When we first started dating, I knew about Matt’s military experience the same way I know where my parents went to college — loved the idea, but it was difficult to picture in any real sense.
Now an officer, he had been a Marine for 8 years and two wars — Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2011.
I had seen the pictures with cammies and sniper rifles.
I had heard the stories “he’d never told anybody before.”
And yet, the Matt I knew personally was the one in jeans who closes down bars with me or the one in the tie who stands up and pulls out my chair when I get up from the table.
He was Clark Kent, hiding his “S” under his button-down shirt…if the “S” was actually tattoos of dog tags and Iraq.
To me, it was simply implied that his Dress Blues were hanging dutifully in a phone booth somewhere.
We were staying on a catamaran and exploring the British Virgin Islands with friends for a holiday vacation— one of those impulsive, OVERLY EXPENSIVE trips you book when you’re 23… because you know one day you’ll be able to blame it on that fact that you were 23.
I already do. I’m 24.
After arriving at our boat Second Wind on Christmas, Matt and I took after its name and put a pretty impressive dent in a bottle of rum as we sat alone on the back of the boat for half the night, talking about who knows what.
And so brilliantly, I woke up on the first day of my vacation on a moving boat with an incredible hangover. Advil and a good attitude helped power me through the day, but by the afternoon I was tempted to skip out on snorkeling to lie lethargically in the sun somewhere.
Matt was not having any of that.
“COME ON, HONAN! LOOK AT WHERE WE ARE. GET OUT HERE! To the coves!
As a child, my swim instructor never actually got into the water to instruct. I learned how to stay alive while wet more than I learned how to swim. When we got to a nearby cove, I thought it was best not to drag anybody down, so I went off on my own, put my mask on and lazily looked underwater just to be able to say “I’d snorkeled.”
When I saw a single blue fish, I checked the snorkeling box in my mind and kicked off some rocks, propelling myself backwards with the intent to float just under the surface and relax.
BIG Mistake. Cue the Julia Roberts impression: Huge.