(Not that) Happy Birthday to me!

March-April 2006

Philly Matt was heading to Qatar with the Air Force Reserves in five weeks so I tried to focus on the positive. He was a great guy, and I wanted to make our relationship work. But, when we saw each other in early March, our problems resurfaced yet again.

I was looking for assurances that Matt and I wouldn't have to stay in the long-distance mode upon his return from the Gulf, but he didn't feel comfortable committing to that. He also was frustrated with his dwindling hours of work on the base, and that understandably affected his mood and his income.

I didn't know what would happen once he left for Qatar, but I decided to ride things out. I knew how I felt about him and how he made me feel when things were good. Wasn't that enough for now?

I tried to be as supportive as I could be in the present and also began thinking of ways to make his deployment easier. I downloaded Skype on my computer, and bought cards to send him after he went overseas. (My favorite card said, "The love I feel for you is in my heart. The distance between us is just geography." I thought that summed it up perfectly!) I imagined us on Skype and AIM for hours and started to view his departure as a way for him to feel better about himself professionally and for us to reconnect emotionally.

And then…things went from so-so to worse. Three weeks before he was scheduled to leave for Qatar, he got a call from the base commander and learned that Reservists from Pennsylvania were not being deployed…at all!

Philly Matt didn't know what he was going to do professionally. The base at which he worked was closing. He wasn't heading to Qatar. And, the big pay-out that the Air Force told him was coming from his deployment wasn't! That's not a fun position for anyone to be in!

My glass is always half-full so I talked about the benefits of him staying in the States. (He could be closer to his kids and to me, he could now look for a full-time job, and he didn't have to deal with being in the desert for 3-12 months.) Sometimes, Philly Matt would play along with that, but other times, he wouldn't. I tried to get him excited about the fact that now we could spend our birthdays together. (We were born three days apart in early April.) I wouldn't say he was necessarily thrilled about it, but he did come down to DC so we could celebrate together.

Matt got into town on the evening of his birthday. I greeted him at Union Station with a balloon, and ushered him off to Filomena for dinner. I was friends with the chef, and he took great care of us.

When we got back to my place, I gave Philly Matt his present: the first season of Lost on DVD; a t-shirt from French Connection; and a mushy card. I didn't want to do too much and make him feel uncomfortable, but I also wanted to do enough to make him feel special. Mission accomplished!

On the day before my birthday, Philly Matt joined my friends and me for lunch and games at Dave and Buster's (one of my guilty pleasures). The next day was my actual birthday. When Matt and I woke up, we had sex. Being in bed with him was always good, but when we were done, I felt a bit confused. I kept waiting for some acknowledgment of my birthday. A card. Singing me "Happy Birthday!" A little gift. Breakfast in bed. Flowers. Something!

But, something never came. When we arrived at Union Station, we waited in line for his train to board. As we kissed goodbye, he said,

"Happy Birthday!"

I guess that was something?!? But, that couldn't be it, could it? As I drove home from the train station, I got it in my head that he had left me a card or present at the house as a surprise. When I arrived at my condo, though, it didn't take me long to realize that there wasn't any surprise.

Philly Matt had come down to DC so that we could spend our birthdays together, which was what I had wanted. Well, partly. I had also hoped that he would make some effort to show me that he cared.

I spent my birthday afternoon, bonding with a box of Kleenex and wondering if I needed more than this. Was this relationship worth fighting for?

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