The first date and beyond....
I remember the night well. It was late January, right around Superbowl time. I never expected to get a phone call from Eugene asking me out. After our "chance meeting" the night before, I certainly didn't expect a phone call the next day. We planned our first date to Dave and Busters, he picked me up in his dad's brand new Dale Earnhart Monte Carlo (which was cool then and his mom still has the car to this day). I remember the smell of the brand new car. I remember being nervous to be out on an actual date where a seemingly nice guy was taking me out to dinner (those were few and far between at that time). I remember telling him, "oh- I know the back way to the Waterfront...through the Southside". Well, I got us so lost that it took about 1.5 hours to get to Homestead and it should've taken 15 minutes. He still reminds me of that to this day...and spoiler alert, he stuck with me anyway! 18 years later and I am STILL not good at directions.
We had a great time that night. We talked and laughed and agreed to go out again. After a few more dates, we started spending more and more time together. At the time, he was in his last year at Pitt majoring in finance and I was at Duquesne majoring in athletic training. Eugene would come to visit me every Thursday night after his boxing class and hang out in my apartment at Citiline Towers. We would watch movies and talk. Fast forward a few months to him telling me, "When I graduate, I plan on going back to active duty in the Army. The job market here is not very good for finance". WHOA. WHAT? What does that even mean? We were in the time frame after 911 but I did not personally know any soldiers. He said , "Maybe when I figure out where I will be stationed, you can come with me". That hit me like a ton of bricks. In a good way of course...that meant he was thinking of us in the long run, right? On the other hand, I thought to myself, "I barely know you!" But when he started to explain that he would be going away for schooling to Georgia (for 5 months) then to South Carolina for more schooling (an additional 5 months) . I couldn't even process this much information. All I heard was he was planning on leaving and I could NOT focus on anything else. I was confused and kind of hurt that he was leaving. At the time, I did not forsee this being the best decision for him and for us.
That summer, we enjoyed the time we had together. We went to Ocean City, MD with friends and enjoyed a week at the beach. We went to San Diego, CA and had the time of our lives. Eugene had friends there so we stayed with them in Ocean Beach. We went to the San Diego Zoo, walked the beaches of Coronado Island and even took the rickety red train into Tijuana (I know, I know, NOT the best move but when you're 22, nothing is thoroughly thought through!) We ate the food and drank the water (and the margaritas) and lived to tell the tale. It was actually a vibrant city with friendly people, shopping, and colorful city streets. We sat and watched the most AMAZING glow of the sunsets on the beach and tried to plan out what the next year would bring for us.
We spent almost every day together in the summer of 2002. But as the summer was winding down, it was time for me to go back to school (I transferred to Pitt but that is a story for another day). Still, begging him not to go, I counted down before the inevitable day in September came. Eugene left for school and he was only allowed to call me once a week for 10 minutes. It was always on a Thursday morning and I would sit in Starbuck's in Oakland with my grande latte and anxiously await his call. We packed as much conversation in as we could before the call literally cut off at the 10 minute mark and I then headed off to my neuroscience class. The months went by and I couldn't wait for the holidays. He was not allowed to come home for Thanksgiving but I was allowed to visit for a few days. He had received a "pass" for his good grades and I was so excited to take a short trip! To be honest, I had never taken a trip alone before but my will to see him outweighed my nervousness so Atlanta, here I come!!
Stay tuned for the next installment of "Our Story"!!