Okay, here it goes. Forgive me if I jump around a bit. I get excited when telling this story.
I was sitting atop a picnic table outside of the "Charlie" company barracks in Fort Devens, MA (now an industrial park due to the military cutbacks from a government that felt the world had finally established peace and why have all these army bases?!....uh huh) and I saw her coming from the distance. Couldn't really see her face too well at that point, but there was something about the way she carried herself. I went back to shining my boots, looking up every few seconds as the distance between us continued to close. I couldn't tell whether she looked at me or not, and it looked as if she may walk by. Never before in my life had I ever approached a female in such a way, as there was no knife sharp enough to cut away my shyness to make such an approach. However, the words just blurted. "You going to shine those boots soldier?" An egg could easily have been fried from the heat coming from my face and neck when she turned back to say, "I doubt it." She turned back around and continued on. Fifty yards past me, she turned back around and our eyes met. No such thing as "love at first sight" huh? Okay, whatever you say, but I'm going to reserve the right to disagree with that.
The next day, in the formation that always preceded our march to the intelligence school, Brenda was two squads in front of me. She turned to look back, and said, "good morning." Okay, that did it. Now the entire platoon was staring at me. Great! My God I need a long run. About 15 miles will do the trick. I'm not sure if that was my exact feeling at the time, but I'm sure it wasn't much different.
After school, we talked. My God, I was talking to this girl that had captured my heart in a way that no words could ever explain, I don't care if they were coming from William Shakespeare or not. My Juliet, I had finally found. Or so I thought. For me, it was only eight weeks until graduation. For her, almost six months. The days and weeks that followed had us in deep conversations, and I had no doubt that I had fallen in love. The catch? Brenda didn't want that. Not then. She treasured our friendship. She loved to talk. And we did.
I'll never forget that night I asked her to the movies. She said no and that she was busy. Later, I saw her walking with somebody else. That somebody else wasn't a female. My heart was broken. I was so jealous. I had already run that morning, but running was my therapy. In minutes my feet were moving forward, fairly rapidly. The walk-way between the four sets of barracks was exactly 1/4 of a mile around. After twenty laps, I wasn't even settled into a relaxed pace yet. The anger and jealousy were feelings I had never felt like that. Not that strong anyway. After 88 laps, or 22 miles, I decided I was just taring up my legs and went in and showered. She came into the barracks later and when we met in the hallway we talked. She apologized and rather than be mad at her, it made me love her only that much more. Love sick? Oh yeah....big time.
8 weeks flew by fast. I was going to graduate. The five-thousand dollar bonus was kind of nice, but the last thing on my mind. It was a thursday. I could just go home. Mom and dad came to the graduation, and I could just ride home to Vermont with them. I didn't go. There was something I had to do. On Saturday there was a 10k (6.2 mile) roadrace. I had to go out in style. I had a t-shirt made up. I ran the race. The sixth place finish out of over two hundred runners was kind of nice, but even nicer was the look on Brenda's face when she read my shirt, proudly displaying "six miles for Brenda." She and her friends brought me to the Vermont Transit bus station. She hugged me. And for the first time our lips met. She said good-bye after the kiss. A good-bye that had me crying for the next 3 hours. A 19 year old, going on 20, crying like a baby all the way to Vermont. I got off the bus to be greeted by my mother.
"Are you okay Raymond?" Mom knew by my letters, how I had felt. She knew that Brenda was my first true love and that my heart was shattering. (Hang on while I get the tissue).
"No mom," I said, through the waterfalls in my eyes, "I'm not okay!"
8 days later I was landing at Kadena Airforce Base in Okinawa, Japan. The tears had gone away, but I was determined to write to Brenda avery day. I did. I wrote and wrote. I mailed letters, never to receive a reply. For the first 16 months on "the rock" I wrote and never heard back. Was someone intercepting my letters? Did NSA not want us communicating from "third world" countries? I didn't know then and still don't know. It was over. Brenda had forgotten me and that was it.
I left Japan in December of 1985. 3 years later I met and married someone else. 13 years after that things fell apart for many varying reasons. I was feeling down, depressed, and had adopted the feeling that I had reached bottom. My mom's dying in 1993 of Breast cancer didn't help. I had crashed. Do you believe in Miracles? I didn't..... I do now.
"Mom," I prayed, "Please help me. If there is a God up there mom, I really need help." I prayed. They listened.
August 26, 2001. My Birthday. (Ironic---the timing is almost a little spooky). 18 years had passed. My ex-niece came up to me at a birthday party. She said, "Uncle Ray, I like this guy and he doesn't want to be more than just friends. I really need some advice. "
"Jaime," I said back, "Let go. Just let go and if it's meant to be , then it will happen. I felt the same way once, eighteen years ago. I loved a girl named Brenda Thompson. She wanted to just be friends. We parted, and that was it. You have to be able to just move on."
"Thank you, uncle Ray. But that doesn't help." She started away, and then turned back, "Uncle Ray, I love you. I wish you were happier."
"Who knows Jaime? Maybe happier days are coming."
August 27th...yes...the very next day....(I did mention miracles right?)....I opened my email. I froze in place. I seriously, literally, pinched myself. This can't be. It's absolutely impossible!
" Dear Raymond," the note said, "I don't know if this is you. You once ran a 6 mile race for me. It was a long time ago. If this is you, please write back. If not, then I'm sorry."
(hang on.....resorting to paper towels now).
I paced the floor. Do I answer? I answered. She asked why I never wrote. I found proof that I had written among letters my mother had saved, where-in I would tell my mom of the letters I had sent to Brenda and none were ever replied to.
Brenda asked.."who would do such a thing?" I'd answer, "If I ever find out, they'll beg for mercy before I finish."
18 YEARS had passed.(Understand that I had never even spoken her name in those 18 years until the day before I got her email) The love of my life, had found me (on classmates.com of all places). I made a vow to the heavens, that no matter where she was, we would be together. For a year we wrote. She had married and gone through a divorce as well. She flew to Vermont. I flew to Florida. We did this two times each, writing and talking every day.
To all the people that told me, back in 1983, to "just get over it"....to "just forget her,"...well, we are together now. We have less in material items and money than I have ever had at any point in my life. Yet, I am the happiest I could ever be. The love we share and the love we have together is stronger and more amazing than any feeling or emotion I have ever experienced.
Thanks Mom!......and tell the big guy up there I said thanks too!
Portions of this story are the inspiration for "Troubled Memories."
Many thanks to Ryoma, my new friend here in the Red Room, for inspiring me to put the story in writing. (Yes, Ryoma, we still hold hands. :)
I didn't edit, so please excuse typos, and all that jazz. lol.