WORDS Liesel Schmidt
From: Alexandria Harris <email@example.com>
To: Jack Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: December 13, 2007 9:55:52 EDT
Subject: A shot in the dark….
Feeling any better since Sunday? Hopefully a restful afternoon helped recoup everything you put yourself through with your training. I’m amazed at your ability to just set your mind to something like an Ironman and actually do it.
Now would be the part where I get to the real reason for this e-mail. I’ve been mulling over your question about whether I knew any thirty-ish women looking for a single almost thirty-five-year-old bald guy, and the answer that comes to mind would be another question: Do you know of any almost thirty-five-year-old bald guys looking for a single almost twenty-four-year-old redhead? That has been a question on my mind for the years I’ve known you, but you were always in a relationship. So, I guess I’m seizing the moment to put the idea out there and pose the question. I might regret laying myself so bare, but I think I’d most regret not taking the chance in the long run.
You are someone I highly respect, whose friendship I value, and a man whose interest I would be privileged to hold. I know there’s an age difference, but I’ve learned that age is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Great things can come from unexpected places, from unexpected people, if we open ourselves to possibility.
That said, I’m going to close now and hope a response comes soon, whatever outcome it brings.
Goodbye for now,
From: Jack Miller <email@example.com>
Date: December 13, 2007 22:10:26 EDT
To: Alexandria Harris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: A shot in the dark….
Alex, I am extremely flattered that an energetic young lady like you would even consider a guy like me. And, yes, it does take a lot of courage to lay it on the line. But let me attempt to explain this based on my experiences. Example: You asked about Leslie on Sunday. Although we were very compatible, the age difference was noticeable. Not necessarily in the social aspect, but more in the way we viewed the world and the barriers we faced. Please understand that if I were in my twenty’s instead of my thirty’s…
But the biggest thing, if you remember, I mentioned “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” The bottom line is that I will be leaving soon. I have a RNLTD (report no later than date) of 15 Jul for Kunsan AB, Republic of Korea. I will be departing the area sometime in June, so I can get some overlap with the APO on station.
With all that said, although the “idea” is enticing, the timing is not in our court.
You are a great young lady, and Mister Right will find you in due time.
See you Sunday.
“What are you doing?”
The voice startled me, I’d been staring so hard at the computer screen, reading and re-reading. Those emails were fourteen years old, something I’d held on to and re-read many times over, wondering what if and wishing things had been different. But now, as a thirty-eight-year-old, I could see his point. Thirty-five and twenty-four. What had I known at twenty-four? The world looked so different then, life so simple somehow. But now I was a woman whose world had shattered and rebuilt itself several times over, creating scars that shaped my perceptions as well as who I was.
“I’m….” I struggled for an explanation, no doubt looking like a deer caught in the headlights in the process.
“Torturing yourself, Lex,” Megan supplied helpfully, the worry—and slightly disapproval—clear on her face as she sat down on the couch next to me. As my best friend since we’d worn training bras, she knew how far down the rabbit hole I could fall on this. Jack was one of those subjects that we danced around on occasion, like when I’d come home from a date unimpressed because whatever guy I’d just seen wasn’t quite… “He’s not Jack, Lex, no one is. And you have to be okay with that.” It was her popular refrain to me on those nights.
At eleven years older than me, Jack had always seemed like an impossibility, someone I’d had to admire from afar, even though we had a good enough relationship to email on a regular basis. Somehow the quick exchanges we managed at church every week had become supplemented with lengthy missives that gave me much more insight into his personality. Consequently, such exchanges—and the fact that he took enough time out of his day to respond, at length and with thoughtfulness—gave me a glimmer of hope. Maybe it was a misguided hope, but I’d never really known until that email whether he’d ever even considered the possibility. And maybe he hadn’t up until that point—that shot in the dark—when I expressed my own interest.
I stared at Megan and shook my head. “No, I’m okay,” I said firmly, pushing down the question I posed to her too often. “Why did he talk to me this way—and still stay in contact—if he didn’t feel something?”
Her answers were always unsatisfying.
Megan leveled a dubious gaze at me and shrugged. “So, you haven’t been on a date in a while…What brought on this dive into those emails?”
I shifted my gaze back to my computer screen, avoiding her eyes as I answered. “Jack’s moving back next month,” I murmured.
Even at twenty feet away and after all these years, I could still recognize Jack from behind. It was the way he carried himself, his build, and—of course—the bald head, which he’d always shaved for ease and comfort.
The man in front of me turned, surprised to hear his name. It really was Jack.
“Alex?” His voice sounded somewhere between stunned and happy to see me.
“How have you been?” I asked, shifting the weight of the basket in my hands. Should I hug him? We were standing in the middle of the produce department—not somewhere I’d really pictured for our reunion after all these years.
He cocked his head and gave me a crooked smile. “Good,” he said. “It’s strange, being retired now, but it’s good. And I’ve missed it here, so I’m glad to be back. For good.”
I’d almost forgotten how he sounded.
“I’m glad, Jack,” I said, feeling myself smile nervously.
“I’ve lost touch with a lot of people here, though,” he admitted.
Not me. The thought flashed through my mind. You’ve never lost touch with me. Why?
He nodded to the basket in my hand. “Are you free for dinner, or do you have plans for those fish sticks tonight?”
“What?” I stammered, looking down at the items I’d piled in my basket. Fish sticks was a last-minute bad decision. “Oh…No?” It sounded more like a question than an answer. “No, I mean, I don’t have plans for them tonight.”
Jack smiled again, amused. “Good, let me take you to dinner. It would be nice to catch up.”
I nodded dumbly. Jack had just asked me to dinner. Twenty-four-year-old me could hardly believe it.
We’d been seated at the back of the restaurant, in a quiet spot that gave us privacy. Really, though, I had no appetite. I was too nervous.
Jack, by contrast, seemed completely at ease. He moved with confidence and intent, the same as he always had. The years had been good to him, and he was still the athletic, handsome man I remembered, just aged a little.
I stared down at my plate. We’d come to a lull in the conversation, the small talk about the things we’d been up to lately having run out. I wanted more than just idle conversation, but it had been fourteen years. I would have to be patient.
“So, not married or anything,” Jack observed. He already knew I’d been married once—briefly—to someone that had been a mistake from the moment we’d met. I’d told him about it in my messages to him, after it happened.
“Nope,” I agreed. I considered my next words. “And you—you’re still single. If I wanted to be funny, I’d say you were waiting for me,” I said jokingly, regretting the words as soon as they were out of my mouth.
Jack’s expression was inscrutable, his eyes holding mine. It seemed impossible to look away, even though I wanted to crawl under the table.
“Maybe I was,” he said simply.