Chapter 80: “A Reluctant Relationship”
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Veronica and I continued to flirt at the hospital after that night of dancing. We often made dirty jokes directed towards each other, and I could tell there was something there.
I was apprehensive at first for two reasons: she had a son, and I didn’t know if I was ready to deal with that responsibility (or if I was able to), and she was overweight. I knew how I used to be when I was obese as a teen (and technically now), and yet, I didn’t know if that meant that all overweight people were lazy, but I was trying to steer clear of that lifestyle. It was bad enough that I would occasionally smoke weed.
Veronica had actually come over during one of our apartment’s most egregious parties where Travis’ girlfriend ended up lying naked in front of the bathroom (and literally everyone else). Veronica and I continued to flirt then finally, after several mixed drinks, we went upstairs and hooked up.
I remember asking myself what this hookup meant. Am I capable of a casual fling; avoiding emotional attachment? The next day we talked, and she asked me, “How could you be single?” I told her I didn’t know; it had just been a while since I had been in a relationship.
Her response to that was a well-thought-out declaration: “I’m just going to say it; I like you.”
I had only heard this once before, in high school and it took me aback then as it did now. And surprisingly, my response was the same: “I’m sorry, but I can’t date anyone right now. I’d like to remain, friends, though.”
She was a little hurt but took it well. As I walked away, I was suddenly stricken with an internal dilemma. Can I date anyone right now? Or are my preconceived notions of whom she is as a person speaking? I took the night to ruminate on the quandary, and the next day I approached her.
“Hey Veronica, I would like to know if you want to be my girlfriend.” Naturally, she was just as blown away as you are now. It took her a beat to process the statement.
“Yes, I’d love that.” I regretted approaching it in this way: to dismiss her at first and reassess my own quibbles, but I had hoped to make it up to her over dinner. And with that, on December 1st, we began our relationship.
Things were fantastic between us. I met her son, and we hit it off (after a brief introductory phase). Her son’s father wasn’t so much of a fan of mine, and as a result, I hadn’t spoken a word to him. When we’d go pick up their son from his place, I’d stay in the car, and she would do all of the negotiating. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was A. Intruding on his relationship with his son or B. That he wanted Veronica back but, either way; he was a total dick about it. Of course, I assumed there were far worse examples of a former significant other and the new partner not getting along.
Shortly before Christmas, I was able to meet Veronica’s family. Her father was of Honduran descent, and he had met Veronica’s Mom while stationed in Korea. Veronica had a younger sister too, and she and I were deep into the new Pokemon games. And since she was only twelve, it made me reevaluate the gravity of my life decisions.
But there was some tragedy in Veronica’s family. Her Dad had been shot in the head while off-duty and nearly died. The attack resulted in a significant portion of his skull being lost, and yet, for all intents and purposes, he was a fully functional person. Unfortunately, his sense of taste (my favorite at the time) was lost, but you wouldn’t know it considering he such was a phenomenal cook.
Speaking of superb cooking, Veronica’s Mom was my first experience with traditional Korean food, and I fell in LOVE with it. She made the best beef (bulgogi) and pork I had ever tasted, and I actually enjoyed Kimchi on the very first bite. I used to hate cabbage – and anything that was spoiled rotten – but the Korean culture turned me around on both. My taste buds were evolving and my openness to try new foods was seemingly linked to the same female persuasion.
I hadn’t been this excited in a relationship since Tonya. Granted, that was pretty much the only real one since but I was gung-ho through and through. For Christmas, I went all out and employed an old trick that I had first learned from my Father when I was young.
Dad always made his gift-giving fun. I remember a time when I was really young, and we went to the parts store section of Frank Martin & Sons where he had worked. Dad scoured the available boxes and grabbed half a dozen boxes that perfectly nestled inside one another to form a Russian Nesting Doll type of gift, all the way down to a small box of jewelry. I loved the idea of making the experience of opening the gift as memorable as the actual gift (if not more so).
So, I incorporated one of his tactics and made a string of mini gifts for Veronica that would lead to each successive gift via a clever clue until finally, after six or seven later, she had discovered the last one.
We had just moved her into her own apartment, and this was rather tricky to pull off because if I set the clues too early, she would accidentally stumble upon one.
I mapped out my gift locations ahead of time, and in less than ten minutes as she showered, planted them in their locations. Fortunately, Her son was too young to understand what was going on. I placed the last gift as she walked downstairs. Soon, her family came by, and the gift game was afoot. The playful celebration was a wild success. Her family had no idea that I was planning this either. In fact, her son was the only one who had any sense, and he couldn’t really talk yet.
Christmas was soon followed by some baffling news. At work, they were renovating the twenty-year-old dish room and replacing it with a state-of-the-art machine and brand new flooring, and the best news was that its completion date was in three months. I was leery of such a claim, as it seemed as though they had a knack for falling behind schedule on construction timelines at EMMC (considering the parking garage took much longer than announced).
During this remodeling, they needed a volunteer to completely modify their shift to the evening. I reflected on my fellow co-workers & the stress that was involved with my recent run as a backup morning supervisor and quickly decided to bite at the opportunity. My work schedule went from 7 AM – 3:30 PM to 1:30 PM – 10 PM.
This also meant that I would overlap with Veronica’s shift work side by side with my brother, Travis.
This was going to be so much fun.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.