The break up was a blessing, even if it didn’t feel like one at first. If I had been left behind in my own fictional world for any longer I would have lost my remaining shred of sanity, but thankfully in late September 2002 I started my first job at a fast food restaurant. I had just turned fifteen that previous summer and I wanted nothing but to have my own income and an escape from everything that had trapped me in my fictional world. I found comfort in it, but some part of me knew it wasn’t healthy. I loved living there, but I shouldn’t be. Nothing was illustrated more by this than how I related to people in my work place. Being plopped right down into the real world after living in my manufactured world for so long was quite literally culture shock. In my perfect world you could be completely honest about your feelings with out back lash. In the real world my honesty got misconstrued with everything from dishonesty to flirtatious. It created a whole host of other problems sending me deeper into angst and anger. I was fighting against the injustice of the real world, but I was also fighting to keep my sanity, gain my freedom, and figure out who I really was versus who my parents and peers wanted me to be.
One way or another, through my various counseling sessions it was decided that I would benefit from going on a missions trip to Brazil with a small group of adults from my church. That in itself was quite an experience. Not only were we traveling to a predominantly Muslim area less than a year after the attacks as Christian American’s, but at that time I was the youngest member to ever go on a foreign missions trip with out at least one of my parents along to chaperone. There were many in the church who doubted that I would be mature enough to go and actually participate in the teaching and helping, but I surprised them all. Not only was I well behaved and engaged in the activities, I grew and learned so much from my two weeks in a foreign land. I lived right up next to the Amazon rain forest for two weeks, experienced a monsoon like storm, got close enough to practically pet an Ocelot, had a Gecko fall in my granola and experienced the most amazing star filled sky of my life. Traveling by boat everywhere, shopping in an open air market where I watched a fisherman pull his line right out of the river with a fish, toss the fish on his table still alive before slicing the head off with a machete. You couldn’t get a more fresh fish unless you caught it yourself. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish to return even for just a day or two at a resort.
The day after I returned from my trip happened to be a birthday party for one of my young second cousins at a local pizza place. It was set up like an arcade with games, tokens and prizes. My younger sisters went off to play, and I decided to sit at the table with my mom. I was only fifteen and there was plenty for older kids to do, I just chose not to do it. Partially because I was exhausted from the trip home, and partially because I just felt a little out of place being one of the oldest kids at the party. I was soon bored with the conversation between my mom and her cousin and began to people watch. We were seated directly in front of the prize counter with a decent view of the behind the scenes action. I watched as the manager did something with the register, and took care of customers, and then seemingly out of nowhere there he was.
Another employee had made his way to the front counter. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed with his wrinkled uniform, and disheveled unshaved appearance. I didn’t really understand it, but something about him caught my eye. I was immediately attracted to him, and all sorts of thoughts and feelings were welling up inside me that I hadn’t felt since the encounter with Cute Pokemon Guy. I gave him a good once over, mentally ticking off items on my list.
After my previous relationship began to falter I sat down with a pen and paper taking the time to write out everything I wanted in my future mate. My “One” if you will. It took me several days, but I eventually came up with about sixty characteristics both physical and in personality that my Soulmate would possess. I didn’t know this Pizza Guy, but he met all the criteria physically on my list. Scruffy, dark brown hair, and deep brown eyes. In addition to the points on my list, he was also well built and muscular. Even dressed in his wrinkled uniform his broad shoulders and muscular arms were well defined. I was captivated, but completely unsure of how to act. I lacked the courage to go up and start a conversation with him, so I just watched from afar.
There was a small rush and he disappeared behind the scenes once again. I tried to get back into the conversation at the table, but it just wasn’t happening. After about an hour Cute Pizza Guy walked back out to the counter and started doing something with the register. I don’t know if he noticed me starting or not, but I did. Taking in every inch of him, studying him intensely, wishing desperately that I had the courage to go up and talk to him. When I couldn’t muster up the courage, I started trying to find an excuse. Eventually my little sisters would need to cash in their tickets as we were getting ready to leave, maybe if I waited long enough for them I could go up and “help” them out.
As if she were reading my mind, my mom suggested that I go up to the prize counter and look for appropriate prizes for my sisters. I waited until Cute Pizza Guy wandered back into the kitchen, and then casually made my way up to the counter, trying my best to seem interested in the little trinkets behind the glass lost in my own thoughts.
“You look really bored over there.” A voice said bringing me back to reality.
I looked up and to my surprise there he was. Standing less than two feet away from me, and more than that he was TALKING to me. Cute Pizza Guy.
“Yeah. My little sisters are at a birthday party.” I answered, as I blushed.
“Well it’s not all for the little kids you know. There’s stuff you can do to. I hang out here and play games with my step son all the time.” He answered.
My heart skipped a beat when he mentioned his step son. Yes, it meant that he was married, but it also meant that if he truly was my Soulmate and we were destine to be together he would fit the last piece of the puzzle. One of the main things on my list was that he would be divorced with children. Had I encountered my Soulmate here for the first time? Would fate lead us back together? Was I manufacturing these feelings for this random guy, just as I had embellished my feelings towards my first relationship? All of these thoughts racing through my head, and the only thing that managed to come out of my mouth was: “Well yeah. I know that. I just don’t feel like it.”
At that he smirked and said: “Oh, too cool for that huh? You’d rather sit over there at the table and be bored.”
“Well actually we’re leaving. That’s why I’m up here. I’m waiting for my sister so she can cash in her tickets because she’s like five and can’t pick stuff out by herself.” I answered with a scowl.
“You’re not here just to talk to the cute guy behind the ticket counter?” He asked with an even more devious grin.
At this point I had been found out, and was kind of taken aback that he was flirting with me. Especially since he said he was married and I was so young. Again it was still pretty new territory for me, the whole human interaction with the opposite sex thing, so maybe he wasn’t actually flirting so much as just making conversation. I was so wrapped up in the heat of the moment that I resorted to the only thing I knew, a snide sarcastic mean remark. “I might, is he here?” I said with an acid tone in my voice.
He laughed to mask the fact that I had stung his ego and replied: “Ooooooooh. Good one, is this your sister?”
My sister had indeed walked up. We cashed in her tickets and got ready to leave. As we were walking out the door Cute Pizza Guy waved and called: “Byyyyyyyye.”
As we were shuffling out to the car my mom asked me: “What was that about? Do you know that kid?”
I answered honestly when I said: “No. I don’t know him.”
Mom kept pressing the issue as she had a tendency to do and asked me several more questions before she eventually stated: “If you don’t know him, why was he flirting with you? I don’t think that’s very appropriate for some one who works around kids all day.”
“Mom. He’s married and has a son. I think he’s safe to be around kids.” I said annoyed with the whole way the conversation was going. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal to my mom anyway what some random guy I would never see again said to me in the ten minutes we interacted. I think on some maternal level she knew there was something between us, or at least that I was attracted to him.
I plugged my headphones in after that comment and chose to ignore her. I think she got the point because she never mentioned it again.