Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Love Story in Three Acts: Act 1


Cindy was my high school girlfriend... I lived in Samson (pop. 2071), she lived in the nearby town of Coffee Springs (pop. 251--no, I'm not kidding), and is a year older than I. Most people think my graduating class of 45 was tiny--see the recent "We Want the Funk(hauser)" column--but her graduating class was 17. We both worked together at The Wright Place restaurant, a family owned establishment that I started at when I was 15. Flash forward a year & a half later, I'm 17, I meet this girl named Cindy over Christmas and my crush is on.

Now, I'd had crushes before on Stephanie Phillips (at who's wedding I actually saw Leann Corby, my first date from Troy State in some weird twist of... fate... am I actually rhyming?), Leslie Whigham (who I see weekly now at Starbucks... who knew?), a crazy crush on Julie Wise (the infamous Samson High School "Dave/Rona/Ryan/Julie/Jody/Leigh love triangle-angle-angle of 1992"... ask me, and I'll explain it...) but my crush on Cindy was different? Why? Well, sadly enough, she actually said yes when I asked her out.

So we went to see Wayne's World--yes, the first one--on February 15th, 1992. I wore jeans and a green turtleneck that looking back on, I would smack myself for doing. I remember it. Turns out, she had a boyfriend named Todd Wheeler. Cindy and I went out again later, several more times, all the while she seemed to still be hanging out with big, ugly Todd. Let me just tell you--this guy was a total loser. Seriously... he was hairy, he looked like a monkey, his truck was High Tech Redneck all the way. So, she chose him in the long (short?) run, even after I took her to my junior prom, she took Todd to hers, and so on.

Then we got back together. Then we broke up. Then she went to college, and we still we still dated. Then we broke up. She went on to Troy State in the fall, and I went to see her on a rainy Saturday. She was too busy to come down and see me, so I decided to tour the campus myself. I loved it. Loved the grounds, loved the area, loved the stadium, loved the journalism school, loved it all... so I applied, and got in. (Of course, being God, who's to say that God didn't use my relationship with Cindy to bring me to Troy, where I would be led to Jesus in 1995, much like He worked through another girl to lead me to Birmingham)...

Anyway, I thought we were done. Christmas Day, 1992, we went out again, this time to go bowling. And this time, there was no Todd Wheeler... she liked me. I got my first kiss and we were dating for real. Things were going alright for a while, then one day she came through Samson on a Saturday morning with some of her college friends, including this really tall, hairy guy who also looked like a monkey. She apologized later for that, so we went out again. Then we didn't. Then we did. I invited her to my senior prom, she said yes.

During my off again periods with Cindy, I ended up going out with a few other girls here and there (some of which are dates I would love to have back), and had asked out Angie Jay (who said yes initially, until Bradley Miller spread it all over school that we were dating, so she retracted--there were about 300 from 6th grade to 12th grade, so when I say "all over school", I literally mean "all over school"), and heck, even got up the nerve to ask out Julie Wise (who said no) but I always kept going back to Cindy. I even took back my prom invite, asking Amy Farris instead.

Amy said yes at first, then a day later, she said "I know you really want to take that Cindy girl, so go with her". So I took Cindy to prom... I had a blast. She was a stick in the mud, so I left her at the table and had a good time on my own. Then, a few days after that, I found out the previous January, a week or so after we had our first kiss, she had gone out with some other guy--the same tall, hairy guy that was with her in the group going to the beach... she even kissed him. So, as far as I was concerned, we were done.

At least, until I got to Troy State the following September, and we went out again, though this time I almost didn't care. Not knowing anyone, I became friends with Cindy's friends, and she took offense to this--she treated me like crap, really. So, we're done now. I'm over it, if only because Troy is a brand new world and there are tons of fish in the sea--heck, this is the freakin' Pacific.

I had dinner with Ginny Kochan from Wisconsin, which was awesome... well, it ended up later as a disaster, (begatting The Ginny Kochan First Law of Dating), but at first, I was excited. I went that weekend to work at the restaurant, and mentioned to someone "Hey, I had dinner with this awesome chick named Ginny..." Well, upon hearing it, Cindy got mad. She felt as if I was going out with other people to get even with her, which didn't help her anger when I actually laughed at her for saying it. "You're kidding me, right?" I laughed. "You actually think I care enough about you at this point to date someone to just get even with you?" Yeah, that didn't help either.

Moved on from Ginny to go out with Labett White (her name was Mary Beth, but her little brother could only spit out "Labett") that winter, something that lasted all of two weeks. I actually had a crush on Adrienne Benton, who was a close friend to both me and Labett, but that wasn't going to happen... anyway, in the spring of 1994, I met Chris Fulaytar (you may know him as Wookiee, but that nickname came after)... and though I didn't date him, nor did I have a crush on him, this was a key point.

He was dating Anna Ayers, commonly known now as "The Wench", while I was dating Katherine Gates, commonly known now as "The Absolutely Freakin' Psycho Katherine Gates" (those are two stories that are for another day), and both The Wench and Katherine lived in Hamil Hall with a party-going Mormon named Erin and a country bumpkin named Alyson.

Up in Hamil Hall one day, with both of us visiting our chicks-at-the-time, Chris and I were sharing dating stories one day, and I found out he knew Cindy Howell, as they were both involved in ROTC on campus. Heck, he even dated her. Then I found out he dated her in January of 1992. Then I found out he had come with Cindy and friends to the beach, and had stopped in at The Wright Place for breakfast. So yes, he was the guy who Cindy had made out with, in the midst of going out with me... and Chris and I both laughed heartily about it. We even became roommates the next year... and for three years after that. And a decade later, he served as the best man in my wedding, and I in his.

Cindy and I didn't speak for 18 months. Know that Troy's campus was not all that big, so we saw each other quite frrequently... we would pass by in the halls of McCalla or Wallace, look at each other and just keep going. Until one day... I finally called her. When I mentioned I was roommates and best friends with Chris Fulaytar, she got really quiet, which I enjoyed thoroughly... but anyway, we made up. (No, not like that). I was a sophomore, she was a junior, we both had grown up a little bit, so we didn't go out again.

I gotta say, though, we were high schoolers, and young college kids... its like a world away at this point. I say that because to her credit, when we finally reconnected, she was a different person. She apologized profusely for everything over and over, I apologized for everything, and we became really good friends. The next year, I went to see her in Biloxi, Mississippi where she was stationed (she was in the Air Force for a few years) and visited my first casino (won $15 on the nickel machines... and honestly, the last time I ever gambled, aside from a lottery ticket every now and again).

At this point, Cindy was just fantastic to be around. And still is. Did I love her? I told her I did. However, I don't know if I can count that, because I was 17 at the time. Did I know what love was? I don't think so. That's not saying that people who are 17 or 18 can't know what love is all about... I just know I didn't.

Throughout the next few years in college, I went through a series of relationships, dating a few Julies, a Melanie, a Heather, a couple of Jennifers, having a big crush on a Kathy (who liked Jarred, for some reason... what is it with girls who like guys who are jerks? Is this a national thing, or just southern? Do nice guys do something to turn girls this way? We should do a study.) which turned into a "Some Kind of Wonderful" story when I ended up liking Lisa Murphy instead and, oh yes, this chick named Chrissy--which is important because those of you who are spent time on WalkAbout should thank God this girl existed.

And all of this leads up to Amy.

Act 2, Scene 1: A Chance Meeting

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