From Spring break March of 1984 until March 23, 1987 Bobby and I would come in and out of each other's life. After goodbye we would always find our way back to each other, either through coincidence or by design. Even after 23 years I still can't define what “it” was. Please forgive me as I try to write the final chapters in our story. After 23 years the dates have become a bit fuzzy, though my feelings are still as vivid today as they were back then. I could go back and read my diary, but my fear, as I read I will become angry at myself for the many missed opportunities I had with Bobby. Misfortune caused by my fear, my immaturity, not trusting what I was feeling. I was afraid of the risk and sadly the one thing I have never been able to forgive myself for, I was afraid to trust Bobby. Mostly I am afraid of reliving the pain I felt as I wrote each day. Bobby was a loss so intense it sent me, my world into a tailspin that was for a time hard to recover from. Bobby was the possibility I was never able to answer.
After spring break, I returned to Maryland once again confused and broken. More so than ever before. I was sun burnt so badly on the back of my legs I could only wear shorts to class. Trying to explain how I fell asleep for six hours straight on the beach without moving, without feeling the burn was near impossible to my best friends. My eyes were evidence I was still crying, more than before I left. They knew something was awry. They pushed for answers as to what happened in Pensacola. After a day or two of prodding, I confessed I had an amazing night with Bobby, followed by a meltdown the next night. When Leigh heard the name Bobby, her first words were, “D not Bobby. He is a really nice guy but such the womanizer.” Cathleen’s first question, “How was it?” After Martin, after January, I told myself not to trust men. I had let my guard down with Bobby. Now I was beginning to doubt all that Bobby had said to me, all we had talked about. Was what he said real, or was it all a game? Was he the womanizer Leigh said he was?
I came home from class Thursday to find a message on my answering machine from Bobby. His voice sounded so happy, the message was simple, it had been a week since we had been together, he was thinking about me and wanted to see how I was doing. He was trying to get up to Annapolis. He added he was hoping I had changed my mind and might want to see him again. He made a joke that I was the best birthday present he had received and it would be rude to take back a gift. He hoped I wasn’t an Indian giver. When I heard the last part of his message all I could do was laugh. As I listened to his voice, part of me was excited he called. I could not believe he was still thinking about me. The other part of me, the insecure part, was thankful he did not leave his number. No number meant he did not expect or want me to call him back. For the next few days I would replay his message over and over, trying to determine if his voice sounded sincere or if everything was a game. Every time I listened to the message I would close my eyes so I could see his face, see his eyes.
Over the next two weeks Bobby called at least once a week while I was at school. I was battling two demons. Each time I was excited to hear his voice, at the same time confused, not trusting his motives. Why did he never leave his phone number? I had been told by one of my best friends that he was a womanizer. To me Bobby was too gorgeous, way out of my league, he was perfect. Why would he want me? Instead of having faith, believing it might be possible for him to actually be attracted to me, I doubted me, I doubted him. The only thing that made sense to me, it had to be a game. I was also battling my weird/warped sense of loyalty to Martin. Even though we were no longer dating, I did not want to hurt him any more than I already had. At the same time there was no denying I had never been attracted to anyone the way I was to Bobby. There was something about Bobby that I could not let go. I was struggling over everything I was feeling.
The second week I was home I received a postcard of the "white sands" of Pensacola. I smiled when I read his message, "Still dreaming!" The postcard was not signed but I immediately knew who it was from. That postcard would remain taped to my dresser mirror for many years. For me it was a simple reminder of an amazing night we spent together. A night whose memory would carry me through many lonely nights.
April 5, 1984 a date I am certain of, it was the day after my grandpa died. As I laid in bed watching television my phone rang, it was Bobby. I was surprised to hear his voice, he had never called at night before. He told me he was getting ready to head out with the guys when he had a feeling he should call, say hello. Flirt with a woman who refuses to call him back. He was not giving up on me. I laughed, asked him how I was suppose to call him back when I did not have his phone number. I was amazed when he scolded "two weeks and you still haven't unpacked?" How the hell did he know I hadn't unpacked? It was then I heard his buddies calling him. He told me to unpack, he would call me tomorrow. I told him I wasn't sure if I would be home, my grandpa died we were probably heading to the eastern shore the next day. I heard his buddies calling again and I told him, go, have fun, find a woman, forget about me. I couldn't believe the words as they rolled out of my mouth. What was I doing? What had I said? He very sweetly said there was no forgetting me. He was so sorry about my grandpa, he would call again, check on me. Then we both hung up.
Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I unpacked my duffel bag from spring break. I didn't know what I was looking for but I knew there had to be something why else would he tell me to unpack. Then I found it, tucked in the side/bottom of my bag was a napkin folded in half. On the outside "Denise", the message inside, "You are incredible" underneath he had written his phone number and underlined it twice. I laughed through my tears as I read his simple to the point message. At that moment more then ever I wanted him, wanted to call, leave him a message letting him know I got his "note" but I never called. I was too scared. I am not sure what I was more afraid of, that I would find out he was playing games with me or more afraid he might actually like me. Was it possible that he actually felt the same emotions I was feeling? Did he really think I was incredible? Most of my emotions at that time were confusing and I was not equipped to sort them out. Bobby was unfortunately a victim of my last relationship, because of Martin I had convinced myself not to trust anyone’s motives, not to trust my feelings. I was too afraid to let go, take a chance, feel something good or bad. Afraid to trust another man. I had learned from Martin feeling only led to hurt and I was tired of hurting. I took the napkin and placed it next to a photo of Martin and I. I laid in bed staring at the photo, then staring at the message on the napkin. The debate on what to do, raged on in my head, my heart. I picked up the napkin and laid it on the pillow next to me. I fell asleep with his note next to me. As my eyes began to close, I kept thinking why the hell did I go to that party Friday night? Why did I have to see Martin, he was suppose to be in Texas. I never hated anyone before, but that night I hated Anita for telling Martin about Bobby. I hated her more for allowing me to walk into that party, ruining the most perfect night I had ever had. I wondered if I had never seen Martin, would anything be different now between Bobby and I?
Bobby would call one more time, he left a simple message, he hoped I found his note, he meant what he wrote, I was incredible. In case I did not find his note, he left his phone number. When I was ready all I had to do was call, he would be there. As I replayed his message, listened to his voice I held the napkin in my hand debating what I should do. There would be many times I wanted to call him, there were even times I picked up the phone and started to dial, then inexplicably I would hang up. I had convinced myself that Bobby meant trouble, I felt too much already. I believed intentionally or unintentionally he was going to hurt me like no one else had. He was in Pensacola, I was in Maryland, there was no starting anything with that distance. I convinced myself we would never work. I tried to forget Bobby, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't. He had a hold on me. At night Bobby would invade my sleep. In my dreams I would relive our conversations, our kisses, our amazing night together. His presence was so strong, I swear I could feel him next to me. In my dreams, there was never a party Friday night, Anita and Martin never ruined my heaven. On the beach, I would be in his arms contently, not in tears. I would say goodbye to him happy, with no regrets, no guilt. Then I would wake up and reality once again set in. I missed him, more than I wanted to admit, I didn't know why. I was too stubborn, too afraid to call. Too afraid to tell him I was thinking about him, I missed him. Mostly I was afraid of everything I was feeling.
I decided unlike before I was not going to be a hermit. I needed to escape. The best way to forget was to get out, find new friends and stop feeling sorry for myself. To drown out the memory of Bobby, the pain of Martin I made the decision to date 'safe' men. Guys who were nice, cute but I knew I would never fall for. I needed a period without emotion, without attachment. I would date men that had no risk of sweeping me off my feet, no risk meant no pain. I needed to have fun. I wanted to forget. I was tired of tears and confusion. I was scared, running from everything I was feeling.
I met a major league baseball player that spring and began to hang out at Memorial Stadium watching the O's play. If there was a home game, I had tickets. I call the summer of 1984, my summer of baseball. I attended almost every home game and never paid for a single ticket. I was always given multiple tickets, so many times I invited my friends to join me at the games. We would meet at the stadium, watch the game, then they would leave and I would wait for my player. Most women would have been thrilled to be in the company of this future hall of famer, to attend games as his guest. They would be hoping, praying for a future with him, but not me. I can honestly say I really was not interested. He was/is a wonderful person, a true gentleman but I had no desire to be with him long term. I could not, did not see myself living the life as the wife to a baseball player, I dreamed of no future with him. He had no hold on me, he was safe. He was a very nice distraction nothing more.
I would run into Bobby one more time the spring of 1984. At the time, I thought it was a bit strange when the Captain's wife, Anne, called Friday morning and invited me to dinner with them at the Naval Academy. All the years I had known the Captain and his wife, she had never invited me to dinner by myself. Usually an invitation to dinner was made to all three of 'the girls', Cathleen, Leigh and myself. The O's were out of town so I had no plans. She asked if I wanted to come early, keep an old lady company. I suspected she wanted to talk. Since January I rarely visited their house, before that I was there almost every weekend hanging out, laughing and having fun. As I drove onto the Academy grounds and turned onto Captain's row, a strange feeling came over me. I was hesitate to walk into their house, part of me was afraid Martin might be there, after all this was his old sponsor's house. I was relieved when I walked in to find only Anne inside. Anne and I talked as she prepared dinner and I set the table. It seemed odd that during several points in our conversations Anne kept mentioning there were a lot of good men that graduated from the Academy. No matter how much she loved him (Martin) he was a fool in her book. She told me not to let Martin stop me from finding the right man.
Dinner was almost done when Anne looked at the clock, suddenly grabbed a set of keys from the counter and tossed them to me. I cannot recall whose keys they were, I remember being sent over to the practice fields behind Bancroft Hall to deliver the keys to one of their mids. She insisted I do it then, his practice would be ending, she didn't want him to think he lost his keys and spend hours looking for them. I am not sure why but as I walked by the turf field that was enclosed by a fence, I walked up and looked inside the open gate. There standing by himself not twenty feet from the gate was Bobby. We both saw each other at the same time and smiled. I am not sure whose grin was bigger, his or mine. Once again true to form, the only words my brain could piece together, "Oh my God, Bobby". He was chuckling as he walked over. He gave me a big hug, commented he was happy some things had never changed. He added with a wink that he loved it when I said "Oh my God" over and over. With that comment, I knew I was blushing. I could feel my entire body heat up and turn red. Trying to save myself from further embarrassment I changed the subject. I asked him what he was doing in Annapolis? He said he was visiting his brother and some of his lacrosse buddies. He was taking his brother out to dinner. Later they would be heading downtown if I wanted to join them there. I told him I did not want to intrude on him and his brother. He smiled, said he was kind of hoping I would intrude all weekend. When his brother Kevin arrived at the field Bobby introduced us. Before they left Bobby gave me a huge hug, a quick kiss on the lips, said I looked as gorgeous as ever, then added even if I was wearing clothes. As they walked away he turned back and yelled, Mum's nine, be there, no excuses. As I walked to deliver the keys I looked at my arms, once again they were covered in goose bumps. I looked up at the sky and said out loud, "Why does he do this to me?" The two mids walking by laughed as they heard my frantic exclamation, question to God.
After dinner, I amazed myself as I walked downtown alone. I was determined to find out the answers to the questions I had since spring break. Mainly was I simply a notch on his belt, was this a game? As I walked into the bar I began to scan the crowd looking for Bobby. It was Friday night, the bar was packed. I didn't see him downstairs so I headed upstairs. I finally saw Bobby standing along the back side of the bar, surrounded by a bunch of gorgeous women. I watched him for a few minutes, debating whether or not I should walk up to him. It was obvious he was flirting with the women, they were flirting back. He was enjoying the attention. I began to question myself, what was I thinking? I could never compete with women like that, they were all gorgeous. I stood there watching him flirt. I kept hearing Leigh's voice in my head repeating, "Oh Nise, Bobby is such a womanizer you didn’t?"
My insecurities soon kicked in, I decided coming to Mum's was a bad idea. I turned and headed to the door. All I wanted was to head down the stairs, get out quickly, yet there were so many people it took me a while to weave between them all. I was about five feet from the door when I felt Bobby take my hand and say, "You aren't going anywhere". I told Bobby I didn't want to interrupt him at the bar, he looked 'busy'. Bobby laughed, said he was waiting for me, I was late, he was only having fun. He already had a ginger ale waiting for me. As we walked up the stairs to the bar, I commented he was that sure I was coming he ordered me a drink. Without missing a beat, he answered "I know more about you than you think." He told me to relax, he only wanted to spend time with me.
As the two of us talked at the bar, I was afraid to look in his eyes, afraid I would get lost in them. Bobby noticed, at one point he lowered his head so he could look me directly in the eyes and asked what I was afraid of. I didn’t answer. Then direct and to the point, he said he had heard a rumor I was dating a ball player and was curious to know if it was true. I was honest, I told him it wasn't what he thought. Yes, I attended the games as his guest, but we hadn't even kissed. So it wasn't really dating, more like hanging out. When he heard this, I remember his eyes lit up, he got this huge amazing smile, like he had just won the big game. When the band began to play a slow song, he grabbed my hand and lead us to the dance floor. As we danced, he whispered in my ear, "Please stay with me tonight.”
Hearing those words caused my heart to skip a beat. I didn't answer, I couldn't answer, I was afraid I would say yes. I laid my head on his chest, held him close and kept dancing. I wanted to feel his heart beat once again next to mine. I felt him gently kiss my neck, then he whispered my name. I looked up, then we began to kiss. Instantly every emotion I had felt since the first time I saw him that crazy morning long ago in Coronado exploded through my body. I felt my heart pounding, I lost my breath, I was swept away once more by him and I was terrified by all the emotions I was feeling. When the kiss ended, I looked in his eyes, asked him why me? Before he could answer I surprised myself when I grabbed his shirt and pulled him back into me, I wanted more of him, all of him, we kissed again. When the kiss ended he once again whispered, "Please stay with me tonight". Instead of letting my guard down, taking a chance. It took everything I had to tell him I wanted to, but I didn't think it was a good idea. Nothing had changed, he was going back to Pensacola, I was still in Maryland. He so smoothly said, but this weekend we are both in Maryland, isn't that good enough for now? When he looked at me with those eyes, I melted, I said I don’t know, maybe. He grinned from ear to ear and said he could definitely change maybe.
Back at the bar we continued our conversation, once again I asked him, there were all these gorgeous girls in the bar, he could have any of them, why me? He was so assured, so damn sexy when he leaned into me, locked eyes with me and asked, why not you? How do you question a man who takes your breathe away by simply smiling at you? I was almost gone, ready to leave with him when this beautiful blond came up gave Bobby a huge hug and quick kiss on the lips, announcing loudly she was so happy to see him, why hadn't he called? She purposely positioned herself between the two of us. Instantly I had a flashback of Pensacola, Martin with Dorothy. I could not do that again. I put my soda down, told Bobby to have a safe trip back to Pensacola, I needed to run.
I had made it out the door, I thought to safety when I heard him call my name, yell stop. He started to explain she was a girl he had been with a few times but it was no big deal. She was no big deal. Then I asked him was he chasing me because I sent him away, didn't return his calls? Was this a game? Was this catch the girl who says no? You have to win? Or was he chasing me because he wanted to be with me? He asked me why it mattered, what if it was both? He was having trouble understanding me. I told Bobby I didn't know why it mattered but at that moment it did, I couldn't be both. Then I yelled at him, “Damn it Bobby why couldn’t I have met you when you were at the Academy?”
I continued to explain, I didn't understand why myself but I couldn't be in Maryland while he was in Pensacola always wondering. When he figured out which one I was, if he was chasing me to be with me, if this wasn't a game, then call me. I didn't know why, but I couldn't play games with him. Anyone else but not him. I told him, “Not you Bobby, I just can’t!" Until he had an answer, go enjoy the blond, she looked like she was willing to spend the night with him. I lightly kissed him on the lips, put my hand on his heart, then rested my head on his chest. I couldn't look in his eyes, I couldn't look at him when I said "I do miss you, all the time. Bye Bobby."
I still regret to this day, like an immature fool, an idiot, instead of taking a chance, I walked away from Bobby. Unlike the previous times, this time he didn't chase me. He did not follow, he let me go. As I walked down Dock Street, I turned back and saw Bobby walk back into the bar. I stood and watched hoping he would turn around and look, but he didn’t, he walked inside without looking back.
When I got in my car to drive home, I put my head on my steering wheel, closed my eyes and relived the kisses from earlier that night. Then yelled at myself for being so stupid, what the hell was I thinking? Why did I walk away? He wanted me, I knew in my heart I wanted him and I sent him away into the arms of another woman? I got out of my car, walked around it a few times, screaming at myself, debating what to do. I was so upset I even kicked my the tire on my own car before I got back inside. I knew I had made a huge mistake. At the time I did not see a way of correcting it. What was it about Bobby that made me lose all rational thought, turn my feelings upside down? Why couldn’t I relax, let go? Why was I so afraid of him? What was it that took me from one extreme to another with Bobby? How could a man who drove me so crazy make me feel so insecure? Why couldn't I have faith in myself? Why couldn't I trust what he told me? As I drove home, I was praying he would call the next day, tell me I wasn't a game, he still wanted me. He always wanted me. He didn't call Saturday or Sunday. He wouldn't call for a long time. During that time, I would get extremely lost and make many mistakes. All the while trying to find my way back to Bobby before it was too late.
(Use the link to the left to continue to part 4)