Thirteen-years-ago I married my high school sweetheart. Unreliable online data suggests high school sweethearts account for only 2% of all marriages. And less than 2% of people who marry their high school sweetheart earn a college degree.
That last statistic is significant (to me) for a simple reason: After I graduated high school (a year before Karen), we survived a five-year long-distance relationship. I lived in Bloomsburg. Karen lived in D.C. In a box in our bedroom closet, we keep a testament to this time: hundreds of hand-written letters.
The most difficult period, by far, was our first separation, during the summer of 1995, when Karen traveled to Mexico for six weeks and I entered Bloomsburg’s “summer freshman” program. I dormed with Anthony, a football player, a truly unintelligent person, who had yet to discover the bacchanalian freedom most summer freshmen had abused for entire high school careers. Making up for lost time, he boozed nightly and rarely slept. Sleepless and depressed, I abused Tylenol P.M. I drank too much bad beer. I found sleep, though not of the restorative sort. Even then, no torment equaled my summer-long paroxysm of lovesickness.
Jerry Garcia died that summer: August 9. That night, when Jerry’s noodling droned in countless iterations from a hundred dorm room windows, the sound was indistinguishable from the mountain-rich blur of bugs, yet I recall walking across campus, from Shroomin’s room to my own, excited for my appointed call to Karen’s host family’s place, and catching a snippet of “Box of Rain.”
Oh, how I hated the Grateful Dead. My feeling was: Good, stay dead. But Karen loved “Box of Rain.”
Hearing the snippet was enough: I burst into tears. On the phone, minutes later, we cried together, not for Jerry, but for ourselves, for the lonesomeness of our long-distance call—one of many despairing, lovesick calls which reduced both of us, on any number of humid summer nights, to sobbing.
And that was just the first summer. Anyways: Here’s to high school sweethearts!
Originally posted on Facebook.