Because it was February and I was lonely, and I thought I'd gone through just about every man in Milan, I answered the Couchsurfing message. He was American. He was in the Navy. He was an officer in the Navy. And he was coming to Milan for Valentine's day weekend. He needed someone to show him around, and I said yes because he looked tall and he was strong. I gave him my phone number and within minutes he sent me a text asking if he could call me. And then every night from that night on, we talked on the phone for an hour or two, about his day and about mine, about the Navy and about America, about how I missed home and how he did, too.
"What do you want for Valentine's day?" he asked.
"I want girl scout cookies and brownie mix and vanilla frosting and Doritos and instant oatmeal and the blue Doritos. And do you remember those shoes that turned into rollerblades when you kicked them?"
"Well I want a pair of those."
"Alright, and what do you want for Valentine's day?"
My friends asked about him and I showed them pictures and one friend asked me how tall he was. I didn't know so I called him and asked how tall he was.
"Let's see. I'm five foot nine, I love long walks on the beach, and drinking peana--"
"Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah," I said. "I'm not asking you how tall you are because of all that, I'm just asking how tall you are."
He made reservations in a very expensive restaurant in the five star hotel district in town. I bought a necklace and underwear that matched the necklace. I thought about how tall he was, and the way he talked, and how nice it would be, with an American again. I thought about his big ass house and his big ass TV and his car and walking around in his t-shirt telling him to come back to bed.
Then one day he was gone. Off the phone. Not seeing the texts. Not answering. Away message away message away message. I thought maybe he was angry, but we weren't sleeping together yet, so there were no grounds for anger. I thought he was having a busy day at work and then I remembered his job. Navy. Officer. I immediately thought he was dead or attacked or flying or sailing or swimming to another continent. I checked my phone every hour. Every half hour. Every fifteen minutes until I turned off the lights at the end of the day. Try to sleep. Laying in bed. Thinking about his T-shirts. The restaurant. How tall he used to be . . . .
"Are you still awake?" he texted me.
"Call me, loser."
He called and I answered and he asked about my day.
"Fine, and yours?"
"We were out in the field testing."
"That's why you didn't pick up your phone!"
"Did you miss me?"
". . . . No."
"Oh, okay. Because I thought you missed me."
"Alright. So what'd you do today?"
"Ran and went to class and worked."
"That's good. How was the run?"
"Good. Better than yesterday."
"Good. Well, listen, it's pretty cold out here and I want to take shower. So I'm gonna let you go."
"Okay. I'm glad you're back. And not dead."
"Were you worried about me?"
"No. I just missed you."
"I know. I missed you, too."
I thought about him showing up in Milan and me answering the door and him picking me up. Kissing me. Taking me to bed. I thought about the talks we had and how kind he was, and how funny. I thought about that one time I was going to a party and he was walking back to his base after work. We were on the phone for half an hour, with me standing out in the hallway and him standing out in the cold outside.
He came over on Thursday night after driving for four hours. I was nervous and regretting it and scared. He called and I went downstairs to let him in even though there was a buzzer, and then he came inside. No hug. No picking me up. No kiss.
"Hi, I'm Craig," he said.
"Welcome to Milan!"
"Do you need help with your bags?"
"No, I can carry them."
"Okay, then let's go upstairs."
He was a completely different person. He lost all the confidence he had on the phone, he was not five nine, he couldn't speak a word of Italian, and he was boring. Every time I told him a story about something I'd done or somewhere I'd been, he immediately followed it with a story about jumping out of an airplane. We went ice skating and he didn't even hold my hand! He just skated around talking about airplanes!
But it was still Valentine's day, so we went to the restaurant for dinner. Beautiful restaurant, tall windows, white table clothes, roses everywhere. People wearing gold and silver and diamonds. Boring me out of my mind. Bragging about his job. Rude to the waiters. Another plane story. Talking about his money.
Finally we left to meet up with my girlfriends and go dancing. Riccarda was hungry so we stopped at a small pizza place to get something at the window. While we were waiting, Craig told the girls about working in the Navy. Riccarda asked me if I had family in the Navy and I said, "My brother is in the Marines." I turned to Craig and said, "First line of defense."
And that was the fast end of that.
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Raquel M. is a student living in Milan, Italy. She loves learning languages, meeting new people, going on adventures, and reading good books with lots of hot coffee. This time next year, she plans on teaching English and Italian to students in Italy.