In late February of 1997, AOL was picking up steam and the sounds of, well, the electronic sounds of logging in via dial up were making their way across the country. My roommate and I shared a computer and time on this new fangled Internet or the World Wide Web. I logged in one evening searching for a fun chat room to kill an hour or two. At that time, people actually conversed in chat rooms and it wasn't a scary place that may be featured on Dateline sometime in the near future.
That night, I chose the room Friends First. I had a boyfriend, wasn't necessarily looking to exchange him, but I was keeping my options open. There was a lively discussion going between the 20 or so people in the room and I was quickly swept up in some random conversation or another. Over a bit of time, I was lured into one conversation over all the others between two girls, one with apple something or other in her username, and a guy, Romeo19. As the girls bantered back and forth, a sent a private message to Romeo asking him if he thought they were gay.
I'm don't remember Romeo's exact response, but I do remember that we kept our private conversation going that night and decided on a time to meet up again. Over the next month, e-mails were exchanged, letters were written and many chats were had in a private chat room. The first time we spoke on the phone, we were both taken aback. Romeo spoke very fast, with barely an accent at all. I, on the other hand, had a thick southern twang. We overcame though and talked well into the night, like we had known each other for years.
It wasn't long before I planned on making the drive down the state of Florida to meet with Larry. My roommate was going to come with me and she knew a Miami cop that was going to let us stay with him over the weekend. She backed out though at the last minute, and I was on my own, driving 12 hours south to stay with a man I didn't know in order to meet a man I didn't know.
Looking at that sentence now, it's ridiculously stupid what I did, but I was young, in love and invincible.
I left about 7 o'clock on Friday night and drove through the night. I smoked then and kept myself awake and entertained by having a cigarette every 30 minutes. Whenever I started dosing as I drove, I would pull over and sleep 30 minutes or so at the rest stop. The 700 mile or so trip took me over 13 hours. Then I got lost in Miami.
Thankfully, I had the good sense to pull over and give the Miami cop a call and as luck would have it, his apartment was really close. He met me at the gas station and I followed him back to his house. I didn't have a cell phone then, so I had to call Larry once I arrived and then he had to make the 45 minute drive south to meet me.
We still laugh about our first "date". In an effort of showing me the local culture, we stopped at a little Cuban cafe to have lunch. Hello, Alabama girl here! Larry ordered a Cuban sandwich and in an effort to not gross myself out, I ordered a hot dog. Then I had to eat said hot dog in front of this boy that I had just met.
It was great though and after the first 5 minutes of wow, you're a stranger, we were fine and comfortable and loving each other.
For nine months, we wrote and called and made trips when we could before Larry moved to Alabama for six months to finish out my lease. We both still have all the letters we sent during that time. 13 years. Wow. How time has moved swiftly by.
On a relatively new invention, amidst millions of people, in a random chat room, I met my best friend and my love. Through the ups and downs, the heartaches and laughs, two children, three dogs and two cats and a mean ass bird, we remain us.
Appropriately, on our wedding invitation, we featured the following saying,
Today I marry my best friend,
The one I laugh with, live for, love.
And I think it hold truer today than ever.