Monday, January 2, 2017

Texas, Waffle House and a Navy Seal

(This post picks up after our October 21 blog post.)

During my sophomore year at Ball State, I became friends with a Navy Seal when he was an assistant volunteer coach. I was 19 and he was 32. We had been good friends throughout the year and I fell in love with him that spring. He was graduating and had an internship in Dallas, Texas. I wanted to travel with him and try to make this relationship work out. Fortuitously, I had a friend from high school who was living in Fort Worth, Texas and he invited me to stay with him for a few weeks. I left Indiana with $30.00 in cash and a $42.00 check from the Waffle House where I worked. I quit my job there, but I was too embarrassed to go back, so I had the Navy Seal return my uniform for me.  Many years later, I relayed this story to one of my Pilates instructors.  I'll never forget her dead panned face as she sarcastically said, "So you were scared and it took the Navy Seals for you to return your Waffle House uniform?"  She then fell to her knees on the floor with laughter. 
Ahh, the Waffle House.

I rocked that uniform.

None of the patrons at my Waffle House looked like this...

At the time though, I ultimately wanted to keep tabs on my Navy Seal, who had just broken up with his girlfriend.  I didn’t want them to get back together. However, this was the logic I used at the time to rationalize the trip to myself:  I was 19, and in Indiana, you had to be 21 to serve alcohol, so I couldn’t work in any of the upscale restaurants like Chi-Chi’s.  Yes, upscale restaurants like Chi-Chi's.  Since I didn’t want to go back to Clinton, I figured that I could work in Texas, where I could legally serve alcohol and therefore make more money as a waitress at a good restaurant. That was the excuse I used while I followed the Navy Seal to Texas. Within two days of arriving, I got a job at Red Lobster.  But in addition to all that, I had never lived anywhere else and I was just excited to get out and go somewhere. There was no planning, clearly, as I only had $72.00 in my pocket when I left. I never told my parents that I went, though. I knew that if I told them, they would have flipped out and forbidden me to go. I decided it was better to ask for forgiveness after the fact than it was to ask for permission. I was down in Texas for about six of the ten week total.  My high school friend that rented the apartment went back to Clinton for the Fourth of July, and I believe he told a few people I was staying with him. It’s a small town, so I’m sure my mother heard of the rumor.  Shortly after he came back from Iowa, my mom and I had an interesting conversation.  I could tell by what she was saying she knew I wasn't in Muncie anymore.  I finally confessed, because I was obviously caught.  She didn't completely flip out but they no longer gave me any spending money the rest of my college career. 

            The friend I was staying with didn’t really have a place for me to sleep. There was the bedroom that he and his girlfriend shared and then there was a bunk bed that was just the bed frame and springs. So I slept on the floor or on the couch for the entire time I was there. The Navy Seal and his friend Herman had made fun of me for leaving Indiana with only 72 bucks, but the apartment they were meant to be staying in turned out to be a real dump. There were feral cats everywhere as well as roaches. It was in such disrepair that he had to leave and for a time, he had no place to stay. I felt bad for them but a little vindicated for myself.  Navy Seal and Herman hassled and teased me relentlessly the entire trip from Indiana to Texas that I'd be sleeping in a slum and be homeless.  Although I slept between a couch and a floor, I was staying in an otherwise very nice apartment with a pool and a beach volleyball court. They told me then that I was staying in the Taj Mahal compared to what they had.  Eventually, my Navy Seal moved back in with his girlfriend without saying anything. He came over once to my place by himself and the second time he visited me, he brought his ex-girlfriend and Herman and a bunch of his other friends with him. That’s when he told me things were over between us and that he was going back to his ex.  What was worse, he came to the apartment with her in tow and she didn’t know that we had been together.

            I was upset of course, but I don’t remember sitting around and moping over him. I’m sure he cared for me, but I suspect his plan was to spend time with me and if things worked out with his ex in Dallas, then he could just go back to her. If things had not worked out, he still had me. I was there for 10 weeks and it was over by the third. You have to laugh about it or otherwise you’d cry.

Having grown up in Clinton, Iowa and gone to college in Muncie, Indiana, being in Fort Worth was a big city for me. I’m sure I was devastated at the time, but I sprang back with a 19 year- old's desire to have fun. The people that worked at that Red Lobster with me were from all over the place. There was a Mormon from Utah, a guy from Kansas and a Muslim from Egypt. It sounds like a bad joke, but we all hung out and had a great time. So I might have lost the Navy Seal, but I wasn’t too heartbroken about it. I got to live in Texas for ten weeks.   Living successfully in Texas, in other words, getting a job within two days, making friends and having a good time was a wonderful confidence booster.  It was a very risky proposition and it all worked out for me.  It reduced my fear of the unknown and helped me to realize that I was capable of pulling off things many people, especially my parents, would deem dangerous and crazy.  Plus I got to stay in a Taj Mahal apartment.  Ha! 

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