I met her on a dating app, finally reserved to seeking conversation in place of sex. The tedious, critical process of selectively swiping on potential partners reduced to a mindless exercise, apathetically thumbing through profiles while never glancing down at the screen. This had become habitual, more impulse than directed action. Running out of potential matches in my area, I exited the app, setting my phone aside.
I’d been out of the game a long time, honestly. My first true relationship budded when I left home for the military, finding my way to Colorado Springs. Spurred on by my new found confidence, along with the naivete of youth, I fell for the first girl I’d been to bed with.
She was more experienced than me, had been in a lot of relationships, all of them toxic. We’d talk about them into the night; I was never insecure about hearing tales of her past indulgences. She’d tell me all the explicit details, all the tragic turning points, all the moments of weakness and shame. Before she’d dropped out of college to pursue the military she’d been lost in love and his shadow would fall over me.
She was my best friend, but a cold lover.
She’d turn out the lights and engage in the act as if out of some form of obligation. This bothered me, so I would always try to communicate, to discern her personal preferences and desires. I wanted nothing more than to please her, to show her that I cared.
There was no romance, rarely any kissing. I was never granted the illusion of intimacy, yet casual sex was a regularity. Looking back on it, I think it was more of a way for her to kill time. I was safe and available.
She broke up with me for the first time to get with her supervisor, a lanky Senior Airman with a penchant for fresh, doe-eyed, young females new to flight. I’d heard the stories of what they’d do on shift, calling in code, slinking off to seclusion and fucking in the back of one of the patrol vehicles. This was later verified to be true. Back then I truly believed that if you fought to be with someone it would all work out. We got back together within a month.
This went on for two years.
The first time she told me she loved me was after she cheated on me. She’d gone home to Missouri for the first time since leaving, attending a get-together with some of her friends. She’d been drunk and seduced by some guy that had been there. She told me over the phone, from over 615 miles away in Freeman, Missouri.
I went against my better judgement, getting back with her. Things were good for a time. Looking back, I believe she was rewarding me, like you would some blindly loyal pup that you feel bad for. I truly believed that we’d make something of what we had, defy the odds and live that Hollywood romance fantasy. I was stupid in love.
I sensed a rift form between us after some months of bliss. She was becoming distant again, more argumentative. She was finding every reason to create tension. I found out the reason why at a training session one afternoon from a guy I’d rarely talked to. She’d received orders to head to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. I was the last person to find out.
I brought this up to her, hurt, resulting in a slew of excuses. She started eschewing a list of my faults against me, brandishing them like some jagged blade carved from my own bones. I understood what she wanted; She wanted to feel better about the situation by having me break up with her, so I gave her what she wanted.
Despite the break, things mostly remained the same before she left. We lived together, split costs, had sex. The only difference was titular. Instead of boyfriend and girlfriend, we were now friends with benefits. This carried on til her date arrived.
The night she left was a difficult one. I’d been expecting it so long, but it’s like watching someone be slowly eaten away by some sickness. You wish there was something to do, but when it turns terminal, it’s all but lost. She came into my room as I lie staring at the ceiling. She gave me a necklace, sterling silver and adorned with her patron saint, that her grandmother gave her. She graced me with one final kiss, walking out.
I later learned she replaced that necklace with a replica.