The story of Winchester, Virginia. I've been thinking about this for awhile now. How to tell the story and get it right - so you understand.
Twenty years ago, at the beginning to the [first] Gulf War, I wrote a letter to "Any Soldier" as part of Operation Dear Abby. This popular letter writing campaign started during Vietnam and was intended to raise spirits among the troops. I don't know why I did it, really. I've always loved to read the daily paper and I love to write letters, and I'm sure those two things put together were more than enough reason for me.
I received a letter back from a solider in Kuwait named John. He picked my letter out of a "great big pile" because he liked my name. He and I wrote back and forth for about 8 months before we met in person and by that time we were best friends. He came back to the US and flew to Minneapolis to meet me. I picked him up at the Burger King at MSP airport and that was the first chapter of our story. I was 19, almost 20, and he was 26. Scandalous at that age. So I didn't tell many people about him. Definitely not my mother.
In May of that year, Mrs. Sportweasel decided to do a summer internship in Washington, DC. Because it was not far from Winchester, Virginia, and I was perfectly miserable being who I was, where I was, I packed up my Chevy Crappalier and drove cross-country. Mr. Jaeger helped with the drive and then flew back to Minnesota. I registered for summer classes at American University - which I attended for about two weeks - and waited for the miracle to occur. That miracle being that John would have figured out what I was doing in DC, what we should do about each other and tell me how it was all going to work out and tell me how to do it...
But that's not what happened. I moved to DC the first week in May and by June it was off the books. He had adult responsibilities and no time to mess with some fool girl from Minnesota. And that's when I started making the really dumb decisions, the ones that would take me years to unravel. I never got in my car and visited Winchester. I never called him back to try and figure things out. Neither one of us said, "Let's check in after about six months and see how things feel." We just.dropped.the.ball.
Over the next few years, I pulled it together somewhat. I went to Georgetown and I do remember calling John in Winchester during my time at GU. I think I was in my junior year. He says he told me "we have a college here [in Winchester]" and that I promptly hung up the phone.
Five or six years went by and I married someone else and then I divorced him. And John emailed me sometime around that time. He says that email was full of apologies. By that time, I was old enough to know what an ass I'd been; how much hurt I'd caused others just by being unable to process my own feelings and tell others what I wanted and needed to be happy.
Five or six years after that, I got married a second time. The first one was a nice person just not the person for me. And I didn't love him the way he deserved to be loved so the divorce hurt me, but nothing like this second one.
John emailed me, by coincidence, after the end of the second marriage and we talked as friends about all that had passed in our lives. I made it less than a month in my mom's old apartment after that. I asked myself what would make me truly happy, and I then I got in my car and drove to Winchester, Virginia, where we live now, in sin.
I'm 40. He's 47. We're best friends, and we're happy.