Back in the Autumn of 2013, which feels an age and a day ago now, I wasn’t doing so well within myself. On the job front, I was having a better time than I had been the previous year, being finally out of retail, and part-timing as a writer and child-minder, but I was making little money from either. On the personal front, I had recently broken-up from a whirlwind romance, which had been off-again on-again since spring. The experience was something few people actually knew about, and fewer still knew the whole story*. Truth be told, I had been saddened and a little embarrassed by the whole affair, and even though I was happy it had come to a conclusion, I was starting to feel disheveled about ever finding a person with which to spend my life.
My dour mood stayed with me for a while. I was still living on a pittance, keeping my head above water, and living with the rag-tag group of characters at the Buddhist centre. Nearer Christmas, I started to feel better. I had a trip organised to see my parents in the majestic land of the Swiss, accompanied by my long-time best friend for the New Year, and my work now included tending to the care of an adorable 9-month old who lived on the same street**. All this kept my mind away from relationships, and all the complicated mush associated with them. I was trying to figure out how to be me.
Just before New Year I was given the news via text message that I was being asked to leave the Buddhist centre over spacing issues. If there’s anything which is going to help you figure out who you are, it’s being thrust into the unknown with no money, no close friends living in the same city as you, and enough emotional baggage to fill the cargo of a Boeing 747.
There’s a person you’ll have to grow into before you meet the person you’re meant to be with. At that dark, transitional time, I wasn’t yet who I needed to be for the universe to deem me ready to meet Chris.
I was a penniless writer-come childminder living in the city, and he was a recently recruited officer cadet living in digs in a riverside town about an hour away. We were so close, but so far. I was single, but he had a recent girlfriend. Our destined meeting was to happen in just a few months, but I didn’t know that then. I was still just hoping that someday it would happen. Just hoping one day I would be enough.
There came a particularly difficult day; January 21st 2016***, a wet, cold excuse for a day, which had been a barrel of chaos in almost all areas. At work I had been told my pay was to deplete, a message had come through reminding me of my impending need to find new accommodation, my shoes were leaking, everyone I called was otherwise engaged^, and my family were at regular blow-outs.
On route home, on the long street which ran between where I got of the bus and where I lived, I hit my lowest moment. A loose slat caught my foot and set me tumbling down into a puddle, causing me to both slam my knee so hard tears weld-up, and get coated in a nice sheen of rain soaked street grime. If there was ever a metaphor for how I felt my life was going in any given moment, that incident was it. I remained where I was while my throbbing knee recovered, crying because I had fallen and because I felt my life was falling; because I was covered in mud and because I felt like mud.
And in that moment I wanted someone to be waiting for me; someone who would know me enough that they knew I was going to get up from that puddle, even with a busted knee and tear soaked eyes, and limp my way home if I had to. Just like I had always done when vicious plot twists wrangled themselves into my story. I knew I would do it alone, but I wanted someone who knew me to not let me get through it alone^^.
74 days remained before I would discover who that someone waiting was, but I didn’t know that, kneeling there on that pavement, wet and cold and in pain. I didn’t know who he was or where he was or what he was doing or when he was going to walk into my world.
If I had known, I wouldn’t have wept in the dirt. Here’s what I would have done.
I would have dusted myself off, and stood up, and carried on down that road, past my abode at the Buddhist Centre to the train station positioned just a few streets behind. I would have purchased a ticket for Totnes and taken the first available train to the station there. Once there, I would have waited patiently in the rain, maybe for as long as an hour, in the dark and cold, for the next bus service to Dartmouth. There I would alight, and start running.
I would run from the bottom of the town along the river edge, and take on the steep hill leading to the majestic building which sits at the top, behind a set of ornate gates, monogrammed with a seafaring logo. The guards at the gate house wouldn’t keep me out either^^^. I would bound over the barrier between us, through the parade grounds, and into the building, and I would head to the zoo*^ where he was living at the time, along with the rest of the guys in his division. But even if they were there, I wouldn’t stop. I’d find him in the mess of maleness^*, and I would get his attention, gently saying his name, and I would look at him.
I would look into his washed out green eyes for the first of what would be many times, knowing he was doing the same thing. And I would say this:
Hey Sweets. Sorry. Chris at the moment. That nickname won’t mean anything yet.
In 74 days, you’re going to meet me. I imagine the idea of that is horrifying right now, given I look like I swam here through a dike using my knee as a flotation device, but I promise I’m usually groomed, with joints of a regular size. Truth is I had a really bad day, just a stupendously bad day in the middle of a stupendously bad few months, and I just wanted to see you, because soon you’ll be who I turn to on all my bad days. And I know I don’t have that long to wait, but I want you now. I want us to be us now.
I know I have a little bit more to learn before I can be with you, so I’ll leave in a minute, and wait until the Universe really brings us together. I mean, right now you have a girlfriend, and I have issues up the wazoo, so I think we both have some aspects of our lives which need to play out. Particularly the girlfriend thing, who by the way, has more issues than me. But our meeting is coming; that amazing day is just a few months from now. And the odd thing is, it’s going to be just as average as any other day. But we’re going to meet, and that will make it one of the most incredible days of both our lives. Because two years later, we’ll still be together, living together, fighting all the bad days together, and sharing all the best days.
74 days doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s the gap between you and I, it still feels like an eternity. Because I don’t want to have to wait to be with you. I want to be with you now; I want to know you and laugh with you and love you now. And I know you want that too. I do, because I am going to know you. Soon.
You’re going to know me, and I’m going to know you – but not like anyone else. We’re going to know each other in that deep, everything kind of way. Not just the little things like favourite food and what make’s us laugh, but the dark, scary, messy stuff, like the worst thing you ever did, and all the little broken bits inside.
And man are we going to love each other. So much. Just so much, that if I start trying to describe it to you here and now it’ll all come out as cliched rubbish. Not to mention all your oppos here will probably make fun of you the moment I leave. Well I suppose they will anyway – I mean I just burst in here from the street, crazy Jane no-body, desperate to meet the man she knows she’ll marry. Let’s face it, they’re going to give you stick. I’m sorry about that. But I may as well keep going now, huh?
I love you. Some part of me has always done so, even when it was just the idea of you. I always knew you were somewhere, and I always loved you, and I love you now. In 74 days, you’ll see.
That’s when our story is going to begin, in a coffee shop, on an otherwise ordinary, rainy morning. I know this all seems wildly unlikely; two people just finding each other one day, but we will.
We’re going to know each other. And we’re going to love each other. And it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime, a story we write and share. Fighting the monsters together, taming dragons, exploring foreign places, searching for buried treasure, changing the rules, breaking the rules, paining futures in the clear night skies, ducking for cover when the storm hits, kissing in the rain. The whole 9-yards and then some.
You and me. That’s all we’ll need.
Anyway, I better go now, because you’re probably going to get some phone call from your crazy soon to be ex-girlfriend, demanding attention and raving over something small you forgot to do, and I’m almost certainly about to be thrown to the ground and arrested for running in here uninvited, but it’s been worth it just to see you when I feel like the world is against me. I can fight the world with you, Chris.
See you in 74 days. Wait for me, alright?
But, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know about that seemingly ordinary morning in April just around the corner. I didn’t know about Chris, or his smile, or his way of making me smile even when I’m crying. I didn’t know how much I was about to love someone just for being the person they are. I didn’t know any of it. I was just a girl in a puddle.
So, I lifted myself off that pavement, and I took a long breath, and I hobbled home alone.
*This can be attributed to my young-adult make-something-of-myself appear-perfect pride problem. It’s not such an issue anymore, but it bubbles to the surface every now and then, which is why even after the cooling effects of time, I’m still not liable to speak of that spring/summer relationship in any concrete detail. Maybe one day though. I’ma workin’ on it.
**As of the time this is posted she will be three, which I think makes me 1263538-years-old.
***I’m not 100% sure on the exact date, but I am certain it was a Tuesday, because Domino’s had the special two-for-Tuesday running as I walked past. There’s a chance it was the following Tuesday, but I needed a solid date for dramatic effect. Let’s call it creative license.
^ I mean in terms of being able to answer the phone; at the time, I don’t think any of my close friends actually had a ring on it, save two who had wed the previous September.Rest assured though, if my life were a sitcom, at the time, probably everyone of note in my circle of allies would have been neatly paired off.
^^ That should not be taken as a discredit to any of the wonderful people I had in my life at the time. Guys, it was a really rough day, and as stated above my tries at communication failed.
^^^They jolly well would. I imagine outside the realms of this hypothetical land where I am able to know the future, the most I would get here is a face-full of gravel as I am tackled mercilessly to the ground for trespassing, but in the mood I was in that day, I reckon I would have made it further than on any other day. Not that I would jump gates and barriers at major military training facilities, nor recommend doing so. Let’s face it, I would hardly do well in prison.
*^ From what I understand, ‘the zoo’ is the initial dorm area where the cadets bunk together for the first period of their training, before moving to more private pastures later. They are the only animals in it, as far as I am able to discern.
^*Fun side-note here concerning messy maleness (all PG I assure you). I once visited a ship as a guest while most of the occupants were on shore leave. Chris took me aboard in the early days of our relationship as a quirky date/see where I work kinda deal. There were a few sailors still milling around. When Chris took me to see where he and other cadets slept, I was astonished to discover no one was much dressed, and none at all above the waist. One guy was changing when we stumbled past him (I saw nothing), and another was ironing in his boxers. I never did find out if Chris had mentioned to anyone that I would be stopping by, but he certainly didn’t warn me of the very very casual dress code.
— In the end my knee was fine, just very bruised and a bit swollen for a day or two. I used one of the monks’ frozen veg packs to aid the recovery when I got home. Actually, thinking on it, I’m not sure I ever told him I had done so. O_0′ Wonder how karma will get me for that error. I did live without a freezer for a year, so maybe it already has.