Sunday, September 13, 2009

Driving into the Future

Here is the next chapter of my love story with Bill...

Excerpt From My Journal, Saturday 9/1/01
It seems fitting to start this new journal today. [I had actually left the last four pages of my prior journal blank, which bugged me a bit.] Today is the start of a very different phase of my life, and I don't know where it will lead me.

Right now I'm flying to Seattle, where Bill will meet me in a U-Haul truck. Over the next four days or so, we'll be driving back to Texas.

We've both waited so long for this day, and now it has arrived! The last week was difficult for us both. We experienced many conflicting emotions, all very strong. The hardest one for me was fear--fear that the step we're taking will lead to heartbreak....

Now I'm back to joyous anticipation. I realize that I can't know what will happen between us, but I have to find out. I feel like I'm turning a corner in my life, and it's exciting to see what will develop. I know I love Bill, and now I will get to know him better. I have the next four days to get started on that.

Happy For Him
It had been a most hectic week. Bill was trying to sell his new Blazer, which he was not allowed to take over the border because it was a lease vehicle. He also had to open an American bank account and transfer his money, and he took a beating due to the exchange rate at that time (about $1.00 American per $1.55 Canadian). On top of that, he had to say goodbye to all his friends and family.
Uncle Jack and Bill at Farewell Party

Bill with Brother, Trevor

Bill with Sister, Lisa

Meanwhile, I was locating an apartment, getting utilities turned on, and securing a Social Security card for him. And at night I was crying and feeling guilty for tearing him away from his family. A night or two before the big move, I called his sister Lisa and sobbed about how awful I felt. She said, "Don't cry for him. We're not. We're all very happy for him." She said he was happier than he'd been in years, and that was all that mattered.

One detail that seemed to go smoothly was the fact that I obtained a one-way ticket to Seattle for only $179--the lowest fare yet. What I didn't realize until the night before was that I'd accidentally booked the 11:00 P.M. flight instead of the morning one! I showed up at the airport early the next morning anyway. At the last possible moment, they called my name from the standby list. I got the very last seat in the middle of the back row, right in front of the bathroom, and I had to eat a kosher meal, but I didn't care. I was on!

The Long Drive
After all the trouble I had getting up there, I half feared that Bill would not be waiting at the other end, but he was there with the little truck, and we started our journey around 1:00 in the afternoon.

The truck was quite old and rickety, and we were afraid to tax it by running the air conditioning, so it was a little hot. Also, all it had was an AM radio, so Bill had pulled out the radio and set a different stereo loosely inside the empty space.

The scenery on the first three days was breathtaking. From Washington, we drove through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. Drinking in the sight of the mountains and lush greenery, I felt closer to God as I enjoyed his handiwork. My very favorite experience was driving through the Wasatch Mountains in Utah.

The truck, loaded down with all of Bill's worldly possessions, was not enjoying those mountains. It literally puffed and chugged up the long stretches; several times we were chanting, "I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can." Each time we'd stop for gas, Bill would add water to the radiator while I scrubbed hundreds of bugs off the windshield.

By the fourth day, in Kansas, it was terribly hot. At this point the terrain was flat and unchanging, all grain fields and sunflowers. Bill decided to try the air conditioning now that we were no longer worried about making it up the next hill. Unfortunately, it just exhaled a gentle stream of warm air. The back of my legs were sticking to the vinyl seats, and sweat was trickling down between my breasts and dripping from my underarms.

I knew that whining would ruin the camaraderie we'd been enjoying, so I tried not to complain. Once we hit Oklahoma, though, I couldn't take it any longer. "Let's stop at a Walmart and see if we can find a battery operated fan," I suggested.

In typical man fashion, Bill argued that we would lose too much time, but I brought out the big guns and started up an endless barrage of whining and griping.

"Enough, Already!"

About 20 minutes later, we were power walking through the aisles of the first Walmart we spotted. We found two roll-up sunshades with suction cups--one gray one and one Winnie The Pooh one. We also bought two tiny fans attached to spray bottles that we filled at the water fountain.

We positioned the two sunshades wherever the sun was beating down the most, often on the windshield (not on the driver's side). This made me more than a little nervous, but I was desperate for some relief. I kept both of us misted with the fan sprayers, and we were almost comfortable.

For four straight days, we never once argued, though Bill probably wanted to throw me out the door when I had my whining fit. We talked for hours--or rather, I probably talked for hours while Bill listened. When we weren't talking, we rode in companionable silence. It gave me a very good feeling to know we could spend eight to ten hours a day together in such close quarters and not kill each other. I figured it was a good preview for marriage, should that be in our future.

On the fifth day, we crossed into Texas. It was raining cats and dogs, and we weren't talking at all. Bill was concentrating on the road, and I was silently wishing we'd get there already.

Welcome to Texas!

When we were about 45 minutes out, we hit the worst traffic jam I've ever encountered, before or since. The entire highway was shut down in both directions. We sat in the steamy cab for 30 minutes or so, unable to roll down the windows because of the rain, and I simply couldn't refrain from whining.

"Come ON!" I kept yelling. "How long are we gonna sit here?"

Bill seemed to be waiting patiently, which drove me crazy. "There's nothing we can do about it," he pointed out. I knew he was right, and that annoyed me even more.

"It's just that we've been driving for five days," I said plaintively. "I want to get home!"

At last, we started inching forward, and finally we saw the cause of the delay. In the center median, an 18-wheeler lay on its side. Underneath it we could make out a little pickup, about the size of ours, and it was completely flattened. I started sobbing immediately, and I felt so awful for my impatience. Here I'd been whining about five days on the road, and there was a man or woman who was NEVER going to make it home.

It seemed like a bad omen, and I felt very unsettled. Little did I know that an even worse omen was soon to come.

Home at Last
In the early afternoon, we finally pulled up to my house, where Ethan was waiting with my mom. He was ecstatic to see us both, and we all covered each other's faces in kisses.

We went inside without unloading the trailer, and then we ate a fast-food dinner. This was how our wildly romantic long-distance relationship ended, and our everyday ordinary life began.


Anonymous said...

Hey where's the story for the "It seemed like a bad omen, and I felt very unsettled. Little did I know that an even worse omen was soon to come" you can't leave me hanging like that :)


Sarah said...

I've had three inquiries so far about the next part of the story. Here was my response to each:

Ha! You know that cliffhanger was intentional, right? I was going to do two other blog stories in front of that story, but maybe I'll just do one. You should know in four to five days!


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