I loved him the moment I saw the lead singer of the Malaysian cover band on his shoulders.
The scene kind of looked like this.
Uncle Chang, the namesake of the island hotel I was staying in, had arrived a few hours prior. Upon seeing Uncle Chang standing at the prow of his Malaysian water taxi a group of locals hustled into place and began a number on their drum set – an assorted collection of upside down five gallon plastic buckets. Uncle Chang’s chariot did not just contain the leader of the New Year’s Eve festivities himself but enough pints of Malaysian rum and traffic cone orange XXL Uncle Chang branded t-shirts for everyone.
As the chop suey dinner buffet was getting shuffled to the side and the Malaysian cover band was well into their night of Aerosmith and Radiohead covers I was sitting and enjoying my gift of rum – local style – straight and hot (temperature not spice).
I looked up mid-Malaysian rum gulp to see what appeared as if the lead singer got all caught up in his Audioslave moment, took a stage dive and voila – he was being navigated on the shoulders of the crowd through the dance floor and around the chop suey buffet.
The moment I saw the smile coming from one of the guy’s whose shoulder was providing Malaysian man’s ass a bit of support the 88 degree rum halted mid-esophagus as my entire being stopped to ask itself a question.
“WHO IS THAT??!!??”
This smile was so big and so, so happy. BUT more than anything – it was true. It was a smile that was devouring the absurdity of the moment because the person behind it knew how to devour all of life’s moments.
Some couple’s first date is dinner and a movie. For David (smiley guy) and me it was a two and a half week vacation in Borneo and the Philippines. It was not many days into our first date that I had fallen even more crazily in love with the person behind the smile. It was not 15 year old girl, first boyfriend falling in vacation love. It was my whole world is quiet, happy and utterly alive – in love.
Our first date ended 18 days after it started when we parted ways via separate taxis from a hotel in Manila. I was going back to Denver. He was going to keep traveling before going back to Spain.
After parting ways in Manila our communication was sporadic. On the good days the heartbreak of it all was only excruciating. I wouldn’t know how to describe the bad days. With time, I tried to mentally file David and my feelings I had for him as something that was true for a very particular time, in a very particular moment. I was happy on the days when I woke up and did not think about him.
Six and a half months after seeing him for what I really believed was the last time
I was at the place where most find their answers to love, romance and their soul’s calling – an Internet security conference.
When I arrived, the line to get your badge, complimentary backpack and half a tree of tri-fold brochures was 50 deep and this was causing significant consternation to the event organizers who were trying to keep the professional cool while trying to get everyone to their f’n seats.
I scooted behind the table to support badge and backpack distribution services.
Enter a guy needing a name badge and backpack by the name of Jeroen. Jeroen’s last name was something like Van Beerbartstraatkkuyll. Jeroen Van Beerbartstraatkkuyll was about seven feet tall, weighed no more than 175 pounds, had perfectly pressed navy blue pants, impeccable manners and shined to perfection brown shoes.
I did not need to ask.
Jeroen was Dutch.
It was while eating nachos drenched in bowling alley cheese sauce at the evening’s event that Jeroen and I started to chat.
I had lived in his Nether-land for six months a few years prior until one day I woke up to learn my dad had died. Within 24 hours I was leaving Amsterdam and on a plane to Detroit.
I had never been back.
I missed it.
After one or three bowling alley vodka sodas too many and telling consummately patient Jeroen 12 to 14 times more than necessary how much I missed his country – I decided it was time for a visit.
It was about two weeks into travel planning when it occurred to me that the Netherlands and Spain were not so terribly far apart, and well, given geographic convenience, maybe I could see David. My mental filing job had been successful enough to get me to the point where I felt I could handle seeing him or not seeing him.
I sent him an email to see if he was interested in possibly meeting up. I was standing in the Vail Farmers Market with my friend Kristen when I got his response: “It would be great to see you!!!!”
I was elated. Kristen looked at me and said, “I thought you didn’t care what his response was.”
(Kristen thinks she is funny.)
I bought my ticket.
I was scheduled to leave on October 1st.
It was about four weeks prior to leaving when I decided I couldn’t go.
I just couldn’t do it. Emotionally I just did not think I could handle it. I could not handle going to Spain, seeing David, having him being wonderful and lovely as I knew he would be, falling in love all over again, then coming home to the reality of us living 9000 miles apart and dealing with the heartbreak again.
Regardless of how good of a mental filing job I had done part of my heart was still rotting on the curb of that Manila hotel and I just did not have much more to surrender to the world’s streets.
I wrote him an email to tell him I was not going to come and why. I was lying in my bed with my laptop propped on my knees ready to hit send. Then I thought of a conversation I had with a friend (and Denver photographer) a few weeks prior, Andrew Kowalyshyn.
Andrew’s theory is that too many people use email as a medium to hurl unprocessed thoughts and feelings at another in a manner no one would ever do if email did not exist. His thought was that if it is really truly worthy of saying, if it is really truly how you feel then you will feel the same way in five days and THEN, after your five day waiting period if you still feel the same way, you are allowed to hit send. AND if you don’t feel the same way in five days well then it is a damn good thing you didn’t hit send, isn’t?
What was five days when I had been tossing this around in my head for almost eight months?
I could give it five days.
It was on day three or so when I decided my heart might be able to handle the heartbreak if my brain could better understand it all. Was David just vacation love? Was it just the 88 degree rum talking? Did I just make all this up in my head? What would we like in normal real-life situations?
My brain had to know the answers more than my heart had to protect itself.
October 1st I got on the plane and October 2nd I got off of it. I was greeted by David and the exact same feelings I had for him in Borneo and the Philippines. Two and a half weeks later our happiness in seeing each other inspired us to make plans for David to visit the US and with more time our happiness of being together inspired us to get married.
It has now been over two years since the day I almost hit send. The nine months of not seeing David were well worth the two years I have had with him and the two years I have had with him were sure as hell worth every second of the five days of consideration on whether or not to hit send. Of course, I do not know what would have happened had I hit send, but I do, however, know what happened because I gave myself five days to think about it – and ultimately – didn’t.
More about Denver photographer Andrew Kowalyshyn: http://akphoto.com