The Beginning

Things were looking up. It was the end of January 2000, and I had just accepted a job offer in the Publications Department at Colonial Williamsburg, the largest living history museum in America. Out of the blue, I received an e-mail message from a guy in California I hadn’t seen in about a decade. All I remember from that first communication was a sense I had of excitement after reading (and rereading, and rereading) the phrases glowing from the computer screen. Here was someone who still had his California quirkiness about him (I do recall some wording akin to “many moons have passed”), yet he also had links to his business after his signature (“~JSB”). I debated for several days whether to reply at all, then, with what words? Somehow, I found the courage to hit that reply button. And thus, the e-mail correspondence began.

We wrote to each other about everything. Twenty questions times a hundred. I told him about my greatest trauma; he shared his thoughts about the good and bad of relationships. We never once tried to call each other in those first months. Writing seemed the best way to feel each other out.

Peanut Soup

In May, Jonathan headed to Spain for his stepsister Lisa’s wedding. He casually mentioned toward the end of an e-mail that he would be stopping through the East Coast for a few days on his way back to California. I just as nonchalantly invited him to visit for a cup of peanut soup in one of the Historic Area taverns. And so we had agreed to see each other.

Thursday, June 1, 2000. By the time I got home from work, there was a message on my voice mail, from Jonathan, asking me to call him on his cell phone. I got a chance to hear his voice for the first time in years, a voice I now connected with months of daily (and more than daily) e-mail messages. I call the California cell phone number. He answers. We chat for a minute, he says he is down the road. Finally, I can’t stand it anymore. I say rather impatiently, “Well, get over here, then! It’s silly to be talking long distance if you’re five minutes away.” Soon, I hear a knock. After taking a deep breath, I open the door to see a long-haired, bearded man with kind brown eyes looking back at me. I greet Jonathan with a hug, and it feels natural. It seems like we talked for five days straight. And then Jonathan went away, for he had a plane to catch.

The only signs that Jonathan had visited were the bunch of mixed flowers (which included an apricot rose with red-tipped petals) he had presented me on arrival and his business card on the refrigerator. On the back of the card, he wrote: “And what would you like for your birthday? Just ask.” Without thinking, I said aloud, “For you to be here with me.”

We e-mailed, sent instant messages, and talked on the phone at least every day from the time Jonathan landed in California until he returned to Virginia six weeks later.

[more to come soon]

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