I looked in my e-mail and saw it staring at me. "Friend Request from Joe Donatelli".
"I can't believe he found me," I muttered to myself as I accepted the request. I scanned his profile quickly before I shot off a quick message.
Hi, Joe! Surprised you found me and remembered me after all these years. Army, huh? That's great! What else is going on with you? Just perusing your pictures, but gotta get ready for work. Send more info!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Tina
When I got home from work that night, I had a message waiting.
I will catch up with you later. Promise. Joe
That was almost a year ago and we hadn't "caught up" yet. But I was in a predicament and I needed some advice. A friend's son had left for Basic Training and was sending his mother some cryptic messages that got her worried. The only person I thought to turn to was Joe, so I had to bite the bullet and send him a message.
It isn't like we hadn't communicated in the year since we re-connected; it was just that it really wasn't personal stuff. Mostly just comments regarding each other's posts on the social networking site. I looked through his pictures occasionally and through his personal information and didn't see any mention of being married or in a relationship; but there was nothing that said he wasn't, either.
I plucked up the courage and sent Joe a message.
Hi, Joe! Got a couple questions about the Army. A friend's son has enlisted and sent her a cryptic note. They are worried and I am, too. Thought I could run a couple questions by you (would like to help the family relax if possible). Let me know when you are available. -Tina
Joe's reply came short and swift: Call me followed by a phone number.
We had a nice talk that evening about the Army, training, and such. That's all we talked about and I felt a bit cheated, but I let it go. We talked a few more times regarding the Army in general as I received more information from my friends and then I finally asked, "So, what have you been doing for the last thirty years?"
He laughed; he actually thought it was funny. Maybe he just thought it was an odd question. But it opened the door to a three-hour conversation bringing both of us through the last thirty years of our lives. When he mentioned how much he traveled for work, I remembered the pictures of his dog.
"What do you do with your dog? You can't travel with him; do you kennel him or have someone come and take care of him?"
"Tina," Joe replied, "I'm married."
Somehow I missed that during our conversation. I was sure nothing had been mentioned about it, and I knew there was nothing on his on-line profile, either. But he admitted it; he was married.
After that conversation, I wasn't able to get Joe out of my mind. I would visit his profile every chance I got, checking to see if he added pictures or more information, specifically regarding his wife. I quickly became angry with myself—I was acting like a smitten schoolgirl. I was too old for this. And besides, he was married.
But there was something about those eyes. I couldn't stop looking at them. How ironic it was that I had never given him a second thought in high school, but couldn't get him out of my mind now. I remember him being awkward then; not seeming to be comfortable in his skin, or something like that. But thirty years later, he seemed very comfortable with himself; the years had been very good to him.
We talked a couple of other times after that, but mostly communication was through the social networking site. I noticed some of the comments to his posts referring to him as "Honey" and I found myself getting a little jealous. Then, when we would talk or chat on-line, he would sometimes refer to me as "honey" as well. It kept gnawing at me, so I had to ask. One evening, during a chat session, I got my answers.
Tina: So, Joe, where did the "honey" come from? I don't remember you using that in high school at all.
Joe: I was stationed in the South for a while. It isn't meant to demean or disrespect. Actually, it is a sign of respect.
Tina: It just seems unusual to use it these days.
Joe: I'll stop using it with you if you'd prefer.
Tina: No, that's okay. I was just curious.
Joe: So, is there anyone else around there calling you 'honey' these days?
Tina: Joe, you know better. Of course not! I don't have time. And even if I did, the men I meet are either married or there's a reason why they aren't! And I refuse to be someone's mistress! I deserve better than that.
Joe: Yes, you do! When you find someone you can trust it will be all worth it.
Tina: Have you found that, Joe? Really? It seems that you deserve more than you're getting, too.
Joe: She's a good wife. All she's ever known was her parents in separate rooms. I don't think she thinks there's anything wrong with this.
Tina: But you do.
Joe: I miss the physical.
Tina: Have you tried talking with her?
Joe: Yes, and she doesn't see anything wrong. And there's no use for counseling. She won't go.
Now I'm driving around the airport waiting for his call. He was so insistent on seeing me. I keep remembering his words, "When you find someone you can trust...". What might I do if any of my fantasies start coming true? I feel comfortable with him, that's for sure. When we started talking again, it seemed like all that time hadn't passed. We just picked up where we left off. But he is married. And a married person who strays should not be trusted, regardless of the reason; right?
"Hello?" I pick up on the first ring. "I assume you've landed?"
"Hi, honey. Yes, I've landed and I'm heading to the outside pick up. Are you close?"
Shit! I just left that area to begin another pass around the airport. "Almost. Why don't you tell me where you are standing so I can find you faster?" If I can keep him talking for a few minutes, I should be able to get back there without him noticing too much time passing.
I pull over where Joe told me to meet him and I get out of my car as instructed. I open my trunk and look around for him. It doesn't take long before I spot him heading toward me. God! His eyes! There's something about them; I can't look away.
"It's great to finally see you again," Joe says as he places his luggage in my trunk and shuts the lid. "Do you mind if I give you a hug?"
All I can do is smile and shake my head. Before I can catch my breath, I am enveloped in his embrace. Having his arms around me immediately makes me feel safe. I've always been a sucker for a good hug.
He leans over and gives me a quick kiss on my cheek. "You look even better than your pictures, you know."
"You'd better watch out," I reprimand. "You're married, remember?"
Joe doesn't seem disturbed by my comment. A slight smile appears on his face. "Do you mind driving?"
"Since you don't know your way around, Joe, I don't have a problem driving," I tease as he holds the driver's door open for me and waits for me to be seated before jogging around to the passenger's side and getting in.
"My reservations are for the hotel here at the airport; do you know where that is?"
"I'm sure we can just follow the signs, huh?" The old-time sarcasm begins to come back as I merge with the departing traffic. It doesn't take long for him to spot the signs for the hotel, so he continues to direct me to our destination.
A few minutes later, we are parked at the hotel. Joe is able to confirm his reservation and retrieve the room key without problems. Once in the room, I move over to the window while Joe gets settled.
"If you like watching planes taxiing around, it is." I feel him step up behind me. "I mean, at least you don't have to worry about any noise, huh?" His breath on my neck makes me nervous and I hug my arms to my chest.
"You look so good, Tina." His mouth is inches from me as he breathes the words into my ear.
"You need glasses, Joe. But thank you."
"Why do you put yourself down? None of us look like we did in high school. I wasn't expecting that. You look good now."
"My youngest just graduated high school, Joe. I'm old."
His laugh is deep and throaty and I feel it resonate in his chest. "We all are, Tina. You've changed a bit. I never knew you were so insecure."
"Ten years of single life and being alone will do that to you. I've had to raise my kids alone and it wasn't always easy."
"I'm sure it wasn't. But, I'm surprised you didn't go out at all."
"Who do you think wanted to date a single mother of three? Besides, I had gotten fat over the years. It's just over the past couple of years that I started working out and getting back into some kind of shape other than round."
He laughs again and I realize his fingers had been lightly caressing my arms during our exchange. We stand silently for a moment before I hear music filling the room.
"I like this song," he whispers in my ear as his hands reach my hips and pull me against his body. Together, we sway to the slow melody. I close my eyes and lay my head against his chest, allowing some of my fantasies of the past year to play in my head.
"Um, should we be doing this?" My throat is so dry the words almost don't leave.
"It's okay, honey. She's gone."
.... There is more of this story ...