***Please note: anything in [ ] was a footnote in my word processing document.***
Errowan (Reggie) is someone I’ve stuck by to this day. We’re Facebook friends, I have his number in my contact list, and we still share a cell phone plan since it’s convenient. However, when we first met, thanks to a mutual friend, I thought he was an annoying dumb ass, and he thought I was a stuck-up bitch.
In his defense, he was right for the most part. I was a negative person to the point where the officers from ABDK had to sit down and talk with me over Vent. [Officer: second-in-command of a guild.] I remember only one officer talking to me, pointing out my negative attitude, how I was always complaining about one thing or another, and that it wasn’t fun to be around me. His voice was level and patient, but blunt in content. I started crying before he finished talking and apologized to all of them over and over, even to my guildies who hadn’t been in the private chat. I was appalled and embarrassed. The hard truth that not many people liked me, and that it was my own fault, cut deep.
I made a superhuman effort to turn my behavior around. Every time I started typing out a complaint, I’d stop myself and stay quiet. On top of that, the sheer number of times I had to correct myself appalled me. I really was full of complaints. I’d never noticed, until then. When they noticed the marked improvement in my attitude, they complimented me. In return, I thanked them for being patient and giving me a second chance. Considering how much I got picked on growing up, and how few friends I’d had up to that point, I was very thankful. I just want people to like me.
When Errowan and I crossed paths the first time, I was somewhere in the throes of my negative phase. When we crossed paths again, I was trying to become a better person. We also ended up in the guild Criminal Intent at the same time, which I left ABDK for when I couldn’t take passive bullying from Tessa’s husband anymore. Criminal Intent was formed by Moonraine, who left ABDK as well. She, I, Grellik, and quite a few other people were no longer happy with how the guild was being run. Since she loved the show Law & Order, and said it felt like we were being a bunch of criminals (in an exciting way) for leaving ABDK, that’s how the branch off guild got its name.
Fast forward almost a year and we reach the moment where Moon decides her marriage isn’t as open as she thought it was. From Reggie’s recollection of this day, he views it as his fault I lost two friends. The bizarre relationship triangle between Grel, me, and Moon was actually a love… square… quadrangle… thing. Since I don’t deem it prudent to deliberate on the details in a book, thus publicly defame someone, I’m just going to say that I had a bad day one day, and it was on top of a smidge of tension between my mother and I. I was still living with her so I could afford to go to college full time and work part time.
After Moon and Grellik logged off, I admitted in guild chat that I was feeling down and was in need of cheering up. Errowan, being the compassionate gentleman, sent me a whisper asking what had me down. [Whisper: a message where only the receiver sees the text; a private one-on-one conversation.]
Since this was the ear that’d offered to hear, I set aside my negative impression of him and whispered back, explaining what was stressing me out and how Moon didn’t like me anymore. We chatted for hours that day and I decided Errowan was a decent person after all.
When a guy finds out that he’s talking to a girl in-game, his knee-jerk reaction is to find out what the girl looks like. I’ve been asked many times, “Are you pretty?” I find it an odd thing to say, but maybe that’s because I’m a girl, or maybe too pragmatic a girl. Since I don’t expect to meet 99.9% of my gaming friends face-to-face, I don’t bog myself down with the details of their real-life physical descriptions. Who they are is far more important and relevant to me.
I don’t remember if Errowan asked me the pretty question but I ended up liking him enough to be curious about what he looked like in real life. We would chat for hours every day. Hours. Every day. Here was someone I’d never met in person taking the time to get to know me, and he was an interesting person to boot.
Reggie was in the Army for four years. He toured in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and almost died three times in one day while on active combat duty. He was shot at, almost fell off the mountain he and his unit were marching up, and almost had that same mountain blown up on them by an aerial strike, but thankfully the right people realized they had soldiers in the danger zone.
While in Kosovo, he served as bodyguard to a Lt. Colonel, who was second-in-command at Camp Bondsteel. He served as chauffeur while guarding, but how can that be seen as anything less than cool when it was a Hummer? And while in Afghanistan, he worked in a special forces infantry unit as Combat I, and in his spare time he volunteered in the medical center. He figured, after killing people, he should actually help others live.
Him being an infantry unit and actually shot at people, he’s been asked many a times if he’s killed anyone. I asked the same thing, ignorant of how frustrating that question is for the recipient.
Reggie patiently relieved me of my ignorance. From a non-soldier’s perspective, it’s a morbid fascination to meet someone who’s actually shot at another human being.
Reggie being trained/conditioned into a quality soldier, he fired at whomever he was ordered to without question. He didn’t bear a grudge with individual Taliban soldiers, fully aware that his “enemies” were simply fighting for what they believed in. Since the Taliban resorted to violence to push for their beliefs to become dominant, their violence had to be answered with violence, and the operating word here is “answered.” America’s troops don’t go out starting fights. One of the standard rules of engagement of U.S.-sanctioned combat is that they don’t shoot unless shot at. “Defend our country” suddenly had a whole new perspective.
I never got a straight answer out of Reggie that day. Years later, when we knew each other a lot better, I chanced asking him again, but told him he didn’t have to answer if he didn’t want to.
The people they shot died. As far as which person was at the hand of his bullets, he’ll never know. He doesn’t want to know.
Having spent so much time in active duty, it took about a year to get accustomed to civilian life. His first July 4th back, he almost rolled out of bed thinking he was hearing the Taliban shooting RPGs at his camp, when in fact they were just fireworks. After those endless months of waking up to a boom being a rocket, it was a major change for it to be celebratory.
I have two funny Army stories Reggie shared with me that I must share with you. The first one involves a scarab beetle that had been crawling up his leg under his blanket one night. He remembers the tickling sensation and whipping off his blanket several times, since the tickling kept getting closer to his crotch, but every time he looked, there was nothing there, until one final time he whipped his blanket back over himself and heard something clunk on the floor.
A shine of his flashlight revealed a scarab beetle writhing on its back. It must’ve been clinging to the blankets ever time he’d looked. Alarmed by how close the flesh-eating invertebrate had gotten to his male equipment, he bashed the beetle with the butt of his rifle, but it merely hissed at him. He tried crushing it with his boot and when he got the same reaction, he aimed his rifle, but decided against shooting. He really didn’t want to have to fill out a report for firing a round at a scarab beetle, much less wake his unit up with the gun’s report. In the end, he bashed the beetle until it stopped hissing and went back to bed.
In the morning, the scarab beetle was nowhere to be found.
How’s that for the heebie jeebies?
Story two involves a camel spider. If you don’t know, those things are about the size of dinner plates and wicked creepy looking to someone like me who has a mild phobia of spiders. They live in the part of Afghanistan Reggie was stationed in and they like to find shady patches to stand in during the hottest part of the day. One picked a soldier’s shadow to camp in.
When the soldier noticed Spiderzilla behind him, he casually sidestepped away. When the spider felt the sunlight hit it, it scurried back into the shadow.The soldier moved again and, to his dismay, so did Spiderzilla. The soldier tried harder to put some healthy distance between him and the spider, only to be chased down. Next thing the soldier knows, he’s giving his unit a front-row seat to a show of a macho man being chased around base by Spiderzilla, until someone shouts at him to stop running and explained what the camel spider was trying to do.
* * *
Reggie and I got to know each other very well over the next two years. We both went to college while living with our parents, him getting getting a degree in Microbiology and me a degree in Theatre with a Creative Writing minor. Our chatting in-game and on Vent moved to chatting over the phone. At one point he asked if I’d consider dating him long distance.
Well, I really liked who he was on the inside, but what about the outer shell? Looks aren’t everything, but if I’m not attracted to him, then sorry. No can do. I’m not gonna be in it to make the relationship work no matter what.
I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but I have a tendency to be interested only in guys who aren’t interested in me, and not interested in the ones who are. On top of that, a fair few who’ve caught my interest were either taken or gay.
With Reggie, I had nothing to lose but a few moments of my time to see if I was attracted to him. “How tall are you?” Me being 5’10”, it’s difficult to find men who’re at least as tall as me.
Cue me hunching my shoulders and staring in disappointment at the numbers on my screen. “Damn it.” I might’ve actually said what my iPhone unfailingly likes to auto correct to “mother ducker.”
“I’m five inches taller than you.”
“I like tall women.”
I went on to explain how it’d be awkward to be taller than the man I’m dating. I want to feel safe in his arms, not feel like Gigantor while hugging him. I turned down his advances for probably a year. I made an attempt to hook up with a whopping one guy while in undergrad, but he fell under the taken column. There was also another gentleman who was interested in me, but stupid me wasn’t interested back. To this day, I wince every time I think about the day I turned him down.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! *Repeatedly bangs forehead on desk* [Gamers place asterisks around an action as a short form of description. It’s easier to write *bangs forehead on desk* than “I’m repeatedly banging my forehead on my desk.”]
Stupidity aside, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that I really liked the person Reggie was. Maybe I just needed to give him a chance. And since I’d already been turned down by one and turned down another, why make myself 0 for 3? Maybe the height differential wouldn’t matter.
I sent him a picture of me in a tank top and shorts, and in return received an email containing a shirtless picture of him flexing for his camera. He didn’t have any muscle definition and he had a gut hanging over the waistline of his jeans (no, he didn’t pull an Anthony Weiner). I was in far better shape than him. His face was nice, but his gut was a turnoff. Looked like I was going 0 for 3 after all.
Something went on in his brain that refused to let him give up on me so easily. He put himself through a military-style workout regimen and started losing those extra pounds. A few months later, I get another email of a much-improved physique. He didn’t have the hollywood six-pack abs and sculpted chest, but he could flex his pecs, which amused me to no end and got my attention. And since he was five years my senior, that was another point in his favor. I’ve always pictured myself marrying an older man. The ones my age or younger seem to be incurably stupid and immature.
Since we’d known each other for over two years by that point, I decided to do something crazy and scheduled a flight to Florida for the week of my 24th birthday. He and I spent months eagerly anticipating my arrival in Tampa. That week would be the deciding factor of whether or not I’d officially become his girlfriend. We both agreed that, at the very least, if I decided against dating him, we’d enjoy the week to the fullest.