THE FIRST TIME I went to see her, T cried when I went home.
In retrospect I should have known something was fishy then. We were sitting in her 4-Runner, hanging out before I left. Back then I was driving from Georgia to see her in Oxford, Alabama, every weekend, a drive of about an hour and a half. I looked over to her and realized that her eyes were absolutely swimming with tears. Don’t remember exactly what she said now, other than that she really liked me and didn’t want me to go. She was afraid that I wasn’t going to come back.
Goddamn, it was heartbreaking. It blew my mind. Never in my life had I considered myself, or thought that anyone else would consider me, somebody worth crying over.
That was the day I understood that I was going to have to come back—nobody had ever so much as asked me to come back and see them, much less cried when I left. How could I not? “Oh, sweetie,” I said, thumbing the tears off her cheeks. My voice got thick as I assured her, “I’m not going to leave you. I’ll come back, I promise. Please don’t cry. You’re gonna have me crying!”
To this day I don’t know if it appealed to my ego, my own need for love, or to my sense of sympathy.
Several weekends later, my car broke down in the parking lot of Western Sizzlin’ and we had to pull it back to her parents’ house down the road, where she was living at the time, leaving me with no way home.
We decided (aided by how touched I was that she’d cried over me) I should stick around instead of trying to find a way back to Georgia, and we would make a go of it. I ended up getting a job at Lowe’s and started attending drill at the local Reserve center in Anniston instead of driving all the way to Chattanooga, which I couldn’t do by myself with no car of my own.
Thus was the beginning of our live-in relationship.
The issues sprang up fairly early—not long after I started working at Lowe’s.