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Don’t vomit in the middle of your wedding. Good advice all around. Too bad I ignored it.
My story didn’t start with vomiting, but it did begin with a good gut wrench…
The low sun flamed from the sky even though the time was edging toward nine-thirty at night. I squinted into the glowing horizon and my heart squeezed. I held back the tears.
“Just ten months,” Greg whispered to me. “It’s not so long.”
“Only forever,” I answered. I hadn’t let go of his arm for the past thirty minutes.
He shifted his weight and settled onto the park bench. “We need to talk.”
“We are talking.” I joined him, stretched my legs, and dipped the toes of my shoes into the loose gravel at my feet.
His face had gone serious, and I knew I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. He gazed over my shoulder toward the playground equipment as if observing interesting twists of fine sculpture.
I still held his arm, but now I released my death grip. My fingers remained bent, stuck in a clutched position. “What is it?”
“I think we should see other people.” His words dropped like bricks, gaining speed as they crashed on my ears.
My mouth fell open and I jolted to my feet, tripping over a stone which protruded from the loose rock circling the bench. I skittered a bit, and regained my balance. “See other people? What do you mean?”
“Sit back down.” Greg pulled on my arm and coaxed me onto the bench again. “California’s a long way from here, and I think it’d be a good idea to keep our options open.”
I sat like a wooden toy, stiff and unmoving. I knew I was staring at him, I knew my face was revealing too much, and I knew I wanted to deck him.
“I take it you’ve given this a lot of thought.” My voice sounded so pinched, I hardly recognized it.
“Not a lot. Some, though.” Was it my imagination or did he look like he wanted to crawl under the rock I’d just tripped over?
Our ten months together during my senior year of 1973 evaporated into a depressing mist. I stood. “Fine. If that’s the way you want it, sounds good to me.” I coughed to try and cover up the bitterness in my tone.
He rose beside me and his blond hair fell over his eyes. He pushed the strands aside with an absent-minded flick of his hand. “Don’t be that way. It’s a good idea, and it’ll be much easier on us. Long distance relationships are hard.”
“How would you know?”
“Everyone says so.”
“Fine,” I repeated. “Now to make sure I have it straight — we’re both free to see other people, right?”
He nodded, but I thought I detected a kernel of doubt beginning to grow. His brows crinkled and his blue eyes narrowed.
I went on. “Okay. I guess we’re both on the same page then. You leave in a couple hours for college in California while I stay here in Washington. And we’re both free to date other people. Are we going to communicate at all, or are we stopping that too?”
I deserved a medal. My voice poured out words as if reciting the latest cookie recipe, not closing down a relationship that had cruised along for the better part of a year.
Greg’s eyes stayed focused on mine. “We can write. I think it only takes a couple of days for a letter to get here from California. You’ll write me, won’t you?”
I raised my chin. I could keep up the ruse for another few minutes. “Of course. We’ll both write. It’s a plan.”
I leaned over and kissed him. I didn’t give him time to kiss me back.
“Safe travels,” I said and smiled with warmth I didn’t feel. If he was dumping me, I was going out with class. I made certain the look in my eyes matched my smile, then turned and walked away, swaying my hips as if there were no tomorrow.
Eat your heart out, Greg Johnson.
Eat your heart out, but good.
There was sadness inside me somewhere, but the anger and growing nausea were doing a masterful job of covering it up.
Keep our options open, indeed.
So be it.
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