I know what it means to be lonely
And I know what it means to be free
Now I want to know how to love you
Return to me, return to me – October Project, “Return to Me“
December 17th, 1999
“Welcome to Virginia”, the sign read.
It was late evening. Prime and I had been on the road for most of the day. I hadn’t cried once; when we had made our way down the road that I had lived on for the past eighteen years, I was relatively calm. When our Penske truck had found its way to I-40 and began its journey to the Midwest, I barely blinked. As the scenery changed from the familiar to the somewhat exotic, I didn’t raise an eyebrow. But seeing that sign, with its innocuous statement of greeting, was simply too much.
I was twenty four years old and actually leaving home.
I burst into tears. I was leaving everything I knew, everything familiar, and entering into an absolute unknown. I would know no one, save Prime. I would have no job, no friends. I wouldn’t know the area. I would have no idea where anything was, where common things such as grocery stores or restaurants, would be located. The lay of the land would be a mystery to me.
I wouldn’t even know the climate. Something so simple–the weather–was now unknown to me. The realization of this, all of this, was too much and I did the one thing I had swore that I wouldn’t: I started to cry.
Half a second later, the torrent of tears and half-choked sobs stopped. I caught my breath in a sharp gasp. Something outside, looming in the near distance, had caught my eye. I stared in disbelief as the enormous form seemingly stared back.
Mountains. I was looking at mountains. I had never seen a real mountain in my life, only pictures of them in books. I had spent all my life on the coast, with its rolling sand dunes and flat landscape. Not once had I ever seen a peak or a summit. For the first time ever, I was looking at a real mountain. I could hardly believe it.
“You alright?” Prime asked. His voice was tinged with worry.
I nodded. “Yeah,” I replied. “It’s…I’ve never seen mountains before.” I kept staring in amazement. Prime smiled slightly, his attention on the road, but he snuck a look or two as well, I saw.
The better part of the last two days had been a blur; Prime had flown in to Raleigh the previous night. My father and I had driven there to pick him up when he arrived. He had told me which gate he would arrive well in advance. I waited for him, scanning the crowds for the one face, the one familiar person, among a cadre of tourists and travelers. When I spotted him, I began to grin. “Prime!” I called out as I raced towards him.
He looked the same: a buttondown over a black tee, a baseball cap snug upon his head. He clutched the handle to a carry-on bag as he made his way into the terminal. He seemed to be searching, then his eyes fell upon me as I called to him and he smiled.
It had only been five months, but it felt like a lifetime. Our weekly phone calls had been supplemented with daily chats over AOL Instant Messenger, but even these weren’t enough for me. I had wanted to be with him, to be by his side. I had deeply missed him and I realized that as I ran to him, as he returned to me and I returned to him, to throw my arms around him. He returned my embrace, kissed me, then took my hand in his.
We had never held hands before. This was our first time. When we had met at BotCon, I had resisted the urge to pull his hand into mine. Instead, fearful that I might be moving too fast and rushing things, I had reached up and scratched his back. He seemingly hadn’t minded the gesture, as odd as it had been.
But that night as my hand slipped into his and our fingers intertwined, it felt as though we had done this forever. This small gesture felt as though we weren’t simply meant to be, but always had been. This was us.
Half-giggling, I introduced Prime to my father. Dad seemed to like him, a lot better than he had tolerated my previous paramour, who refused to make eye contact or speak with anyone.
On the car ride back, we kissed. Again, it felt completely natural. It was as if we had always been together.
When we arrived, my mother greeted him warmly; she was happy to see him. My father already liked him. Prime made quite the impression. He stayed with me, in my home, that night. My parents happily allowed this, which surprised me. Normally, they would have insisted on a hotel room for him. But I think that they knew I was planning on spending the rest of my life with Prime. One night in our home was a small way of saying thank you. He would be part of the family, after all.
Prime and I loaded the Penske truck, all the while catching glimpses of the latest episode of Beast Machines as we traipsed in and out the front door. We had breakfast and Prime showered. My memories of that Saturday are dim, at best. It was a whirlwind of activity.
I do remember saying goodbye to both my parents and the dogs. I remember the final drive down ‘my’ road. I remember us, taking a few detours along the way, before we left the city proper. But once we got onto I-40, we were on our way, heading to our new life together.
It wasn’t without stops, of course. We paused for breaks at retail stores–there were Transformers to find, of course–and at a few rest stops; I can remember that I had stared in shock at my reflection in a ladies’ room mirror at a Flying J. I was wearing a white turtleneck, a blue denim vest and skirt, with a tiger’s eye necklace gracing my neck. The young woman who gazed back had looked so mature and sure of herself that I couldn’t believe the image was mine.
As the day wore on and the skies darkened, we knew we had to stop for the night. We had made it to Ohio and we managed to find a Super 8 motel, where we would stay for the night. We would get some sleep and start fresh the next morning.
That was the first night that we were alone. Together. It was the start of our new life.
We fell asleep in each other’s arms, utterly exhausted. It was the first time I had ever shared a bed with someone I loved so deeply and again, it felt so right.
There were so many firsts on that trip: my first visit to a Subway (I had a six inch turkey with American cheese and mustard while Prime picked a footlong Seafood Sensation), my first times in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois and taking in the traffic and the skyscrapers and the massive interstate highways, my first time sitting in the passenger seat next to Prime and either talking to him or saying nothing at all, the first time Prime and I went on a Transformer hunt together, the first time I sang in front of him. I told him that I really didn’t have that sort of talent, unlike him, but he encouraged me to join him in a round of “Jingle Bells”. According to Prime, I didn’t lack the talent to sing, only the training.
This was also the first time I saw snow. At night. While on the road.
It was just outside of Milwaukee when it happened: I noticed odd, white streaks in the headlights in front of our truck. “Oh,” Prime said, “it’s snowing.” He flicked the lights from low beam to high. The flakes streaked by, like stars in the Enterprise’s viewscreen. I gasped and stared in amazement. “I call this the ‘warp speed effect’,” he said with a grin.
My mouth hung open and my eyes were wide. For me to see snow was rare. I had seen eighteen inches once, a week before Christmas when I was fourteen; it was a once-in-a-hundred-years event. Coastal North Carolina almost never got snow and if we did, it rarely lasted. Now I was seeing it in front of our truck.
I would see snow nearly every winter now. I realized that. I had moved from the Deep South to the Midwest. My life had changed.
It was also the first time I saw the sign that would become synonymous with home: “Wisconsin welcomes you”, it said.
Again, there were more firsts: the first night in his–our–apartment together, the first Christmas we spent together, the first day Prime went back to work and the loneliness I felt that day, the first morning we heard the alarm clock go off together. We had our first argument and our first make-up session. We had our first dinner in and our first dinner out, our first snowstorm, my first job, our first cat, our first death in the family, our first BotCon roadtrip, our first flight together.
Our first twenty years.
There have been a lot of firsts and seconds and thirds and I dunno, eighty-sevenths and three-thousandths. There have been a lot of changes and a lot of things that have stayed the same. There have been a lot of tears–both in happiness and in heartbreak–a lot of laughter and a lot of time together. A lot of hugs, a lot of kisses and a lot of playful teasing. A lot of trips to BotCon and points beyond.
But in the end, I always return to Prime and the great state of Wisconsin, the person and the state that are my home.
My darling Prime, no matter what, I will always return to you. I love you. Now, forever, and always, I will love you. You are my sparkmate and I am so grateful that we found each other.
~To be continued even further~