The date was November 23, 1980. I was all of 14 years old, in the ninth grade, and I’d made a decision that I somehow knew was going to shape the rest of my life. It was a cold day in Enid, Oklahoma, when me and Tim Ogle set out from my house to Holding’s convenience store about 3/4 of a mile away. I was going to make a phone call.
No, not the kind of phone call I could make at home. Not with my parents and two younger sisters in the house. I needed the privacy – or at least anonymity – of a public pay phone. This was shortly after the days of the enclosed phone booth, but before the days of multiple lines in a home, and way before cell phones. We got to Holding’s, and there was no waiting for the phone (crack deals on the east side of Enid weren’t common then, either). I put in my coins and called the number I’d long ago memorized.
“Kim, will you go with me?”
“Who is this?” she asked.
Ahhhh. Yeah. My caution was biting me on the butt. How many times over the summer and early fall had I had friends ask Kim if she would go with me? (“Go with me” was slang for “be my steady girlfriend” back then.) Too many, obviously. I spent the next several minutes trying to convince her it was really me … while Tim blew his nose onto the sidewalk beside me.
Kim was an eighth grader at the time. She’d actually caught my eye the year before. I sucked as a trumpet player, so instead of advancing to Longfellow Junior High School’s A band in eighth grade, I got to stay in B band with the seventh graders. Toward the end of the year I began pestering Kim, doing the kinds of annoying things junior high boys do when they like a girl. That continued, via phone, for the summer and picked up again in person that fall, with friends asking her if she’d go with me. It was one of her friends – Tracy White, if I remember right – telling me that Kim would say yes, but only if I hurried up and asked her, that sent me to Holding’s during the Thanksgiving break that Nov. 23.
Eventually I convinced Kim it was really me asking her this time. She gave an enthusiastic “I guess so” for answer … and so it began. It’s hard to believe that was 25 years ago today. With the exception of one very short breakup in high school, we’ve been together since that day. We got married on June 22, 1985, about two weeks after her high school graduation and two weeks before she turned 18. She wasn’t even pregnant.
There have been good times and bad. We grew up together, and in a lot of ways we’re not even the same people we were 25 years ago. She’s put up with my need to write, with multiple job and career changes, three stints of unemployment, lots of bad decisions and a good deal of general assholery. And I’ve put up with a lot of … hehehe. Yeah, right.
I don’t remember the dates, but I do remember the first time I told her I loved her – she pretended she didn’t hear me – and when I asked her to marry me. Vacations, fights, the births of four kids … there’s a lot of history between us now.
Anyway, today is a special day. It’s been 25 years, but if I saw her for the first time today, I’d still ask Kim to go with me … or maybe I’d still get a friend to ask her first so I’d be sure she’d say yes before I faced rejection.