Roger; Oklahoma City, OK
It was an all too familiar routine, one that I had done almost every weekend since I met Kelly on a work trip to Kansas City six months ago.
Get in the car. Put my phone in the mount. Seat belt on. Podcast on. And drive.
Every trip up until this one had been great. The two-and-a-half-hour drive always went by fast for me and the weekends even faster. We always had the same general plans for when we met up. We got coffee at a locally-owned shop, where after a month of weekends, the owner mistook us for Wichita locals. We’d spend most of our day there catching up on life and our nights catching up in other ways. We had video chatted nearly every other day for weeks but there’s something about being with someone in the same room that can’t be replaced with technology.
You don’t realize how much of your life you’ve put on hold until you’re gone for nearly every weekend of it. Meetups with friends, a lazy hangout around the house on a Sunday, all things I hadn’t been able to do since all of my weekends were spent either hanging out with or driving to Kelly. But I didn’t care. The last six months had been some of the best months of my life, and against all of my friends’ judgment, I firmly believed that long distance relationships could work because I would make them work.
Until this time.
I hadn’t video chatted with Kelly the past two days. That might not seem like much to you, but when you’re in a long-distance relationship – a few days without talking is a towering indicator that something is wrong. Every time I tried to video chat or text her, I got no response – until Thursday when she replied back with simply, “we need to talk, see you on Saturday.”
We need to talk?
I can’t tell you how many times I re-read that text message, how much of the past two days I spent examining it – the words, the punctuation, the inflection, all of it. When I tried to call her, it went to voicemail after one or two rings. I knew enough that this meant she was selecting the option to ignore my calls. That was probably the worst part.
Part of me hadn’t even wanted to do this drive. If she wanted to meet me in Wichita to break up with me, it would be a five-hour round trip just to be destroyed in person versus over the phone. The small spark of hope that whatever our relationship now was could be salvaged was the only thing that had dragged me out of bed this morning and into the driver seat of my car.
I caught part of my reflection in the rear-view mirror. Ugh. My eyes were still bloodshot from not getting any sleep the night before. I wiped the start of a tear from the inside corner of my eye. Pull yourself together, man. Our relationship had been nothing short of amazing the entire time we were together. Barely any arguments, none that really mattered anyway. The only notice I’d gotten that something was wrong was the interrupt to our video chat schedule. Her text message that “we need to talk” had made me legitimately doubt everything I thought I knew about relationships.
“And did you see that game the other day, I mean, WOW! What were the Tigers thinking?!”
The podcast I started reflexively when I got into the car had interrupted my chain of thought. I turned it off. Now there was only the road noise.
I was gonna marry her too. I mean to say I was gonna ask her to marry me. Soon. I didn’t have the ring yet but I’d planned to go shopping next month sometime. She didn’t know that though. She knew I loved her, it was how we closed every phone call, but she didn’t know that I was intending to propose.
Or did she? Maybe she sensed it was coming. Maybe we got too close to something real and it spooked her. It’s one thing when your boyfriend lives five hours away, it’s another thing entirely when the possibility of living together appears on the horizon.
I sniffled and looked at the clock. Two hours left. In two hours, there was a good chance that I was gonna be a single man. I just didn’t understand.
Could there be someone else?
The thought sent a shiver through me.
I didn’t want to think about it, but alone in this car, I was left with nothing else to do but confront the possibility. It was certainly a plausible scenario. She was a beautiful woman with a great personality, and I lived five hours away.
That has to be it. What else could it be?
She’s found someone else, and she’s brought me to Wichita to break up with me – at “our” diner because of some sense that she owed it to me to break up with me in person.
How could I have not seen this coming?
I wondered who the other guy might be.
I didn’t think it was anyone she worked with. She had described those people to me so well that I felt I knew them myself. None of them fit the bill. No, it must have been someone she met in town. At the grocery store? The gym? A bar, perhaps? She did like to go out with her friends to the bars in Kansas City every so often.
I felt waves of anger slowly begin to erode my despair. I wasn’t mad that she might have found someone else. It did make me sick, but not mad. What got me was that she couldn’t even bring herself to talk to me on the phone for the past two days. We knew each other, as well as any two people could know each other I felt. And now, she couldn’t even stand to talk to me on the phone? Screening my calls while she was probably out with this other guy?
I took a deep breath and another thought crept in.
Maybe it was for the best. I loved Kelly, but I’d lost a lot of my normal life during our relationship. I hadn’t seen most of my friends in the last six months because I was out of town visiting Kelly nearly every weekend. I’d spent years cultivating those friendships and I’d cast them largely to the side and bet everything on my relationship with Kelly.
God, how could I have been so stupid.
Another feeling started to manifest.
Did I really want to be with something like this? Someone that could cut ties so easily with someone they’d been in an intimate relationship for the last six months? The next few weeks were gonna be rough for me, but life, as it always had, would move on. I’d start seeing my friends again, start making time for my hobbies again, maybe, eventually, meet someone else.
I took another look in the rear-view mirror and it seemed my eyes were a little less bloodshot.
I looked at the clock. One hour to go.
As I felt the dread start to make it’s return, I turned the radio back on to take my mind off of it. I didn’t want to think about what was coming anymore.
Kelly; Kansas City, MO
I looked at the clock, one hour to go.
I should go into the diner.
No! That would be weird. I’m too early.
I’ll just wait here for at least a little while.
I felt my heart pounding.
The familiar chime of my ring tone startled me so much that I almost dropped my phone. I looked at the caller ID; it was my friend, Annie.
“Hey!”, she said.
“Are you already there?”
“Yep, just waiting on him now.”
“And he doesn’t know still, right?”
“No. I haven’t talked to him in a few days. He knows something is up because he’s been calling me nonstop. I couldn’t risk talking to him though – I knew I’d ruin the surprise if I did. I’m terrible with those kinda things.”
“Girl, you’re gonna be fine. Let me know how goes!”
“Alright, talk to ya later.”
I hung up the phone and exhaled.
I opened the picture album on my phone, navigated to my favorites, and brought the most recent picture up on the screen. My hands trembled. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction. I knew he loved me, and in the past few days, I’d imagined a thousand different reactions he might have to the news – all of which led to the best possible future for us.
I looked at the clock. 45 minutes until he would show up. I guess I’d better head in.
I looked down at my belly and put a hand over it.
“Alright, Junior”, I said. “Let’s do this” and shut off the car.