We started talking almost daily, and I was loving this relationship. It was completely safe.
We spent long hours on the phone or e-mail, just getting to know each other. He asked me about my day. He made me laugh. It didn't matter how I looked or what I was wearing. There was no risk involved.
I still don't know if the next part of the story was fabricated, like the e-mail address, or what was going on behind the scenes.
My parents told me that they had decided to go to Mississippi for a tour of the antebellum homes that happened every spring in the town where he lived. They asked me if I would like to go along. My dad traveled so much for his job that he had tons of frequent flyer point. We could all fly down, and Kent could show us around.
I still don't know why, but Kent's parents were going to make the trip, as well. They lived in Cincinnati and my parents lived in southern Illinois. The four of them knew each other, but they had never been close friends.
It seems funny now that both sets of our parents planned this trip. I think I found out later that they had actually called each other and plotted it somehow. Whatever the case, I was very nervous about meeting this guy in real life, not to mention in front of both sets of our parents! We would all meet at the house that was the start of the tour of the antebellum homes.
"Do you think we'll even recognize them?" I asked my mom.
"Of COURSE we'll recognize them!" she said.
I actually noticed Kent's mom first. I couldn't remember what she looked like, but as soon as I saw her, I immediately remembered her.
The first thing I noticed about Kent was his shoes.
He was wearing white Nike basketball shoes that had a thick black stripe down the side and black shoe laces. They were laced very loosely and the laces hung open at the top.
They were the ugliest shoes I had ever seen.
To this day, we still refer to them as "the ugly shoes."
In a way, I was impressed that he would wear such ugly shoes. I had probably spent hours choosing what outfit I would wear for that moment. I thought it was kind of cool that he was so self confident. The shoes said it all.
Other than that, I noticed his big smile. He was smiling constantly, and I could see he had already used that big smile to charm my mom and dad. He took such an interest in everything they had to say. He asked my mom questions and listened intently as she answered.
I wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I thought I would be. It was like we had known each other our whole lives. And I guess that makes sense because we really had known each other most of our lives.
The six of us piled into two cars and began driving around town to see all of the beautiful homes in this small town in northern Mississippi. Kent and I sat in the back seat of the car with his mom and dad.
The two of us were using a map to try to navigate around town. We were both holding the map and he would point out where he thought we were. I noticed that his tan fingers were bent in funny ways. He told me that between playing football, baseball and just doing crazy boy stuff, he had broken nine of his 10 fingers. Apparently, he let most of them heal on their own. I thought those bent fingers were the coolest thing.
We were driving his dad crazy trying to give directions from the back seat. I think he actually had to pull over for a while because he was so frustrated with us shouting out, "turn left!", "turn right!"
For the next few days, it seemed like I spent more time with my parents and Kent's mom than I did with him. We would wander around and look at the homes. We met his mom for lunch. Kent and his dad always seemed to be busy playing golf.
Finally, it was the last evening of the long weekend we would be there. The phone rang in my hotel room. He asked me to go to dinner.
It took me a minute to process this. You mean, just you and me?
I hadn't lived with my parents for eight years at that point, but I still had this strange feeling I should ask permission. I was finally going to escape my parents and his parents and all of those old Mississippi homes.
He picked me up in his black pick-up truck, and we headed to a Mexican restaurant. He had been so quiet when we were with all of those parents. Now that it was just the two of us, he talked non-stop.
We talked and talked and talked that night. It was probably 3 a.m. when he finally dropped me off and headed home.
I had to leave the next morning.
I only had one problem. My parents had reserved two hotel rooms — one for them and one for me. They left me a note the next morning to tell me they had to leave early for the airport. I was stuck there without a car.
I called Kent's apartment to ask if he could give me a ride. His mom answered. He was still sleeping, so she would come pick me up. We must have gone by his place to pick him up on the way to the airport. The only thing I remember is that just as I was about to board my plane, he made some comment along the lines of, "Well, have a nice trip. Maybe I'll see you again some time."
I didn't think it was funny.
I looked him in the eye and said, "You are such a jerk."
Then, I turned around and walked onto the plane.