I normally do these blog posts on Wednesdays. I decided to post this one a day early. You’ll know why when you get to the end. This is the most personal thing I’ve written and I hope you enjoy it.
“Can you play a song for me?”
Those were the first words I ever heard her speak. It was innocent enough and my initial reaction would have been minimal at best. My thought process probably went something like this. First, Hey, she sounds normal. And second, it’s two o-clock in the morning, lady. Of course I can play a song for you. What else do I have to do?
A little background here. This all took place in the fall of 1994. I was an overnight DJ at a country music radio station in North Carolina. Wait; I’m giving myself far too much credit. I was an extremely inexperienced and largely inept DJ responsible for playing music in a genre I neither liked nor knew anything about. The point is, at that time, I wasn’t very good at my job. Have you ever heard of Suzy Boguss? I hadn’t, which was why I pronounced it BOGUS the first time I said her name on the air. Here’s the pathetic part. Despite my obvious incompetence, I had women calling me almost immediately. They’d never seen me. What they heard from me couldn’t have sounded terribly promising. Still, these lonely, wretched, pitiable creatures somehow believed I had something to offer. Either that or their standards were really, really low. I’m going with that one.
I had not and actually still have not seen the movie Play Misty for Me. I knew the premise. It’s a story of sex, which I’m okay with, and obsession, which I don’t find anywhere near as appealing. With that in mind, I set some ground rules day one. Actually, it was really just one rule. I told myself that no matter what these women said, no matter how good they sounded, and some did sound pretty good, I was never, NEVER, NEVER going to meet any of them. That was my decree and I stuck to it…until I didn’t. I made just one exception. I broke my own rule and I’m reminded of that every day of my life. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
“Can you play a song for me?”
In case you’re wondering, yes, I do still remember the song. It was That Summer by Garth Brooks. It’s about a, well, let’s just say well-traveled woman who takes advantage of an innocent boy. I didn’t pick up on that right away, maybe because she said the song wasn’t really for her, maybe because she said she was calling on behalf of her co-workers. It made no difference to me. It was late, I was tired and bored. I played her song… and she called again the following night.
Do I really need to describe what happened next? The calls kept coming. Over time, our conversations grew friendlier and more familiar. In addition, her lists of requests got longer and longer. I always played whatever she wanted. Oddly, I only have a clear recollection of one other song, Lost and Found by Brooks & Dunn, another tune of fixation and manipulation. You’d think I would have clued in. Nope. We were both from New York. We were about the same age. And like I said, she sounded normal.
One night, I got his sob story about how she was supposed to go Christmas shopping with a friend but the friend cancelled. You think she threw Christmas in there by accident? It’s the season of charity, of good will, of doing unto others, whatever the heck that means. She knew what I would say. What else could I say? I’m a gentleman; and contrary to popular opinion, chivalry is not quite dead.
“I’ll go shopping with you.” I made the offer without thinking, without even realizing that, in five careless words, I’d stepped over my own line.”
That first date was to a Chinese restaurant. Cliché, right? What can I say? I wasn’t thinking very clearly at the time.
The next few weeks were a blur. We saw more of each other. She called the radio station several times a night. I gave her my home number. I know; I know. I hadn’t just broken my rule; I’d shattered it and ground the pieces into a fine powder. I didn’t care. As Kenny Chesney would say, she Had Me from Hello.
She moved to Phoenix right after Christmas. The song requests stopped but the phone calls didn’t. She knew I had some vacation days coming. She also knew I had money in the bank. Some of it went to American Airlines. The rest was spent in posh restaurants and on anything else I thought might capture her fancy. I even pulled strings to score some concert tickets and backstage passes. I was trying to sweep her off her feet but she seemed unmoved. I told her I loved her. She thanked me for visiting and drove me back to the airport.
Eventually, she moved back to North Carolina. I’d advanced several steps up the corporate ladder by then. I had the mid-day air shift. I was also the music director and in charge of promotions. I’d come to enjoy my job and I don’t mind telling you I was good at it. I’d actually become something of a celebrity, adored by men and women alike. It sounds kind of weird but I’m dead serious. Was that what finally did it? Was she afraid that, because I was “in demand,” she might actually lose me? I don’t think that was it but the switch finally did flip. She realized her infatuation matched my own. This revelation was delivered as yet another song request, this time in the form of a dedication, to me. The song she chose was Your Love Amazes Me by John Berry. The chorus begins “don’t you ever doubt this love of mine,” and I haven’t.
My wife and I are two months shy of our sixteenth wedding anniversary. They’ve been the best sixteen years of my life. Today is my wife’s birthday. I’d usually write her a love letter. I decided to do it a little different this time. This blog post is my gift to the woman who turned my world upside-down and has given me more happiness, more love and more fulfillment than I ever dreamed possible. Thank you, Dear. I love you, now, then and forever. Happy Birthday!
One final note: although love at first sight can sometimes be a one way street, my lovely wife was never as cold or callous as I tried to make her sound. We had a wonderful friendship that blossomed into a life-long love. I just blossomed a little quicker.