I was a baby, just 17 years old and it was the week before graduation. My longtime boyfriend gave me the boot – just opened the door to his Thunderbird, and kicked me to the curb (figuratively speaking), leaving me devastated and all alone. Because we’d already bought the tickets to grad night, we went together anyway and had a thoroughly rotten time. It was an all-nighter at a local country club that felt like it was two weeks long. For the next couple of weeks, I tried to look ahead to the future, having plans to leave for college at the end of the summer, but I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, feeling rejected and abandoned.
Shortly thereafter, my 11-year old brother and I boarded a plane for Texas to visit our cousins and even in my depression, I knew that a change of scenery would be good medicine. We landed in San Antonio and drove, and drove, and drove…three hours from the airport to our destination. We passed miles of nothing and it felt like we were driving to the end of the world. What could possibly be at the end of this road? Our uncle was a park ranger and we had grown up visiting some of the most amazing National Parks (wherever they were currently assigned), but west Texas was no Grand Canyom, that’s for sure. We finally got to their house, after a long day of traveling, and despite the desolation of my heart (that was now surrounded by nothing but barren terrain), we were swallowed in hugs, gulped down sweetened iced tea and our visit began.
The first few days of that visit included a quick trip to Dallas, lots of ice chips (who knew it could be so HOT this side of hell?!?) and lots of therapeutic laughter. I was breathing again.
Just in time to get the wind knocked out…
My cousin PJ was all set to go on a date with her student pilot boyfriend one evening. When he rode up on his BMW to pick her up, my aunt said to him, “PJ’s cousin is in town – do you know somebody who could take her out?” My aunt is one of my favorite people in the world, but at that moment I wanted to take HER out. Going out with anyone – let alone a complete stranger – was the last thing on earth I wanted to do. PJ’s boyfriend picked up the phone and called a friend. I wanted to die a thousand deaths. I could only hear one side of the conversation: “PJ & I are going for a bike ride and her cousin is in town. Wanna come along?…..It’s a date…..with a GIRL…..how many times do you get an offer like this?…..Yes…..No, no problem there….Yes – right now – come on over.”
Here’s the other side I couldn’t hear and wouldn’t be divulged until much later: “I can’t, I have a test tomorrow….not very often that’s for sure since the ratio of eligible women to eligible men around here is about 1 to 20….Is she a Christian?….Right now?…..oh, okay, I guess.”
So after drinking iced tea and waiting and waiting and waiting, suddenly the waiting was over, and in rumbled Flyboy on his Yamaha 650. How had this happened? What was I doing here? I had never ridden a motorcycle, and I’d never been on a blind date, and I wasn’t even interested. I began to feel a bit woozy and leaned against the back of an overstuffed recliner, hiding behind it, just wanting to disappear. PJ ran to the door to meet him but I didn’t budge. All I wanted to do was throw up. And then he walked in the door…