Over Before It Began

“Hello,”  Ray answered the phone.

“Ray.”  It was all I could get out.  But the voice on the other end was silent.  I couldn’t read his silence; what did it mean?  Were there people around and he couldn’t talk?  Did he not want to speak with me?  Was he angry with me for tracking him down?  Did he simply not know what to say to me?  I had no idea.

I had gone through four layers of phone transfers to have someone at his new Army base track him down.  It had been twelve days since I’d watched his plane takeoff, twelve days of waiting, wondering and sadness.  My anger rose quickly in my chest.  “Well, I guess I’m glad to hear you’re still alive.”

“I know, I’m sorry I didn’t call.  It is really crazy here.”

“I suppose it must be,” I answered tartly.  I looked at Dawn, who was sitting expectantly next to me.  She crossed her arms in a “what is this bullshit” piece of body language.

“It’s complicated.  I can’t really explain it all right now,” he said.

“Complicated.  Really.”  I couldn’t understand what was going on down there in Georgia, and while I supposed that the training and work he was engaged in was likely making communications difficult, I couldn’t imagine how it changed our plans.  My heart was sinking into the pit of my stomach, and it burned.

“I can’t really talk about it right now.  But I will, I promise.”  I couldn’t hear it in his voice.  I couldn’t hear the safety, security, the emotion that I’d heard so many times in the weeks we’d spent together.  In fact, his voice was very empty.  I could hear my inner optimist start attributing that to the military base he was currently residing in, but my inner Angry Bitch took over.

“Well let me make it simple for you, since it is so complicated.  Let me ask you just one question.  Are we still engaged?”  I could see Dawn’s eyebrows shoot up.  I normally was not this direct or unaccommodating.  In retrospect, I should have asked more probing questions about why he couldn’t communicate or was the set up down there different than he’d anticipated.   I didn’t give him room to dispel my assumptions; I’d had twelve days and my opinions about what was really going on were well formed at this point.   His silence was unnerving me.  I couldn’t think of reason.  I was just so sad, and scared that everything I’d envisioned for our future was going to be over, that it was already over.

Finally he answered:  “I don’t know if we’re still engaged.”

Could he have really deceived me for the whole three weeks we were together?  How could I have not seen it?  Nothing made sense.  He’d changed his whole life ostensibly to be with me, having transferred to the base here…what was I missing?  It didn’t seem right; he seemed so confident that we would make this all work when we’d been together.  The evidence just didn’t add up.

As I had with Joe in the past, when my fear found fuel in some of the facts in the situation, I bolted.  Perhaps a more secure person would have  given him time to figure out what he needed in this difficult set of circumstances to make it work.  But old habits are hard to break.  Instead of having faith in who he was, I reverted to self preservation mode and went straight to believing the worst of him.

“Well,” I answered.  “I think the fact that you don’t know, means actually that you do know.  You know that we aren’t engaged any more. ”

There was noise on the other end of the line; voices in the room around him.  He was quiet.  What was he thinking?  When he was with me, I could read things on his face that he wasn’t courageous enough to put in words.  I wished I could see his face to read what he was thinking.  Was he relieved or resigned?  Was he defeated or deflated?  Was he going to push back or was he going to accept my word as the final say?

“I guess it does,” he answered, slowly.  Later I would realize that flat tone in his voice I heard was regret.

Without any information to provide context for his actions, I felt my heart literally ache for him, but harden at the same time.

“Goodbye, Ray,” I choked out before hanging up her Slimline with too much force on its flimsy plastic base.


2 Responses

  1. […] was because of this that I knew that after Ray had asked me to marry him and then quietly rescinded the request,  he had quickly married.  He had married Josephine, the woman who he had theoretically left to […]

  2. […] Ray had given me the “promise ring” (I called it an engagement ring) late, late one night in August, 1991.  He’d arrived home from Iraq via Germany.  We’d been corresponding via letter and a few stray late night phone calls while he served in Gulf War I.  After our on again, off again high school relationship, the moment had seemed wonderful and perfect.  We spent his three weeks of leave inseparably, slowly letting my family in on the depth of our commitment.  But then he’d gone to his new assignment in Georgia, and then things fell apart. […]

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