Today is my husband’s birthday, so in order to honor him, I thought I’d share the story of how we came together.
Terry was my best guy friend for years before we got together as a couple. He watched me go through two major relationships before I ever knew he was interested in me. In fact, I used to talk to him about the things I was looking for in a relationship, or things that were bothering me about whatever guy I happened to be seeing. Little did I know he was quietly taking notes on the side.
When we did finally end up coming together, I was just getting out of a truly awful relationship. It was one of those experiences that knock you on your ass and leave you wondering how you ever could have made such a colossal mistake. I was torn down and broken and felt like I could no longer trust my judgment. He picked me up and took me to Alki Beach in West Seattle where I poured my frustrations out and told him how utterly defeated I felt. I mentioned that I was going to fly to Thailand for six months and stay with my mom who was living in Bangkok. What I really needed was a chance to hole up and reassess my life and priorities so I could do everything in my power to make sure I NEVER made the same mistake again.
Terry stopped, looked at me, and said, “I understand why you have to go to Thailand, and I support you. However, if you leave and don’t come back, I will never forgive myself if I don’t tell you how I really feel.” I remember standing there with the sand under my feet and the breeze coming off the water and feeling like a door had opened up in my mind and heart. It was truly one of those light bulb moments. What an idiot I had been! The one I was searching for had been right in front of me this whole time!
I felt like a shroud had been removed from my eyes and I was finally able to see. However, I still hesitated. The fact was, I had made such a large error in judgment with my previous relationship and didn’t feel confident in my ability to make sound decisions. Our friendship and potential future felt too valuable to subjugate to the whims of a rebound romance. I knew Terry would give me 100% and the fact of the matter was I couldn’t do the same for him. Not at that moment.
But I wanted to.
So, I told him that I did feel love for him and wanted to be together, but I still needed to go to Thailand and get my head screwed on straight.
For the next six months we e-mailed and chatted online. We wrote sappy letters of longing and planned for our future. One of the best things about getting together long-distance is that you can’t rely on the physical chemistry and assume the other person knows how you feel. Everything you want them to know has to be spelled out- literally. All your hopes, expectations, and fears have to be communicated. Distance demanded our honesty. It drew us together and made us stronger in the long run because we knew exactly where each other stood.
Towards the end of the six months, Terry called me one day and told me that he had sold his turntables, stereo equipment, records and speakers in order to buy a plane ticket to fly out and see me. I was stunned. We had been talking about him coming out to see me almost from the minute I boarded the plane, but I was afraid it would wind up being a pipe dream. When I got that phone call, I knew that Terry is the kind of person who does what he says he’s going to do.
So, he flew halfway around the world to see me. It was his first time on a commercial flight and the first time out of the country. It was the first time I’ve ever had the chance to share the Thai part of my heritage with someone outside of my family. I met him at the airport and took him back to my grandparent’s condo where I was staying.
That first weekend I took him down to the islands in southern Thailand, specifically Koh Samed. We rented a little bungalow and proceeded to have the most romantic four-day weekend. The kind of weekend you read about in romance novels and fairytales. We would stroll along the beach in the morning, and then have massages under the swaying palm trees. We rented a boat and went snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand. In the evening we had dinner at a floating restaurant where candlelight danced playfully in the island breezes while our feet dangled over crystalline water.
We met some fellow travelers staying on the island and went down to the local bar at the tip of the beach where we all sat around buckets of Mekong whiskey and Red Bull; which we proceeded to collectively suck up out of straws. As we stumbled back to our bungalows we came across a darkened patch of the beach that separated one part of the island from the other and decided to shed what remained of our clothes and go skinny dipping under the stars. As we floated on our backs in a state of otherworldly bliss, the water beneath us glowed like green underwater fireworks where the phosphorescence did their best to compete with the night sky.
After our four day holiday in the Thai islands, we took a bus back up to Bangkok. It was a long ride and we were a bit sunned, sand, and sea’ed out, so I suggested that we stop and grab a bite to eat at the local street vendor.
There is a Thai appetizer called satai that is usually comprised of marinated chicken, beef or pork and then put on a stick and slow roasted. The best satai in Thailand is found with the street vendors, not with the overly bland versions found in most hotels. It was quick, cheap and easy fare that seemed relatively innocuous; mainly because I had been going to this street vendor for the past six months.
But, of course…of course! Wouldn’t you know it that the one time I buy satai for Terry, the meat turns out to be bad. We both end up getting the absolute worst case of food poisoning. No one should EVER have to have the kind of food poisoning that we had.
It was so bad that my mom ended up giving up her bedroom and attached bathroom out of pity for the two of us. It was so bad that any way our bodies could expel the offending food it was going to- up, down, it didn’t matter.
We spent one, horrifically long night tag teaming it to the bathroom. There was no dignity. There was barely a semblance of humanity. There was no choice, it was a complete nightmare.
The next morning, I started to recover a bit sooner than Terry because the food had hit my system a bit earlier than him. I managed to make my way into the kitchen and I was vaguely thinking about maybe trying to have a cup of tea and see if my stomach would accept it.
As I came back into mom’s bedroom, I found Terry lying on top of the bed, sweaty and sleeping. The morning light was just starting to filter in through the curtains. His face was shadowed and his jaw was stubbly. At some point he had wrapped himself around my grandma’s old teddy bear and I thought to myself, “Awww…”
Right then, I knew. This was Love, with a capital L. We had just managed to go from the highest of the highs to the lowest of the fucking lows in the span of four days and I could still, somehow, walk into the room and think he was the most perfect, adorable man in the world.