An Ocean, or Yonder, Thither, Home Again at Last: Chapter 2

AUTHOR’S NOTE: “An Ocean. . .” is a side project I’m currently working on during my down time from the MAGNUS series. This is a story friends and family have been bugging me about for years. Yes, it is epic. Yes, it is unbelievable at times. It is the true story of how my wife and I met eleven years ago.  Chapter 1 can be found here.

Not
Not “The Photo”

The Mysterious Asian Girl

Okay, okay, I’m lying. To tell you the truth, I was pleasantly shocked and somewhat ecstatic. Judging from the short but impossible to confuse compliment, it appeared like my brother’s photographic trickery had actually worked. It was mind-blowing.

Trickery? you may be thinking to yourself. What’s this trickery you speak of? You see, during our “photo shoot,” he had asked me to hold a plastic cup and move it around while he took some shots. End result? Black and white photo of me holding a cup that appeared like it was smudged and moving. Forget that I was wearing training pants, I had successfully drawn a woman toward me with the help of a small and unconventional prop. I always knew my brother was a genius. He got his Masters in Library Science, after all.

Not one to let a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity slip through my fingers, I clicked on my emailer’s profile and let my eyes fall upon the included picture at the top of the page. It looked like a picture from a professional photo shoot, minus all traces of trickery, devilry, and deception some folks are wont to employ. This can’t be right. I backed out of her profile and re-clicked on the provided link in my email. It returned me to the same page.

I furrowed my brow and studied the picture once again. Perhaps there really was some sort of trickery involved. She was gorgeous, with short black hair, a natural smile on her lips that showed no falsehood in her eyes, and a light but tan complexion commonly seen in the Far East. She was wearing a purple top which accentuated the darkness and humor in her eyes. I looked at the Back button, considered hitting it again, and furrowed my brow to an even sharper gradient. To say that I was stunned would be an injustice to greater synonyms such as flabbergasted. For I was that and so much more- yes, I was unequivocally flabbergasted beyond all manner of speech.

I clicked on More Pictures and saw two more photos awaiting my perusal. I was a little surprised that they were of the same person, as I was half-expecting the click to reveal her real photos. You know…the real photos. The ones that make you hasten to find the Back button, return to your surprise email, and hit the Delete button without a second thought. Instead of a shocking and disturbing plunge into an unwanted reality, I found two more pictures similar to the first. In the second and third pictures, she had slightly longer hair and looked just as gorgeous as the first one. Much like the original photo, she was also dressed in the same color. Ah, so we have a lover of purple, I thought to myself. Logic has always run strong and swift in my family, a trait not solely reserved for my elder brother.

I hit the Back button and studied her short but thorough profile. Her name was Yvonne. She lived in the Philippines, taught in a small private school, enjoyed listening to music, and had an appreciation for karate. My internal computer beeped once and returned shortly thereafter with its succinct but trustworthy status update:

Surface scan complete. All systems go, prepare for launch.

I clicked Reply and scratched my chin. This was unknown territory for me. I had never received an email from a mysterious beautiful girl before. Where should I begin? I hit the Shift key and held it down. She said she was a teacher, so it would be best to format my reply with upper case letters where needed. Now I just need to figure out what to say, I thought as I studied the finger still pushing the Shift key ever downward.

And then it came to me.

“Hi Yvonne,

“Thanks for the email. I’m also glad that you noticed my picture because I’m a little proud of it. My brother took it for me not too long ago.”

I then proceeded to make the same sorts of photo-related jokes as before. When in doubt, self-deprecating humor usually works, right?

“By the way, I noticed you’re wearing purple in all three of your pictures. Let me guess: purple is your favorite color?”

I was incredibly interested in her appreciation for karate but decided to save the martial arts talk for another email. It would be presumptuous to bring it up so soon, right? I didn’t really know. I looked at the handful of words I had written thus far, wracked my brain for a new topic, and couldn’t seem to find one. Don’t worry, it’s just the first email. Brief is best. That sounded like something I’d learned in some kind of etiquette class, so I wrapped it up, hit Send, and stretched my aching foot.

And didn’t hear back from her the rest of the week.

*

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My internet social experiment a complete failure, I spent the rest of the week with my foot propped up as I watched movies.

The front door opened and I saw my mom push her way inside. One of her arms was wrapped around a pile of books while the other held a couple of bags. She stepped into the living room, set both piles down in a chair, and removed a stethoscope from around her neck. “When did you go to the video store? Aren’t you trying to stay off your foot?” she asked as I tried to focus on the subtitles crawling along the bottom of the TV screen. I had been working through the films of Zhang Yimou and needed to concentrate. I had given up in my quest to read, write, and speak Chinese about a year earlier when the library wouldn’t let me recheck Learning Mandarin is Fun! for the third time in a row. The subtitles were so important for me.

“I am. I got these in the mail today. You can now rent movies online. It doesn’t even take long to get them, just a day or two. It’s called Netflix.”

She looked totally unimpressed, which was the exact response I’d gotten from everyone else I had told about the brand new under-the-radar movie rental service. “I got you something,” she changed the subject just as quickly as she reached into one of her bags. She pulled out a box. Inside of it was a foot brace. “Keep this on your foot, even when you’re not walking. It should help your foot heal faster.”

I hit pause, slipped the oversized open-top black shoe on my left foot, and tentatively stood to both feet. “Yes,” I whispered to myself. I can walk again. Moms in nursing school are the best.

I climbed the stairs and noticed how much easier it was with the boot supporting my left foot. This is good. Really good. I sat down at the computer and opened my email, excited to let my kung fu instructor know about the latest development in my return to the gym and wing chun dominance.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to continue training in a couple more weeks,” I wrote. “I’ll let you know.”

I leaned back in the chair and smiled, the clouds of boredom and seclusion beginning to part as beams of light and hope shone down upon me from the heavens above. In my euphoria, I decided it would be as good a time as any to close my account on the lame “relationships” website. With the boot, I could start practicing and working out in baby steps around the house. I would be so busy, I wouldn’t have any time for wannabe relationships with people on the other side of the world. I’d never meet them anyway, so why waste time talking about martial arts when I could be doing it?

“Cool pic,” I muttered to myself as I keyed in the address to the website. “Whatever…” I entered my user name and password, ready to let the axe fall on that short-lived experiment.

But then I saw it. I had only seen the foreign icon once before. It was flashing – red, yellow, red, yellow – and tempting me to waste even more time in my journey to kung fu greatness. I took my hand off the mouse, watched as the color changed from red to yellow and back again. I sat there looking at the colors dance for at least a quarter of a minute. To click or not to click?

I had mail. Of course I clicked.

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