1. Throw a party in your parent’s backyard. Ask your sister’s boyfriend to invite his friend. You heard he was home for a couple of weeks from the Naval Academy. You’ve never met him, but you watched him play football in high school.
Don’t be surprised at all when he drives two hours to be there. Be as charming as a tipsy 18-year-old can be. Impress him by playing a Donovan album and smoking a Swisher Sweet.
2. Go to college, change your hair, change your friends. Don’t talk to him for three years but think about him sometimes. Don’t change your number. Hear from him when you have an emergency, checking to see if you are OK. You are OK, but scared and confused, and happy he reached out to you.
3. Don’t talk for months. Then, with your sister’s boyfriend’s help, get in touch with him again. Make plans to go on a real date with him the next time you are in the same town over Thanksgiving. Get upset when he cancels at the last minute.
4. Get over it. Ask him out again. When he tries to take you to Dunkin’ Donuts for your first real date, make him take you somewhere cooler.
5. On your third date agree to move wherever the Navy stations him next. See him every day for 10 days.
6. Feel like you need your parent’s permission to move. Listen to him tell your parents your plans and be surprised when they’re excited for you. Laugh when your mom warns him that you don’t have “two pennies to rub together and don’t know when to come in out of the rain.”
7. Four months later, the day you graduate college, pack his Honda Element full of everything you own. Move to California and fall in love with San Diego. Learn what a deployment is, get good at being alone, get your first real job, learn to cook, meet nice people, go for your first run, get married, go through another deployment, start writing, start painting, fight sometimes, go to the movies a lot, watch him surf a lot, eat a lot of Mexican food, become best friends, miss him when he isn’t home.
8. Think about getting out of the Navy after one tour.
9. Stay in San Diego for two tours.
10. Think about getting out of the Navy after two tours.
11. Be in the room when he gets an email offering him duty stations in Japan, Washington, and Hawaii for his next tour. Immediately choose Japan but agree to do venn diagrams of the three options to make sure. Talk about the money you will save or lose, the impact each job will have on his career, employment opportunities for you, weather, what the houses look like.
Wonder if there is a neighborhood exactly like the one you live in in any of those places. Spend hours Googling the area and staring at maps and calling friends and friends of friends before you really decide. Then choose Japan.