Yesterday I drove through Claremore, Oklahoma. The last time I had been in that town was in 1992. I remember it well. I was driving back and fourth from Dallas to Claremore as often as I could to see a girl I was certain I would one day marry. Never had I been more certain about anything. Never had I been so taken with a girl and seeing as my crush had been boiling for 6 years I had reason to believe my love was real.
The first time I went to see her I was so nervous. We had recently confessed our love for each other over the phone and this would be our first meeting since knowing what we both wanted. It took us both a couple of days to make any kind of move. We were both so nervous. We hadn’t seen each other in close to 4 years. We were standing on a dock. I pulled her back against me and held her hand. That beautiful, lightly freckled hand with short fingers. I left that weekend on top of the world.
The second time I went to see her was New Years eve day 1991/92. Her Christmas had come and was pretty heavy, given she was dealing with ailing parents. Over the phone she had mention how hard it had been to get excited about the holidays. I had thought out my plan to incredible detail. It’s the best example I have as a testament to how I set expectations I can’t possibly continue to live up to.
I got a motel room (because there were no fancy hotels near by). I set up a jam box in the room that I rigged to start playing romantic Christmas songs when we walked into the room. I iced down a bottle of champagne. I bought real nice champagne glasses. I laid out your standard new years eve celebration noise makers and hats. I brought a real Christmas tree in my car from Dallas and talked the motel into letting me set up the Christmas tree in the room. I decorated the tree. I put lots of presents under it. I cannot recall what all gifts were there, but I do remember a really nice coffee maker, because she had once mentioned how she wanted a real nice one that could make the foam. I had two dozen roses in the room for her. There’s probably more that I am forgetting.
We spent the night tangled up in each other to the point that when we heard the new years count down we stopped to celebrate it, only to realize it was a re-run at like 3am. We had completely missed the New Years countdown and possibly one or two other re-runs of it.
Leaving was incredibly difficult. Usually I would leave her house in just enough time to drive straight to work. I would leave her house around 1am and pull in to work at 7am, after a weekend of very little sleep and a 6 hour drive. I was more than happy to do it. At the time I was going every other weekend because I was seeing my daughter every other weekend.
She was only to live in Claremore for a short time and was set to move back to the west coast after a couple of months. She was there to deal with ailing parents. The expectations were clearly set. She was leaving. There was no plan to talk her out of it. I had fully accepted and embraced it. I knew the west coast made her happy.
When she left it was not a big deal and although I greatly missed her, I still knew one day we would marry. I was certain. That was 19 years ago. I have seen her maybe once or twice since and each time very brief as it was normally some airport layover that gave us 30 minutes or so and even both of those times were more than 15 years ago.
I still think of her literally every day. That’s not a lie or exaggeration. Not a day goes by that she does not cross my mind. I believe our window has closed, but still hold some small hope that one day we’ll find a way to open it again. At the same time I want to avoid trying. We aren’t the same people we were then or at least I’m not. I don’t believe we could find that spark again. Sometimes it’s better to pretend it would still be there, then to find out it’s not.
One day when I went to visit her before she moved, we spent the day shopping at a mall. She picked out some clothes for me. I still have those clothes. Something won’t let me get rid of them, even though I will never fit in those clothes again. Every time I see those clothes I think of what might have been. Maybe it’s time to clean out my closet.