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  • There's a section of the Utah story that I left untold. A six week section of whirlwind romance, passion, friendship, lust, and heartbreak. A story that until now, only a handful of people even know.

    I still remember the exact moment when I met Marino. It was the last day of high school my sophomore year. He approached me, a stranger, and asked to sign my yearbook. "I know I don't know you yet, looking forward to it. See you next year," he wrote, and sauntered off. How could I be anything other than intrigued? The next school year he approached me with that same cool confidence the very first day of class and began talking with me as though we had known each other always. Our friendship grew that year and became one that would last a lifetime. I have so many memories of him, our friends, movies, concerts, camping, and cutting class.

    The following Summer, between my junior and senior years of high school, my Father accepted a job in Washington state and announced we would be moving. Moving! We had been living in that house in Diamond Springs, California since I was seven years old. I would have to say goodbye to my friends; the people I had grown up playing softball in the cul-de-sac with, riding bicycles to the corner store with, slumber parties, my first love, learning to drive, attending proms... We were supposed to be graduating together. I begged my Father to let me stay, just one more school year. "Absolutely not," he said. "I don't want to break up the family," he said. Maybe he didn't understand that by moving us that year, that's exactly what he was doing.

    I kept in constant contact with very few of those California friends. In the days before everyone had computers, cellular phones, and long before Facebook, it took a lot more effort to stay in touch. Marino was one of the few friends who had internet back then. We kept in touch through email and land-line phone calls. I remember making a pact with him on the phone, standing in the backyard of our new house in Olympia, Washington, we promised each other that of we would attend our ten year high school reunions together, if we weren't married to other people of course. It's a promise we didn't keep, though my class didn't have a ten year reunion, and he was deployed in the military for his. Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, we always stayed in touch.

    Over a dozen years later, by some miraculous coincidence, Marino was to be stationed in Layton, Utah for six weeks for a military training course. I couldn't believe I'd finally get to see my old high school friend again and that he'd be staying less than a mile from where I lived! The night he and his comrades arrived in town we met for dinner and drinks. It's always so wonderful caching up with an old friend, and even more wonderful when you can reconnect in a new way that you never had before. Marino and I spend every spare moment together those six weeks. It was like we were never apart all those years, and knowing that our time was short, there was a sense of urgency to our short love story. I stayed the nights in his hotel room, which was in the same business plaza as my work, or he stayed with me in the tiny room I rented, cuddled up tight on a twin-sized bed. We went snowboarding, the first time I had gone in almost a decade. We ate dinner frequently at a small Thai restaurant where he ordered and chatted with the servers in their native language. We went shopping and I helped him pick out a new suit, the suit that he would wear on our last night together, Valentine's Day, 2010. He re-deployed to Japan the next day.

    We didn't speak of what would happen to us after those six weeks were over until the very last week. He would tell me how much I would love Japan. How if we got married I could finish school there on the military base. How we could live in his small house he rented, and he would cook for me. I've never been abroad, it was thrilling and terrifying to think of walking away from my life and moving again, like I'd done so many times before, but this time perhaps with my love and not in search of it. I told him I wanted to come with him. That I was ready. I couldn't bear losing him again, and this time the stakes were much higher. That's when he said we should wait. That he would be in Japan only for another year or two, hopefully. He would come back to the states and that I should wait for him here. Things so much easier said than done. He took a picture of me before he left for the airport, a picture I have seen but don't have a copy of. Disheveled and distraught, wrapped in nothing but a hotel bed sheet, mascara and tears and sadness all over my face.

    I had every intention of waiting for him. I went to the store and bought stationary and crafted handmade cards and fancy letters and mailed them. He sent me trinkets and items from Japan, little things he thought I might like. We spoke over Skype when we could, the time differences and our work schedules made it very hard. It wasn't long before I couldn't do it anymore. I'm not from a military family and the insurmountable distance between us, no schedule or plan of when I might see him again, jealousy of his female companions in Japan, and fear that he would never be stationed in the States again were more than I could bear. I'm ashamed to admit it. I'll never know what might have been if I was a stronger person. We are still friends, perhaps more casually then ever before. He is engaged now to a military woman, the kind of woman who is used to the lifestyle that comes with military romance, and I wish them the best.
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