One traffic light away, Huxley undeniably knows where we’re headed. Then again, I assume that he assumes all car rides either lead to the dog park or thousands of highway miles. I put the car in park and he cries in anticipation. Huxley hops from the sand-ridden backseat of my Honda Civic and pulls me toward the closest entrance. As I lift the first latch, he dances and the white tresses of his tail flit quickly. I lift the second latch and he is gone as quickly as a gannet plunging headfirst into water.
A majority of the park is shaded by tall oak and vast buttonwood trees, all shrouded by Spanish moss that hangs and rustles like party streamers left out and abandoned before a summertime storm. Roots run and crawl beneath the loose soil and sometimes jab out above the surface, forming a miniature but treacherous mountain range to navigate. Sparse grass gives way to sand as I venture closer to the water of Lake Baldwin. The lake itself sometimes smells of squandered eggs but also, somehow, sweet like the tang of a dying fruit tree. When I close my eyes and really inhale, it also smells of fresh rain.
Before I let Huxley swim, I exhaust a fraction of his energy. With a curved plastic wand, I heave a muddied tennis ball with all my strength. He dashes through the shadows and his polychrome coat shines in the flecks of sunlight filtering through the top canopy. People pass nearby to walk on the short forest trails. When he turns toward me, ball in mouth, heaving and also exultant, he is ready to swim.
Active owners never wear nice clothes to a park like this. The ladies with Great Danes often wear cargo shorts and baseball tees. The young blokes with pit bulls sometimes don’t wear shoes at all. I prefer to wear clothes I’d run in: stained, ripped, or unflattering in color. I won’t leave without being slobbered on, jumped on, shook on, or pushed down. Galoshes are also essential. I keep my eyes trained on the deeper, murky water, scanning for alligators or anything that could devastate the tranquil illusion of a lake.
My favorite time to go is in the late afternoon, when the wind is still warm and the water is a myriad of reds and oranges. Huxley meets me in the clear shallow after what seems like a lifetime of fetch. Most days, even the swimming doesn’t tire him, but sometimes he’ll visit me while still smelling of mud, lean his weight against my thigh, and look out toward the water as if searching for the sunset. He lies down in the same place he stood, contented by a few hours outside and the companionship of something other than two cats who can never understand him.
Josh and I drove from Florida to stay with his family in Ohio for Christmas. Before we even left for the trip, Josh asked me to brainstorm some places for us to stop at sunrise. I chose Newfound Gap for its scenic view. When we realized the road to Newfound Gap was closed for the winter even though there was no snow yet, we turned around and decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were plenty of overlooks for us to stop by, and the dog needed to be walked. The first overlook we came across was the Oconaluftee River Overlook in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just outside of a small town named Cherokee. It was just after 8:00 a.m., and the sun started rising at 7:35. It was 19 °F. I got out of the car and ran to the trunk to put on longer socks. When I closed the trunk, Josh got out of the car. “Don’t get Huxley out of the car just yet,” he said. “Let’s just enjoy this.” He reached for my hand and pulled me over to the edge of the valley. The sun illuminated the summits around us. I snuggled up to him to stay warm and absorbed the view. After a moment of silence, Josh spoke: “You see that? You know, you are my sun. You breathe life into me every morning when we wake up, tangled and tired. I want to create with you.” He suddenly disappeared from my side. I turned and realized he’d bent down on one knee. “I want to combine our blood, make a family, and grow old with you.” He took a dark blue box from his right jacket pocket, coaxed it open with his thumb, and offered the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. “Will you marry me, Breezy?” he asked. I didn’t let him stay on his knee too long before tackling him and saying yes. After thirty minutes of hugging, kissing, and then running laps with Huxley around the overlook lot, we took a sunrise tour of the Great Smoky Mountains. We were the only car on the Blue Ridge Parkway that morning. We both held hands in silence, smiling, realizing one piece of our future was certain.
A lot has changed and a lot has flourished since turning twenty-one and graduating from college. My leap into a copy writing career led me out of an unhealthy boob tube binge and into the arms of who I believe and know is my future. [Insert romcom introduction credits here]. Joshua and I first introduced ourselves at a work happy hour in celebration of a coworker’s birthday. I finished touching up my lipstick and left the bar’s bathroom to find Joshua standing behind a row of bar stools, eyeing the variety of beers on tap. We were never formally introduced but started working at our software company within two weeks of each other. I felt a sort of school-girl confidence in that he was new just like me. I could be anyone to him. After the awkward greetings and introductions, Joshua and I took a seat at a high-top close to the door in case anyone else from work showed up soon. We discussed our prior writing experiences and how we found the copy writing opportunities. I remembered him introducing himself to our department as living in a house that had a recording studio and that he played bass guitar. Not only was he tall and handsome with a boyish grin that made me want to fling lyrics to Dave Matthews Band’s “Crush” at him, but he loved music as much if not more than I did.
Work relationships are something I’m familiar with. I’ve had them and I’ve failed at them, but I’ve also never been the kind of person to be wary of anything if I enjoy it and if it makes me happy. The key is happiness, something I never paid much mind to before but something about Joshua’s musical banter and his unadulterated honesty made me happy to be his friend. I craved our conversations and the creativity he was inspiring in me. He was too kind and too good of a guy to be real. I knew any feelings I had for him would be messy for both of us, so I kept everything at bay until I just couldn’t anymore. One night, we were at another happy hour with friends from work and I texted him a hint at what I truly felt, the first time in my life I ever pursued someone and was so honest about what I wanted.
Though both of our then-relationships had long-since fizzled and were nearing collapse, we knew the transition from good friends to anything else would be tricky and we’d have to be respectful of our feelings. We proceeded with caution but it only took moments of being that sort of real with each other to realize the strength of the bond we’d been subconsciously building for several months. I defied my own advice and loved him quickly and without restraint.
A year and a half later, we still feel like those giddy kids sitting at a high-top trying to put the pieces together. We love and we focus on happiness. We realize the time spent fighting in past relationships could have been better spent working on trust and teamwork. We realize we bring out the best in each other and I know Joshua is a better person than me in a lot of ways. Since our initial happy hour almost two years ago, we moved in together and adopted two cats and a dog. Our little family of five lives in the heart of Orlando and we commute to work together everyday. Life is simple, and I have absolutely no desire to make it chaotic. Although the lives we live are transient, I’m basking in the moment and the small things like the way Josh’s eyes squint when he’s piecing together chords on his acoustic or the different contours and shades of clouds we pick out on our walks beneath the oaks of College Park. I wish for this sort of happiness and simplicity for everyone.
Since November of 2013, I’ve been working as a Copywriter for an Orlando-based software company named SoftRock. We develop websites and social media, mobile, and other online applications while simultaneously maintaining significant personal relationships that encourage customer retention and company growth. In that small amount of time, I’ve been given numerous opportunities to explore the marketing industry and lead generation.
By noon on Monday the 24th, yours truly will be landing in Las Vegas to attend the world famous LeadsCon conference at The Mirage Hotel and Casino. This conference, which fetches the Who’s Who of the vertical media and direct-response marketing industry, allows unmatched insights and access to marketing leaders, vendors, and potential clients.
As a relatively new affiliate of the trade, I look at this adventure as a way of broadening my familiarity with associated components of lead generation, such as aggregators, analytics, advertising agents, and traffic sources. I plan to absorb information as my coworkers and I network and mingle with industry leaders like Pandora, All Star Directories, LeadiD, Reven Media, Crush Ads, and so many more!
Did I mention VEGAS? I’ve never been before! If you told me a year ago that I’d be working for a fun, innovative technology company like SoftRock and flying to Las Vegas for the purpose of learning and gathering valuable industry connections, I probably would’ve laughed at you or fainted. Dreams do come true and hard work pays off. Right now, I’m ready to play. Look out Vegas! Rather, look out LeadsCon!