When we met in 1998, I knew you were different than anyone else I had ever known. The way you looked at me, you could see right through me, you knew me. And it was instanteous. I could never keep things from you, or do anything other than just be myself around you.
At 16 years old, you scared me to death. You were so uniquely intense. We attempted to date for a few weeks, but I wasn’t emotionally ready for any of how I felt toward you. So like most 16 year old girls when they can’t figure things out, I friend zoned you… because I could never explain us. I couldn’t give what we were, a definition. I couldn’t explain why our first kiss; with me in the drivers seat of my car and you sitting in the door jam felt like a movie moment, when I truly barely knew you. But us not dating did not slow us down from spending as much time together as we could. You didn’t make me strong, you brought out my strengths. You didn’t make me try new things, we learned things together. We could talk for hours, about any and everything. You saw things in the same colors I did. I loved that you could carry on a conversation about football and Shakespeare. You felt no need to be stuck in any specific category.
It never mattered what we were doing, we made all of it fun. We would sit out on the sand in front of the Gulf and daydream about far away places, yet we never took for granted the beauty right in front of us. We swam at all hours of the night, in the warm salt water. Laid in the sugar sand and stared at the moon. We skipped school on pretty days because passing the beach exit was just not an option. When it would get cold, we would sit on the bottom steps of the boardwalk, I would lean back against you and you would wrap me up and keep me warm. I’ve written a thousand times about standing up out of the sunroof, the Black Crowes playing, you driving and holding on to me but I’ve never said it was you. You made sure I got home from parties safely, even if you had to pick me up and carry me out solely because you would never let me miss curfew. You had told my dad you were bringing me home, and you always did. I dated other people, so did you. But whoever we dated was simply supposed to accept our strange relationship. It wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve written about you so many times, and never made that clear, the moment just never was right. Until now.
We really only knew each other about 18 months during high school, yet you are in all of my memories. Any time I think back, you’re there. Every time I’ve gone home over the last 20 years, I look for you. I call to see if you happen to be going home. Even when I know you aren’t there, sometimes I swear I’ve seen you. If only in a memory.
When I left to go in the Air Force, you were one of the hardest people in my life to say goodbye to. But we never really said goodbye. You wrote me more letters than anyone while I was gone, sending me pieces of home. When I called my mom to tell her I had orders to come back to Hurlburt Field, she was ecstatic. Then she told me that you had been over to the house a few days before, and decided that since I was gone, you were leaving too. You had just enlisted in the Navy. I cried myself to sleep that night, and in the morning, I decided it was time to go see the world. People don’t really meet their soul mate in high school, do they?
I’ve been so many places now, but there’s never been a road I’ve stood on, that I didn’t have a momentary thought of how cool it would be to stand there with you. My children have known your name since I could tell them stories of my younger self. Over the last 20 years we have both been through so much and seen so many things. And when moments were extremely good or insanely bad, it was always each other we went to. Marriage news was met with happy, painful tears. Babies. Death of loved ones. And as if it could be sensed, it would be months without talking, we always called at the right moment. When my little brother was getting married 3,000 miles away from me and I couldn’t make it to see him, all it took was one phone call and you were there to represent. You’ve scooped me up so many times, brushed off the dirt and made me smile again.
When I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about you and calling you… you came to see me. We were both realizing that we had spent a lot of time trying to put a weird label on a relationship that is actually quite simple. I love you. I have always loved you. And the way you look at me, is different than any look I’ve ever been given. The last few months with you, there haven’t been words beautiful enough to give. Jameson & Vinyl… is our space. A new journey down a familiar road. The reason I could never figure out who you are to me… is because you’re not one thing. You are my best friend. My person. My lazy Sundays and rowdy Fridays. Your arms around me at the bottom of the boardwalk is how I flashback to Florida. It always has been. Florida is home. You are Florida… Home is you. 🐸