The Search Begins
The glow from my laptop illuminated my office as I sipped from a glass of elderberry mead and scrolled through my newsfeed in the dark. With my hand on the mouse and stemware cradled to my chest, I hovered over Facebook’s search field and clicked. The cursor blinked at me and awaited my command. I tipped the rouge liquid into my mouth, closed my eyes, and savored its sweetness.
You can do this, Ellie. They’re military spouses looking for friends, too. Right? I can’t be the only one searching for friendship this way. I set the glass down and took a deep breath. With my fingers poised over the keyboard, I dove in. The clickety-clack of the keys filled the room as one letter after another flew across the screen until words formed in the search engine. I perused the suggestions as they appeared in the drop-down menu, clicked the first spouse group on the list, and mumbled incoherently about nosy husbands and co-conspirator daughters who really needed to mind their own business.
This idea of making friends through a computer screen wasn’t my ideal situation, but things were different this time. Under normal circumstances, I found friendship with other spouses in the hub’s unit. This time, he’s an instructor at a large installation, no company or line-unit in the typical sense. I was on my own in a sea of spouse groups that were six thousand plus strong. So, my only option was to get out there and look for them instead of letting them develop organically. This was uncharted territory, and it felt like I was casting my line into Lake Superior in hopes someone out there nibbled on the bait.
I leaned back in my chair, picked up my glass, and used my mouse to scroll through the various posts. I couldn’t shake how weird it felt, but what else could I do? The husband and daughter would be relentless until I tried.
A new house, a new state, and a completely unique experience were what I was faced with. So off I went scrolling for friends on a computer. I couldn’t help but chuckle at another oddity I’ve added to my list of unique experiences. A thought popped into my head and wouldn’t leave. You know, the kind of thought that dug in and hung out long past its welcome. It felt like one of those searches singles do to find dates, an app with a swipe left or right based on compatibility and interest in what the other person offered. Online dating, that was what I was doing here, only I wasn’t looking for a man. I was looking for a friend.
So far, the posts in group number one looked like the typical variety of questions from incoming spouses about housing, good places to eat, fun places to visit, the down-low on the best neighborhoods, parenting advice, and such. Nothing new there, so I went back to the search engine and perused the list until another caught my eye, and I clicked it. The first thing I was met with was a big fat disclaimer. *Adult Content, 18+ Only* Very curious. Yes, I do believe I will give in to my curiosity. I scrolled down to investigate further, but there was nothing. Damn the group’s private. I’d have to join. So I did the sensible thing and sent off my request.
With my curiosity forcibly put on hold as I waited for approval, I took a gander at what else was out there in the world of local spouse groups and found one for the over thirty crowd.
“Hmm, a group for women around my age. Looks like something worth checking out.” I said to the computer screen and scrolled through the posts.
A “searching for friends” thread caught my eye, and I checked out the comments to see if there were some people I might click with. There were over one hundred comments. Other spouses were looking for friendship, too. I didn’t feel nearly as weird about “friend searching” this way as I did before and dove in. With my own intro typed up, I hit post.
“There. I’ve put some effort in. Maybe that will keep the worriers in my life at bay for a wee bit.” I figured if worse came to worse and no one responded, I’d given myself a bit more time before they harped on me again. As I wrapped things up, my notifications dinged, and my request to join the disclaimer group was accepted.
A smirk curled up one side of my mouth, and off I went to feed the curiosity bug. I immediately noticed that this group was different. It wasn’t set up the same as a typical spouse group. This one allowed its members to post incognito. No names, just post after post “From the Box.” It had a serious Secret Confessions vibe, but it was the military edition. I scrolled through each post, and sure enough, the adult content disclaimer was right on the money because there was content in here the other groups wouldn’t discuss. As I read through them, I laughed. My eyes got as big as saucers, all while I sipped more and more mead. I can admit it, I was enjoying myself, and then one post stopped me in my tracks. To say I was hooked would be an understatement:
From the Box: Couples Beware: We accepted an invite to a couples meet-up I found in another group. It was at their place. They said there’d be games, drinking, and a night of fun. So, hubby and I figured what the hell. We were new to the area and assumed this could be an opportunity to meet people, mingle, and possibly make friends with other couples. Things went well at first, even though we were the only couple that showed up. We chatted with our hosts, the typical small talk, and got to know them a bit. They pulled out board games. We enjoyed some scrumptious food, had a few drinks. The hubs and I got comfortable, let our guard down a bit. Hell, I even started having thoughts that the wife and I could be friends. Then, after a while, their behavior changed in subtle ways. I noticed the wife would let her hand linger on my husband’s arm or knee. Her husband would brush up against me, then apologize as he gave me bedroom eyes. I chalked it up to the booze. We’d all been drinking. I was definitely tipsy. I excused myself to use the restroom and when I came back the wife stood in front of my husband, in lingerie, her dress pooled on the floor. My husband tried to put distance between them and yelled for me. Host dude just stood there watching his wife, Crazy Bitch, as she moved her hands over her body and attempted to straddle my husband.
My eyes grew to the size of silver dollars. “Well, that’ll teach me. Curiosity sure does kill the cat.” I sputtered and coughed when my drink tried to suffocate me. That’s what I got for trying to talk and drink at the same time. I sat in disbelief at the words on the screen but couldn’t pull away. I’d heard a lot of things during my life, but this was a new one. I did the only thing I could do. I read faster.
I was paralyzed by shock, rooted in place, my brain unable to process what the hell was going on right before my eyes. I had tunnel vision so bad I didn’t notice when Creepy Dude sauntered over until I felt a light caress on my shoulder. I turned toward the sensation and the man standing next to me said words. I couldn’t hear him, but I saw his lips moving. By this time I registered my husband’s reaction to the man touching me, he’d scrambled over the back of the couch to avoid Crazy Bitch and made a b-line in my direction. Next thing I knew hubs had Creepy Dude pinned against the wall with murder in his eyes. Crazy Bitch screamed behind me as she struggled to get her dress back on. I still can’t hear shit. They were upset. They hit on us and had the nerve to be upset! My husband rears his arm back and my hearing finally came back when Crazy Bitch yelled… WE’RE SWINGERS!
I burst out laughing. Not just laughter, I cackled! And tears, actual tears filled my eyes, my gut hurt, and I struggled to take in air. The door flew open behind me. I swiveled in my chair, still unable to take full breaths, as my husband rushed through the threshold with a mixture of worry, confusion, and curiosity painted across his face at my current state. Tears streamed down my cheeks, and I shook my head at him.
“Where the hell have you moved us to, Victor?” I threw my head back and cackled again. His perplexed look didn’t help matters any or my ability to recount what I just read to him as surprised disbelief contorted his features. Victor opened his mouth to say something but paused, leaned over me, and squinted at the screen. He opened his mouth again, but words failed him a second time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in letting your freak flag fly however you want to fly it. You do you, but it’s a lifestyle less talked about so openly. It caught us both off guard. So he did the only thing he could by way of hasty exit out of my office without a word. I, on the other hand, turned back to the screen and finished reading.
My husband froze, I froze… again. It was at that moment I closed my eyes as her post flashed before my eyes, as clear as day, along with the pink flamingo emojis. Fast forward to our arrival that night as we walked up to the door. Their lawn décor. The Gnomes… and you guessed it... more Pink Flamingos. There were signs that my brain didn't register. It’s not a lifestyle I’m accustomed to. Needless to say it got weirder at that point. We apologized, they apologized. It was a complete misunderstanding. We left. I’m sure they were thinking, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. So, it turns out she’s not a crazy bitch and he’s not a creepy dude. It was a "different strokes for different folks" kind of scenario. And the moral of my story is: Pay attention to the signs people… emojis… what have you. Pink Flamingo’s, Gnomes, I should've seen it. To be honest, I really believed all that was rumors. So not saying everyone who decorates with gnomes and pink flamingos are swingers but, in this case, not so much rumor.
I downed the last of my mead and scanned through a few more spouse pages before I went back to check if there were any nibbles on the line I cast in the over-thirties group. So far, nothing, but it was pretty late, so I tried not to put too much stock in the nagging feelings that crept up. The ones that wondered if I’d meet anyone. A part of me looked forward to it. The idea of making friends was growing on me, but I won’t be admitting that to the nosy people in my life. At least not yet.
I logged out for the evening more informed and completely tipsy. If I took nothing else from the evening’s recon, I took away these two lessons and placed them firmly in the learned column.
Number 1: Always meet new people in a public place.
Number 2: Signs are all around us. Always be aware of the signs!
This short story is also published through Coffee House Writers
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