The date: early June, 2000. The place: Mansfield, MA…
After finishing my doctorate in ’95, I moved up to Massachusetts, leaving Texas and her behind. And although I went back every holiday season to see my folks, she and I somehow managed to avoid hooking up during my annual visits home. (Truth be known, she called me one year when I was visiting… but I inadvertently forgot to call her back. D’OH.) We managed to keep in touch via e-mail and infrequent phone calls, but for five years, that was the extent of it—she had married during the interim, and I was quite happy with my newfound New England life.
Then came the e-mail message from her.
It said that she was driving across the country, visiting as many roller coaster parks as she could find, and that she was going to be in my “neighborhood” (there’s a Six Flags park in western Massachusetts) and that she’d love to spend a day or two with me if I was free. As [bad] luck would have it, the dates she was going to be up here coincided with a time when I was doing a lot of business-related travel, and I knew that I was scheduled to head out to San Diego around that time. I told her that I would love to see her but that I’d have to check my schedule first. I think those were my exact words to her—“I’ll have to check my schedule first.”. What a clod. But as [good] luck would have it, my trip to San Diego ended up being the week after she was set to arrive up here. So the date was set.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’d get periodic e-mail messages from her (well, me and a few other people—she had a mini-distribution list to which she was sending trip updates). But in all that time, it was always “I” this and “me” that—where was her husband in all of this? I mean, she’s driving all around the eastern half of the country, but there’s nary a mention of him. For the briefest of moments, a comfortable but long-forgotten pang crept up inside of me, but I quickly dismissed it as wishful thinking. After all, five years is an awfully long time… isn’t it?
One of my last e-mail replies to her before she arrived—she checked e-mail at libraries and such whenever she could find them on her trek—ended with the line “Maybe I can steal a hug and a kiss from you when you get here. ;-)”. A completely innocent, off-the-cuff remark to a dear friend. Unbeknownst to me, she couldn’t get to her e-mail around that time, so she was having her sister read her e-mail and relay it to her over the phone—and the last batch included my message. Her sister teased her, saying something to the effect that she’d better watch out for herself when she arrives. That got a good laugh… no, no, it’s nothing like that, he’s just being cute.
She pulled up in front of my house on a Saturday afternoon.