Photo by Alex Lujan on Unsplash

Joshua Twent was a guy I had run into while out and about with my best friend Shianne at Nashville’s Play dance bar. We bumped into each other one Friday night and exchanged numbers to meet for dinner the next day. We met at Centennial Park at the Parthenon. We walked and talked for nearly an hour before heading to our venue, Chili’s on West End Ave across from Vanderbilt. We somehow managed to find even more to talk about as we ate. Things were going so well until;

“Do you ever want to get married?” he asked giving me a curious look over his rectangle framed glasses. I took a sip of my Margarita (they were two for one so needless to say our table looked like a minibar) before answering.

“Well I dunno. I used to think I was, you know the whole shebang. American dream. House, yard, kids, dog… now I think I’ll be fine with a nice apartment over the park with nice closet space. I’ll still take the dog though,” I added chewing a fry. He smiled at me in his quiet sexy way.

“What about you?” I asked. He took an even longer pause to answer than I did.

“Well after I get divorced I’ll consider marriage again yeah,” he said. I choked on my margarita.

“I’m sorry. After your what?” I said in disbelief.

“After my divorce. I know I told you I was married,” he said looking mirroring my look of confusion.

“No…no you didn’t! I think I would remember that!” I said. And never would have agreed to this date was the thought I kept to myself. Suffice it to say the rest of the date was closed on a much darker note than it started.

It’s been a month and 15 days since the big split from Mr. Diggs. I had talked to several guys here and there since the breakup, none of them quite giving me what I need. Many of the guys I only talked to because my friends (bless them) suggested I do to get over Maurice. Of course this didn’t work. They all ended up too much of something for me to lose interest. Jose, the Weed Addict, was too pushy, Sean, the College Kid, was too interested in me, Fred, the Cop, was too surrounded by drama, and Joshua, the Married Guy, was…well I rest my case. Whatever it was it turned me off instantly and I resolved to never contact them again.

Maurice and I are still talking. We came to a decision in early December that we still want to attempt to try and work it out. Things are different. I get a mixed feeling of joy and anger when I see his face. I want to pull him in close and just kiss the pain away and at the same time Ryu-slap the black off him, but I can’t do either due to distance. It’s hard. I don’t know weather I want to give up or push through it. Not to mention my upcoming deployment (now scheduled for some time in January) made it seem that much more impossible to even attempt to work through anything.

One conversation in particular got me thinking about what our future would hold. It was a normal FaceTime conversation before bed. We smiled, told each other how much we missed one another, and I even got to say hello to his best friend. It was probably the best conversation we’ve had since November. As we were getting ready to hang up he said ‘good night babe’. I paused for a moment. Up until that conversation I hadn’t felt comfortable with him calling me this (because he has done so before). I would always stop him and tell him not to call me that. Tonight, however, I returned the sentiment with a smile, as it felt damn good to hear him call me that. There was a slight pause afterwards where we gazed into each other’s FaceTime eyes. I felt a swooping sensation, like I wanted to say something. I settled for hanging up the phone quickly.

Part of me wants nothing more than to fill up my tank and make the 11 hour drive to Virginia for New Years so that I can run into his arms all Hollywood romance style. The more sensible part of me however, want to go home and run into my mothers arms as it may very well be the last time I see any of my family until the end of the year when I come back to the United States. My emotions are a wreck right now and I don’t know what to make of them, so I turned outward for some advice.

Though I’ve only known him for about two years now, Cory Caldwell has become a great friend of mine. We joined the Army the same day back in 2013, after which he was shipped off to Alaska and I to Texas. He has recently married his beau, a gorgeous Bulgarian in his early 20s so it only felt right that I ask him for love advice.

“How do you know that you really love your hubby? I mean aside from the obvious ring on finger subtext. I know it’s a weird question but I am at this weird point with Moe. It’s like I see him and I feel the words but I can’t bring myself to say them. Some days it’s right on the tip of my tongues and other days it’s like ‘no I hate you’. Idk. It’s hard because we are trying to decide if we can salvage us and the determining factor for me is if I still love him” was the question I text him. It was around midnight for me so I knew he was still up back in Alaska.

“Well I can tell because I know deep down that I couldn’t imagine life without him. Maybe without his bullshit, but we all have baggage to carry and share when needed. I think you still love him because you’re still thinking about if you do or not. I think maybe you’re just trying to see if it’s safe to say you do without getting hurt and to be honest that is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone’s been there. For example, my husband gets on my last nerve and some times I simply don’t like him. But I know for sure that I love him and this is an understanding we had to come to terms with together. Lol…ya dig? Oor nah? I can re-explain if you need me to, haha”

I had a lot to think about. I rolled over and eventually drifted into a restless sleep.

The next day I still hadn’t come to terms with my feelings so I asked my mother over my lunch break at work.

“It takes a hold of you and for the most part you feel that connection with them in which you eat, breathe, and go to sleep at night thinking of that person. That person is first in your mind. That’s part of knowing,’ she tells me over the phone.

“Well mama I think about him all the time. When I wake up, while I’m at work, before bed. I pray for him when I pray for ya’ll. Even when he gets on my damn nerves (which is a lot) I still feel this way,” I responded. She paused for a moment taking this in before continuing.

“Are you in love?” she asked me.

“I think so,” I answer after thinking about it. There was an even longer pause on the phone.

“Well son, if ‘think’ is used along with that question then the answer is no, you are not there yet,” she returned. I love my ma. Always giving me the honest truth. We continued our conversation discussing my plans for New Years before I went back to work feeling a little closer to an answer.

After work that day I went home and ran myself a bath, something I don’t often get to do in this busy Army life, but as it is the holidays, I decided it was in order. I sat in my lavender scented bubbles mulling it over. Do you love this man? Do you love Maurice Diggs? Can you love each other through this? I thought back on when times were good. We were so carefree, so crazy for one another. Back before the reality hit us. We were states apart and it would be costly, more costly than either of us could afford to see each other every month. Was distance and money really the only things standing in the way of our relationship? An old question posed by my father popped into my mind then.

I was moving from Ft. Hood to Ft. Campbell when we had this conversation. He called me up to see how things were going with the 13 hour drive. I was about 2 hours into and still in Texas. We talked about what I could expect at Campbell before he turned the conversation to my dating life. He didn’t do so very often, as I can tell it’s still difficult for him to stomach my sexuality, but he does his best.

“I feel like you lookin’ for something. What are you looking for out there boy?”

This question was so very simple. Simple and yet I had trouble answering him right away. SO many things came into my mind but none of them seemed to stick. He sensed my conflicted emotions and continued.

“Well whatever it is, I want you to know that I love you. Me and your mom both love you,” he said.

Today I decided to ask my father his opinion on love.

“Well son, we go through this time and time again. It’s like every time you…lust we end up right back here. So let me explain that lust is the physical. You need their touch. Love is within the heart. You CAN’T look for love. You will never find it. It finds you one day. After time that other person is all you need. You can argue and fuss, but you still need that person in your life, and because they make you feel good. Look at anyone you know in love. They get mad but work it out. If you’re in lust it doesn’t work like that,” he answered irritably. I rolled my eyes and bit back the retort that all gay men don’t LUST after one another. That would’ve been too adolescent of me.

As my bubbles slowly disappeared in my bath I did think on these words however. They seemed to take over everything else. The fact that I am still here contemplating us spoke volumes.

“If this isn’t love, well what in the fuck is it?” I quizzed to myself out of frustration.

New Year's Eve saw me at my grandmother’s house in my traditional New Year's sweater-and-jean combination to bring the countdown in with all my family. I had made the decision to rob Peter to pay Paul and get my behind back home to see them one last time before leaving. It was a great decision. Seeing my family and just being near them did wonders to ease the anticipation and anxiety I felt. None of them discussed my imminent departure though I knew we all thought about it. I usually like to address issues at hand but this time I was content with them showing me strength in their silence.

My plan was to split the holiday equally with both family and friends. Since the majority of my friends were military as well and all with their families as well, we agreed to bring the actual countdown in with our respective families and come together afterwards. We were rarely all back home at the same time, so we were not about to let each other go leave without seeing one another. I love that about us.

Before long it was a minute till the 2015. We had all congregated in the kitchen to watch Taylor Swift perform just before the countdown began. After she turned it back over to the countdown, my phone rang in my pocket as the clock hit 30 seconds until. My stomach did a sort of back flip flutter kick as I read “Moe-FaceTime” on my screen. I answered unable to hide the smile from my face.

He was as handsome as ever. He was also celebrating, out and about with his friends. I doubt either of us could hear one another, but words weren’t necessary at this point.

10…9…8…7…

We both began laughing as we stared at one another.

6…5…4…3…

My eyes began to water as I had joined the countdown to stem their flow as I knew what was coming.

2...1...HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It wasn’t traditional, it wasn’t a fairy tale, but it was a moment I will not soon forget as we both puckered up to the front cameras on our iPhones; the moment I had my very first (cyber) New Year's kiss. It felt just like I imagined it would. I wanted to stay there with him in that moment forever, but my sister reminded me I still had to get changed to get over to my friends place by 12:30 for the party. So I said my reluctant good-bye, changed into a rather revealing New Years outfit and headed out to the party.

As I drove I couldn’t help but think back to my father’s question a year ago. I thought that if he asked me that question again today my answer would be simple and immediate; It would be love. I am looking for a love that loves no matter the trial. Looking for a love that can withstand distance. I am looking for a love that can fend off doubt. I’m looking for a love that communicates. A love that isn’t afraid to admit when it’s wrong. I’m looking for a love that trusts. I’m looking for a love that can love unconditionally.

Tonight, I think, I may have taken a few steps closer.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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