How does one just go home again? I woke up in my own bed and it felt like it had all been a dream. I told my mother I’d met my Prince Charming, but honestly, I believed him when he said he wasn’t interested in continuing our relationship. And who could blame him? He was doing what he loved, what he’d wanted to do his entire life. As a boy growing up on Air Force bases around the world, he had stood on many a flight line watching the jets take off, dreaming of the day he would fly one himself. And here he was, having graduated from college, commissioned into the service, and now over halfway through pilot training, flying a super-sonic T-38, fondly known as the “sports car of the Air Force.” Why on earth would he be attracted to a 17-year-old? I was a week-long diversion, nothing more. And really, I was okay with that. I knew I was young, inexperienced, and didn’t have much to offer.
And he was a MAN. I was pretty sure no teenage boy could ever measure up. Even if my ex-boyfriend came back on his hands and knees, I wasn’t sure I’d even take him back. What would I ever see in a teenage boy again?
But I was in California and he was in Texas. Even if sparks had flown, the distance was just too great. I convinced myself there was nothing there…it was fun while it lasted, but it was over. My knight was no more real than a fairy tale prince.
In two short days, I got my first letter. I had no idea how it got to me so quickly. He must have gone straight home after our final day together (hadn’t he JUST said we had no future?) and written that letter. It was casual, goofy (some joke about a farmer out*standing* in his field), and warm. I read it aloud to my entire family. I couldn’t believe Flyboy had written me a letter! He hadn’t even asked for my address before I left. He had written a letter, procured my address and mailed it all in record time. I couldn’t believe it, but I was holding his letter in my hands.
Two days later I got another letter, before my first letter to him had even had the chance to get to Texas. And so it began. Letters turned into phone calls, and before long, we were each amassing $75 phone bills (and this was 1974!). As a part of his flight training, Flyboy got to take a cross-country flight to the destination of his choice, and he came to California! I picked him up at the base, after waiting an eternity for him to land. His instructor had made him do repeated touch-and-goes, knowing he had a girl sitting in the parking lot. He was already late in arriving, some snafu having delayed his departure by a day. By the time he got there, we had less than 24 hours together. We went to the beach and to Disneyland and stayed up way too late talking into the night. And all too soon, he was gone.
Looking back on it all, it seems unreal how quickly things got serious between us. I’d had a birthday and was now EIGHTEEN. But he also had a birthday and was now 23, on a career path, and in a position to think about the future. I, on the other hand, was a very distracted college freshman. I had been a nearly straight-A student in high school, but made a combination of A’s, B’s and C’s that first semester. Between the adjustment of living in a “liberated” dorm setting and talking late into the night with Flyboy, studying obviously did not have my full attention.
There were nine girls in our suite. One had her boyfriend spend the night at least three times a week, another had a nervous breakdown and was hauled out on a stretcher, never to be seen again, and a third got pregnant and had an abortion all in the first semester. My mother was beside herself and in a moment of desperation said she’d send me anywhere else!
Really? Anywhere? Almost as a dare, I said, “how about Texas?”