It was still dark on the 8th December 1999 when I left my tearful Mum behind standing outside our house and climbed in to the waiting taxi; two suitcases and a fairly large carry on in toe. Oh, and my ex-boyfriend. He was ‘ex’ at the time too. I had promised and reassured her that she would see me again in 3 months and not to worry about me. Little did I know at the time it would be a whopping 3 years before I would get to see her again.
I was very discontented with some aspects of my life at the time. I had had a failed relationship with a man trying to be a boy, and that, in essence affected how I viewed other areas of my life. I felt like I needed a challenge, a change of scenery. I was tired of the 8-5 routine with the mundane life fluff mingled in-between.
I landed in San Francisco airport thoroughly jet-lagged and hoped that I could make it through the checkpoint convincingly. I had been there just 3 months previously on a 15-day trip and thought that might raise suspicion. After I got through, I met my friend and we travelled north to Sacramento and there I remained for the ensuing 10 months.
I quickly found out I couldn’t work and spent my days talking to a grey and white male cat and a calico female, interspersed with doing the laundry and other things to pass the time, which then became expected (with the I’m-keeping-you lecture suspended over my head). The more I did, the less I was appreciated for (follow the mantra: where much is given, much is required).
I had been in California for 3 months when I met Bryan on an online forum. We became friends instantly and chatted for as long as time would permit. Neither of us were looking for a relationship (are we ever?) and the truth be told, I was still being pestered by my ex-boyfriend (“I’ll talk to your step-dad to get your address, come get you and take you back to Scotland and marry you.” So romantic and non-appealing).
One evening near to the end of April, Bryan sent me an e-mail surprising me with his flight itinerary. We had talked about him coming to visit at some point, but I had no idea that he had actually booked everything. He was coming to meet me, and it was just weeks away. By nature, he’s a very cautious person and so his actions pleasantly surprised me. It surprised him too, as he had told me that he had never done anything spontaneous in his life.
We spent 3 great days together, our first date held at Six Flags. This impressed me no end, and any ‘great’ dates I had chalked up in the past to memory were quickly forgotten. He took me to dinner, bought me cheese (I was really liking him now), went to the Jelly Belly Factory and drove around U-turning more times than I cared to count. I didn’t mind anyway, even the silences weren’t uncomfortable, and it was easy to like him and enjoy his company.
The time together was gone in a flash and I was quickly hurtled back into reality; only this time, it wasn’t much of a reality, but more of a nightmare. I began noticing behaviours that I hadn’t seen before. My friend was dressing like me, her hair styled in the same cut and she watched me like a hawk if I happened to strike up a conversation with anyone within her line of sight or grill me if I was giving her less attention than she felt she deserved. It wasn’t long before I was uncomfortable with the arrangement, especially when she told me one evening that before she went to work she would open my bedroom door and watch me sleep. (I have 8 pages of more venting – and worse stories – still stored on my hard drive.)
I left that situation behind on 27th September 2000, headed for Utah and never looked back. If it hadn’t been for Bryan, I would have found the means to return home to Scotland.
Just over 4 months later, Bryan proposed to me in downtown Salt Lake and we were married 3 months later.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years now, and what was probably a hasty decision to leave Scotland at the time has turned out to be the best thing that I’ve ever done.