying to hold myself together, one year sober and barely in control of my life. The thought of a new relationship was the furthest thing from my mind. Surviving was front and center, as it should have been, and yet . . .
There she was!
I found the words necessary to show her the packing box she needed. I may have said something inane. I usually do. I helped her at the register, my inner voice screaming at me to ask her out on a date, make small talk about anything, just delay the inevitable, the moment she would leave my life, never to be seen again, a footnote at the bottom of my memoirs, one more failure, for me, in the mystery that is relationships.
The words did not come. I took her payment, wished her a good day, watched as the door closed, and spent the rest of the day pondering shoulda, coulda, woulda, as I so often had in the past.
She was gone. The randomness of the universe delivered and I had failed to answer the call. Somewhere, outside, a sea gull screeched in distain of my inaction.
Three Months Later
I had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing her again by February, 2008. I had thought of her often, kicked my butt often in self-recrimination, but any thought of the gods favoring me with another visit from her was fading fast when, on the 15th of that month, she walked in again.
“Hello again!” I managed to stutter. Eloquent it was not.
“Hi! I need more packing boxes.”
Now or never, I thought.
“How about some packing boxes and a dinner date this weekend?”
I have no idea where I found the courage to say that. The words were out before my cowardice could stuff them back in.
She smiled. Barely made eye contact. Fidgeted with her car keys.
“I don’t date. I just got out of a difficult relationship, and it exhausted me. I think I would be better off without the entanglements of dating for a while. Besides, I’m just too damned tired to even think of dating. Too much to do. Why complicate things, you know?”
The door was closing. It was now or never for that little wallflower of long ago.
“I get it. How about a non-date? We could just meet as friends, have coffee, no other intentions.”
It was bullshit. I knew it and I suspect she knew it. I had a great many intentions, and none of them had anything to do with just being friends.
But it worked!
“Okay, I guess. How about Saturday afternoon, two o’clock, at the Café Elite?”
Looking back, I’m sure she must have purchased boxes that day. I’m sure, also, that I must have said thank you and goodbye. But I remember none of that. She had said yes. She had agreed to meet me. That was all I could think about as she walked out the door, drove from the parking lot, and prepared to change my life forever.
It Was Never Going to Be Easy
Fact: You do not take two broken human beings, add desire, ignore the past, and construct a healthy relationship. Life simply does not work that way, and it certainly did not for Bev and I.
I’m not certain how many times we broke up that first year. I’m not certain how many times I declared to myself that relationships are for suckers, and true love simply does not exist. I know Bev can say the same about her thoughts those many years ago.
I was aware that I was broken. I was aware that I truly had no practical knowledge of how to make a relationship work. I had failed miserably in marriage. Most of my relationships were fueled by lust and alcohol, a sure-fire recipe for disaster, and the thought of entering into a new relationship without alcohol scared me to death. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was frightened.
And the same could be said about Bev, sans the alcohol. Her relationship history was less than stellar, littered with misunderstandings, miscommunication, and a “man picking device” which was obviously malfunctioning and had been for many years.
Mix it together . . . a woman who had no faith in men, and a man who had no faith in himself, and the odds for success would not even be calculated by the most optimistic of Las Vegas bookies.
And yet . . .
As I write this, it has been fourteen-plus years since that first meeting, and we are not only still together but we are married and thriving in this relationship built upon a co-willingness to get it right.
We have both stumbled, but we have immediately picked ourselves up, talked about the stumbles, and continued on. We have both struggled with communicating our feelings, but we have soldiered through it and learned how to honestly communicate without blame.
We have found safety in each other’s company. We have found trust in each other. And finally, despite the non-existent odds for success, we have found love.
She is my gift from the gods, my reward for finally putting in the work, my payday for wanting it bad enough to be willing to change as a human being.
I love this woman named Bev, and I love this thing called love!
2022 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)