The stars in Texas could have been taken from Van Gogh’s Starry night. They shine like crystals freckled across a deep velvet sky and are laced in a fluff of cloud. They bring the coyotes to song and lullaby bluejays to sleep. Crickets hum and tweak somewhere in the brush. When I looked up I was surrounded by a circle of what seemed the worlds tallest trees. The moon danced delicately around; being kissed by stars as it swung by. How small I was here. I was so far from anything familiar. Yet, I think I found it. “It.” What many never find in a lifetime, I found by the time I was 20.
I found me, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t find me in Texas.
I flew almost 8000km to meet a man I’d never met. Some would say I was foolhardy. This is probably true. Others would say I was brave, I was.
“But what if he turns out to be someone else? He could be anyone!”
“He might be one of those lads that sits naked behind a pc screen, weighs 150stone,plays world of warcraft and eats crisps out of his belly button…”
“You’re flying all that way to meet a guy you met online?”
Yes sir, I did and I never looked back. I will admit to being worried he might run me down to Mexico and try to sell me for a couple of tortillas, but I kept that quiet so I didn’t worry my lovely mother.
I flew from Bristol-England; I had a layover in the Netherlands and from there flew to Houston. It was about an 18 hour journey. This was nothing compared to my terror of US Customs. I’d been a fool to watch programs about airports before i left. I was terrified. I was never easy to scare, especially with travel as I’m very good at it, but this was a huge country, new culture and I didn’t know a soul. If I ran into trouble the closest person I had to run to was a man my stepfather knew in Dallas. If anyone knows Texas: that’s a good few hours from Houston. I watched people get taken away to offices, some crying and others getting searched. After four hours it was finally my turn. I walked up to the desk like I owned the place. She asked me where I was going, who I was meeting and where he worked. She was lovely to me really. She took my fingerprints, protocol and all. Before I left she asked me, “Ma’am, did you say Huntsville? Sure hope he hasn’t seen the inside of one of the prisons.”
I hadn’t researched anything about where I was going. All I knew was where it was on a map. I like to pretend it’s the dreamer in me, ending up somewhere that I don’t know anything about and learning the old fashioned way; without Google.
I continued on my walk for my luggage thinking what a peculiar but nice lady she was.
Now it was the moment of truth. Who will be there waiting?
This was it. I felt like my heart was going to beat right out of my chest; that I was going to vomit and cry all at once. There was no backing out. I had my luggage and now was the scariest part of my trip. The reveal. I rolled my suitcase behind me, noticing the men rolling their baggage were wearing cowboy hats and pearl snap shirts, like something right out of a John Ford western. Now that’s new! The doors opened in front of me as travellers filed through to meet their loved ones. I swear to you my heart stopped. He wasn’t there. I hadn’t thought what I would do if he didn’t show up! Keeping my cool I walked through the crowd. I had no phone. Oh bugger. No American money. Oh gosh, what was the man’s name in Dallas? I started shaking but I kept walking. How much is one pound to a dollar? Was the Texas chainsaw massacre real? When did that film come out? What the hell happened in Waco? I have to pee. Just as I was about to stop breathing there he was; this beautiful man in a brown sports coat, white polo, jeans and big John Wayne boots. I would recognize that smile anywhere. His blue eyes were shining and his smile was crooked in a most charming way. Now I wanted to freak out because he was real.
“Hey, baby.” He drawled. He hugged me and took my bag. I didn’t know what to say or do. Its not every day you get picked up at the airport by prince charming in cowboy boots. I knew I was blushing and I knew he could see me shaking. Was he disappointed? He looked so handsome. I thought I might be disappointed, what the hell would I do if HE were disappointed? My poor heart couldn’t take much more. When we got to the car he opened the door for me. It’s a little thing, a Jack thing. Jack is the epitome of a true Southern Gentleman and its one of the many reasons I think he is so unlike anyone I’ve ever met before. That and he doesn’t try to impress me by blowing bubbles through his nose. I was moving up in the world baby!
Thankfully on the drive from the airport I started to relax. He got us lost on the way to his apartment though. He will deny this indefinitely, but he got us lost. He was busy paying attention to the little Danish redhead in his car. Probably not entirely believing I was real. So he wasn’t disappointed! He asked me about my trip. I told him I’d followed a man with a cowboy hat in the airport, assuming he was flying to cowboy country, to the gate… only to realize I was in line to go to India. Not Houston, Texas. He got a real kick out of that. He has the best laugh, you know.
After two hours of chatting and nervous laughter, from me, I saw a giant white figure in the distance. He glowed in bright lights and his head wore the stars like a crown. President Sam Houston was standing on the outskirts of Huntsville. Welcoming me. Well howdy to you too sir!
Soon barbed wired fences rolled by. I saw towers filled with armored guards and bright lights. I wondered.
“Jack, are there any prisons here?”
He looked at me strangely and looked back to the road — like he’d hoped i wouldn’t ask.
“One or two.”
I looked at him a little harder, as I now tend to do when I know he funning with me.
“How many are there?”
It took me 20 minutes to find my jaw on the floor of the car. Queue my third minor freak out. Where the hell am i? How did I get here? Did my mother know this? Yes, she did. She researched the place before I left which I did not do. Welcome to South-East Texas darling girl, you’re in for a damn tough ride. I will admit to this day — theres something utterly and completely exciting to me about moving somewhere without knowing a damn thing about the place. I thought Texas was everything you saw in the black and white cowboy movies.
From that day Texas became home to me. I loved everything, everything apart from Walmart. The summers burnt the hell outta me. Like a good girl I’d put on my seat belt, only to be given second degree burns. I found snakes in my living room, scorpions in my shoes and I had a shower with a very traumatized lizard. The coyotes screamed outside my window at night. I love those sounds now, but they terrified me at first. June bugs annoyed me to no end and my love of Dr.Pepper is far greater than it ever was. I love my boots and pearl snap shirts. I’ve worked as a cowhand on a horse ranch and a couple of farms, sailed in the Gulf of Mexico, driven a tractor and nearly killing Jack in the process and I will always remember when I first saw the Alamo.
We married on the 17thof April in 2014. I was never the little girl with a pillowcase over her head dreaming of wedding bells. I was the child wondering what was beyond the horizon. The wedding was never important to me. It didn’t matter. All that ever meant anything was to never be separated. Giacomo Casanova once said, “The sweetest pleasures are those that are hardest to be won.” We defeated the odds together. We eventually passed immigration. I was poked, prodded and tested for everything. My life was put on hold and examined. I was interviewed. There were no secrets between me and the United States of America. I can tell you. I travelled 5000miles and left everything I knew behind. Looking back now I realize how brave I really was at that young age of twenty.
So here I stand staring at the sky holding his hand: stars rolling on and time passing. Mosquitoes buzzing and bleeding us dry. Texas taught me that freedom does exist you just have to find it: whether it’s riding in the dusty brush or sitting at the bar with two southern gentlemen talking about absolutely nothing. Jack taught me how to find happiness in the darkest corners, how to fight for love and how to make tacos that don’t need to be dipped in ketchup. Now I’m living in a wild and dangerous country, and everything is trying to eat me alive. Its true, Texas made a woman out of me.
I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
Jack and i have been married for four years today, April 17th.
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
Happy Anniversary handsome.