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CHAPTER 1

Prelude

The day I met Jon was somewhat of a non-event. Someone who I vaguely knew came into my office and introduced me to him. He had just arrived in the country after three years in Ireland, and really, I just couldnít care less. I had more import things on my mind.

* * *

I had been going out with a German, Michael, and as much as I hated to admit it, he was in the process of dumping me. I had been introduced to him by my friend Colette, and he had taken me out to dinner and had spent the weekend with me. Being a love addict, I thought it was love, but he had other ideas. Although I was loathe to admit it, he wanted me to get involved in a multi-level Marceting scheme and sell cosmetics for him. Michael thought that sleeping with me would do the trick. I thought it was love, Michael thought it was business.

Michael travelled a lot with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and shortly after we began our liason, he went to a Nato base in Latina, Italy for a couple of weeks. I hung on to every day that he was away, awaiting his return. I rang his house incessantly, hoping that he would pick up the phone. Somehow it never occurred to me to drive to his house and see if he was actually home, as my friend Colette had done when she was dating men who she didnít trust. Just like all the other man who crossed my path, I trusted Michael, which would prove to be my downfall. As soon as he came back from his trip he had no time for me. In my anger, I told him that I wanted to break up, which is exactly what he wanted. If I wasnít going to sell his make-up for him, he didnít want to know me.

I wasnít able to forgive Colette for introducing me to Michael and couldnít understand why she thought he was so fabulous when I considered him to be lower than pond scum. Even though I hadnít told Colette how unhappy I was that she should introduce me to such a deceitful individual, she never really learned her lesson. Colette really didnít see what Michael and therefore wasted no time in introducing him to another friend, who also suffered a similar fate.

The only person who didnít seem to be too bothered about Michaelís shabby treatment of her friends was Colette. This admission in itself should have told me volumes about where her loyalties were, as well as her state of mind. A true friend would have been very upset that a man had betrayed not one, but two of her friends. Because Colette knowingly introduced a womaniser to me, it put a huge strain on our friendship. I couldnít reconcile myself with her lackadaisical attitude toward Michaelís treatment of me, and any other woman for that matter.

With my personal life up in arms, it was very easy for me not to notice Jon, who subtly worked his way into my sphere of awareness, little by little, until it was just too late. Within weeks of parting company with Michael, I met Jeff at Club 13, the local all ranks club at HQ AFCENT (Headquarters Allied Forces Central Europe). I had become acquainted with Jeff a few years earlier because he was friendly with Tom, another unsuitable lover who I had fallen madly in love with.

* * *

When I was with Tom, he was the love of my life. I was totally and completely absorbed by him and just knew that he was the only one for me. Unfortunately, Tom had a problem that I was sure that we could overcome together, given the right amount of unconditional love. Tom was an alcoholic. He only needed one drink to propel into a binge that would put him into a drunken stupor for the rest of the evening.

When I first started going out with Tom, he told me that he had a drinking problem and quite honestly told me that he felt that we shouldnít see each other because every woman he had ever been with had left him because of his drinking.

So besotted was I with this tall, green eyed blonde, who hadnít yet begun to experience the serious side effects of his excessive drinking, I assured him that I wasnít like all of the other women who he had encountered and could cope with his drinking problem. The both of us vowed that we would tackle the problem together, and for the most part the only time that he became drunk was on Friday evenings when he went to Club 13. Those Friday, evenings when I had to look after him, however, were enough for me to form a very negative view of people who drink too much alcohol.

I was right about one thing, though. I wasnít like the other women. I had come from a severely dysfunctional family and had endured some tragic life experiences, which left me ill equipped to form a meaningful relationship with any other person. I simply didnít have the skills to maintain a mature, satisfying relationship that would enable me to grow and evolve as a human being, so I gravitated towards other equally damaged souls who would enable me to re enact the same old childhood dramas over and over again.

With Tom, I was the classic enabler. He moved into my home and never gave me a penny toward the bills. He did, however, pay whenever we went out for meals or drinks, but only grudgingly. I got up early every morning and took him to work, and then collected him each evening. More often than not, I would be expected to go to Club 13, where he would be drinking with his friends. I wouldnít bat an eyelash, as I drove wherever he wanted me to pick him up from wherever he was drinking, and then take him home. Once home, I would fix dinner. On the weekends we would stay home and watch a video on his VCR, which he had also surreptitiously moved into my home.

The first summer after Tom and I met, we went on a holiday together to Crete. We had planned a three-week holiday where we would go out and do whatever we wanted every single day. It was during that three-week period that we realised how incompatible we were. It didnít take long for Tom to tire of sun, sea and sex because what he really wanted was to spend his time propping up a bar-stool, drinking and conversing with other like minded souls. The moment he found a drinking companion, I wouldnít see him for the rest of the evening. It upset me greatly because I wanted to be together with Tom, just the two of us. I hadnít yet realised that he would always love alcohol more than he loved me.

I was also to discover that Tom resented having to pay for me whenever we went out socially. Although he lived in my home, was never asked and never offered to pay for his keep, he resented paying for our meals when we were on holiday. I personally was incredulous that he could expect me to pay for my dinner after he had literally been a kept man for all those months.

When we came back from our three weeks in Crete, we broke up. I was heartbroken, of course, and begged him to take me back, which he did Ė on his terms. I honestly thought I was the luckiest woman in the world to have Tom as my fJonce. I believed he was my soul-mate and I felt that I could confide in him.

If I was so blessed to have Tom, then why had I taken to compulsive eating? Why had I gained 30 pounds since I had met him? Why was I ready to bite the head off of anyone who said so much as Ďbooí to me? Why did I have this overwhelming compulsion to stick my head in the oven, turn on the gas, and end it all forever? If Tom was so good for me, why was I such a mess?

On Friday I knew what was in store. Tom wanted to go to Club 13, get drunk and have me take him home and put him into bed, which is the routine we had established for months. For once, I decided that I didnít want to do that. I didnít want to go to Club 13, watch the man I loved drink himself into oblivion, take him home, undress him, and put him to bed. I wanted him to spend the night at home with me and told him so. That night, when I for once stood my ground, it was over between us.

Over the next three years, even though I had other boyfriends, I was never able to get over the loss of Tom. Maybe it was because he was blessed with naturally good looks. Maybe we were soul-mates from aeons past, a time that neither of us could quite recall. Maybe the sex was great and I missed it. Or maybe, just maybe, I was a lonely individual searching for anyone or anything that would fill the emptiness that was the remains of ravaged wounds caused by psychological damage done to me in my childhood and adulthood. Whatever the reason, I yearned for him, and everyone else paled by comparison.

* * *

Therefore, a few years later when I met Jeff, a friend of Tomís at Club 13, we hit if off like a house on fire. Jeff was very similar to Tom in that they both were the Royal Air Force, both were clerks, and both liked to drink. Thus began yet another destructive relationship that would only serve to damage me even more than I already was. I had not yet realised it, but each relationship that I became embroiled in was progressively worse. At that time I had no idea just how bad things could get.

During the time that I had been involved with Jeff, he constantly spoke to me about my weight and quite specifically commented on my big stomach when I usually weighed no more than 130 pounds. I was only about five pounds overweight at the most and it was therefore inappropriate for him to criticise me, especially considering the fact that he was by no means thin.

Any normal woman with any sort of self-esteem at all would have told Jeff to pack his bags and find a thin woman, but that wasnít my style. Instead, I was ashamed of myself of not being what he wanted me to be and endeavoured to try my best to change into what he preferred.

The reason for my eagerness to please and not assert my own right as a human being to weigh what I wanted was based upon several decades of being conditioned into believing that I wasnít worthy of love unless I was thin. This attitude was reinforced to me by every individual who I had ever been close to. The society of thinness that I had been indoctrinated into had been so much a part of my psyche that I even went so far as to enter into a line of work that required me to be thin.

* * *

I came into this world two weeks early, quite unexpectedly weighing in at four and a half pounds. Because my twin sister and I had the same heartbeat, it was assumed that we would just be one big baby. My mother didnít want the first child, much less twins. At 18, she was merely as child herself and wasnít prepared for the responsibility of motherhood.

Because my motherís parenting instincts have always been practically non-existent, when I was very young I didnít get fed a great deal. My grandmother told me that whenever she did see me, I would either eat dirt or whatever food that might be lying on her floor, which wasnít particularly hygienic or healthy.

As a result of my motherís inability to look after her children, I spent a great deal of time at my grandmotherís house. Because my mother would dump me off with just about anybody who would agree to look after me, I never really bonded with her and subsequently to this day suffer from an attachment disorder.

One of the symptoms of attachment disorder and neglect is a preoccupation with food, so whenever I did happen to find myself in a situation where food was readily available, I would binge. When I lived with my grandmother, she kept an eye on whatever I put into my mouth and I was therefore able to maintain a normal weight. Because I didnít have to endure the same type of stress, however, food wasnít necessarily the number one priority in my life whenever my grandmother took care of me.

When I was a child, living with my grandmother, I was able to assume a sense of normality and made friends just like most of the other children. The only major problem that I had was one of kleptomania, which I have suffered from sporadically during times of intense stress. By the time I had become a teenager, however, the damage was done. By that time I doubt very seriously that anyone who was not trained specifically to deal with abused children would have been able to break into the shell of what had become an extremely damaged soul.

At the very least, I was severely neglected by my mother and I have the scars to prove it. My mother said that they came from a dog bite, but the scar that appears to the right of my left eye does not look like a dog bite to me. Since I cannot remember the incident, I have been left with no other alternative to accept her story, even though I have resigned myself to the fact that my mother is a pathological liar.

As an adult, when I finally forced myself to look in the mirror at that hideous scar that had marred an otherwise attractive face, I decided to do something about it. I paid a plastic surgeon to perform a procedure called scar revision. The scar revision procedure was performed to make the ugly gash less noticeable. Six months after the operation, he promised me, nobody would know that I even had a scar if I just wore a little make-up over it.

What is surprising is that although I do not have a dog phobia, which is what one would assume if I had actually been bitten by a dog, all my life I have had a knife/needle phobia. Because my knife/needle phobia is so intense, the surgical procedure was performed under general anaesthetic, which is what I wanted. In no way did I want to be conscious when someone was cutting me up.

I was scheduled for the scar revision on a Saturday. I went into the hospital at 8:00 in the morning and was being woken up from the anaesthetic by 10:30 am.

ĎKrystalí, a woman said to me repeatedly, as I was slowly being roused out of my slumber, Ďwake up.í

ĎIs the operation over?í, I asked the nurse, still under anaesthetic.

ĎYes,í she replied, looking me in the eye.

ĎYou donít want to be around some neurotic woman,í I told the nurse. By that time in my life I already knew that I didnít fit in and didnít even try to entice people to be my friend.

Completely out of the blue, under anaesthetic, I told the woman who was trying to get me to wake up, ĎThey did awful things to my sister too.í Who was Ďtheyí? I will never know precisely who Ďtheyí was, but I did know that Ďtheyí were responsible for my scarred body, mind and spirit. I was so overwhelmed by what I had said that the minute I was able to sit up I wrote my feelings down:-

ĎI felt as if I had to tell someone the truth, even if it was well over three decades too late. It was at that point that I realised that the reason why my mother told everyone I was warped, demented and mentally ill was because she wanted to cover up the truth. That was why my mother threw me out of the house the first opportunity that came along. She wanted to make it seem as if I was the problem. She didnít want anyone to know what she and/or her friends had done to me. That is why my mother and her friends said that I was mentally ill. She did not want anyone to know the truth. I had to tell people the truth, even if it was 40 years too late in another country.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

I could not stay in my bed. As soon as I was able to ge up, I got up and tried to be friendly to people and asked it I could go to the toilet. I couldnít tell the nurse that I could not stay in bed and couldnít go back to sleep because people did things to me when I was sleeping. I could not tell the nurse that when I was a child growing up with my mother that I never slept. I was always up at the crack of dawn. If I was up at the crack of dawn, then nobody could do anything to me.í

I wasnít the only person to suffer injuries in my motherís care, as my sister has a massive burn Marc on her stomach where she supposedly walked into a furnace. What is odd about this burn Marc is that it is a symmetrical circle. I would have supposed that if she had been burned, it would have been a bit more jagged, especially since it was supposed to have come from a furnace.

Although we were twins, my sister learned to cope with the neglect and/or abuse that we were experiencing in different ways. I turned what I was feeling inward, becoming a depressive, blaming myself for all the ills of this world. My twin, on the other hand, turned what she was feeling outward, becoming angry and at times quite spiteful over any actual or imagined wrong that she experienced. Both of us, experiencing quite traumatic events in our young lives, coped differently with what we never should have been expected to endure.

Even my grandmother, who considered herself to have such superior maternal qualities than that our own mother, was not without fault.

One summer morning, when I was no more than six, one of my cousins who was about six months older than me, ran around the yard saying Ďfuckerí. I had never heard such a thing in my life and not knowing that it was taboo, mimicked my cousin.

I ran into the room where my grandmother lie sleeping and bent down to pick something up. Having no idea in the world what the word even meant, I said Ďfuckerí in the same manner as my cousin.

ĎWhat did you say?í, my grandmother asked me in alarm?

ĎFucker,í I looked up at her quite innocently, having no idea in the world what was in store for me.

Although my grandmother was quite happy to sleep the day away in her bed, on this particular instance, she was out of her bed in what can only be described as a blind rage. Before I knew what was happening, my grandmother had instructed one of my cousins to go out an get a switch.

After my cousin brought my grandmother the switch, she gathered my brother, sister and three cousins in the room. When all the children had been properly assembled, they were forced to watch as my grandmother proceeded to repeatedly whip me with the switch until my back had black welts streaked all across it.

I do not recall the actual beating because I dissociated, which was my mindís way of leaving the scene of the crime whilst my body tolerated being violated in such an inhumane fashion by someone who supposed to love me. If my grandmother loved me so much, then why was she hurting me?

When the beating was over, my grandmother triumphantly threatened my cousins and siblings that the same thing would happen to them if they ever uttered the word Ďfuckerí ever again. Being brought up in a world where violence and cruelty was the norm, it never occurred to my grandmother that there are more reasonable ways to teach a child.

When I was eight and my mother married for the third time. She decided that she didnít want to pay my grandmother to look after us anymore and we were therefore sent back to her, although I do not recall having a say in the matter. My stepfather didnít want my motherís three children, he only wanted my mother, and this was made painfully clear to me from the onset.

My mother wasnít working because she had respiratory problems that required exploratory surgery to see if the problem was serious. The doctors told her that although they could not find anything wrong with my mother they told her that she has sensitive bronchial tubes. Thereafter, my mother suffered from chronic bronchitis, which everyone in the house was expected to compensate for.

Although I did not know it at the time, my sister informed me that my step-father received medical insurance from his work as a civil servant and he was in competition with one of his colleagues to see whose wife could spend the most money on doctorís fees. My mother therefore spent her free time going to endless doctors, claiming to have one illness after another.

The fact that my mother was a hypochondriac was not nearly so bad as the fact that she had a doctorís appointment scheduled at least once a week while her three children rarely, if ever, received any medical attention. Although I was instructed to put the name Dr Farris on any official documents, the fact is that I never met the man and can only recall seeing a doctor once until I was 18 and joined the United States Air Force. Since my mother rarely, if ever, thought of anyone other than herself, I learned early on that it was no use telling her when I was ill. When I didnít feel well, I would find a quite place to hide until whatever was making me sick subsided and I felt well enough to face the world. I became an adult despite my guardians, not because of them.

My stepfather, as it turns out, resented the burden of three step-children, which meant that there was no money available for even the simplest social activities, such as birthday parties. This was brought home to me when, upon presenting my mother with an invitation that I had been given to attend a birthday party, she told me that if I wanted to go, I would have to either give the child my dollar or my popcorn popper. Because it had been made painfully clear to me that my mother and/or stepfather were not prepared to go to the expense of purchasing a present for me to give to the neighbouring child, I did not attend the party or any other parties for that matter. After that incident when my mother and stepfather refused to spend money on my so I could attend a social function, I stopped asking her for things.

As a result of all the neglect and/or abuse I was experiencing at home, it was only a matter of time before my weight started to go up, up, up. Within a year of moving in with my mother and her new husband, I weighed at least 20 pounds more than what would be considered normal. This compulsive eating was brought about by my motherís rejection of me, which was typified by her calling me names, telling me that she didnít want me, and blaming me for just about every sin under the Sun.

When I was fat, my motherís displeasure was clearly evident. Even in preadolescence, my mother put me on fad diets in an attempt to make me shed the pounds that I had gained since I had been sent to live with her. I can recall in particular the rice and fruit diet that she put me on: I was forced to take rice and fruit to school to eat for my lunch, which I found to be a quite embarrassing thing to do amongst my peers.

Food was such a large part of my life that I had to ask permission for every morsel that I put into my mouth. I felt degraded by this and was being punished for not being the thin child that my mother wanted. My brother capitalised on this and would tell my mother whenever he caught me eating, if for no other reason than to get some sort of satisfaction out of seeing me in trouble. Such was the dysfunction in my family that the children would not even rally round and protect each other.

It is such a shame for my siblings and myself that my mother and stepfather decided early on in their marriage that they were not going to go out of their way to make sure that we had a well balanced diet. Every morning for breakfast I had a choice of corn flakes, corn flakes, or more corn flakes. My parents bought corn flakes because it was cheap, and I never had a say in what I would be given to eat. My lunch consisted of the same thing every day, a baloney sandwich that I had prepared myself. Again, my parents bought baloney because it was cheap. They, of course, dined on much more wholesome foods and didnít suffer the same health problems that their children did.

To be honest, I really donít understand why I had a weight problem at all because I really do not remember eating that much. If anything, I was undernourished. It doesnít seem to me that one can not get a great deal of nutrition from corn flakes and baloney sandwiches. It should therefore come as no surprise to find that whenever I was put in a situation where food was readily available, I would literally stuff myself, much to the amazement of onlookers.

No doubt, my health was affected by the lack of variety in my diet. My feelings are confirmed by the fact that my cousins, who were given a balanced diet and lots of love when they were growing up, tower over my by at least five inches. Even my twin, who was given slightly more privileges than me, is two inches taller than I am. During the duration of my teenage years, I was plagued by boils and other infections, and I feel that this was at least partly due to the fact that my parents never bothered to feed me properly. My parents, however, didnít want to take any responsibility for my health problems and told me that the reason why I was ill was because I was Ďdirtyí.

My father was completely unsympathetic about my weight problem and called me fat on countless occasions. His derisive attitude spread onto my brother and cousins, who always made me feel even worse about the problem. In my family, if one was fat, they were not worthy of any kind of courtesy and degraded repeatedly in the hopes that they would conform to social pressure and suddenly become svelte.

On one occasion my stepfather lashed out at me for asking my grandfather to bring me some candy from the service station where he worked. No doubt, my mother and stepfather were very embarrassed about the fact that the children who they were responsible for were begging for food. The following day my stepfather came home with a bag of candy and told me to never, ever ask my grandfather for food again. My grandfather must have said something that my stepfather didnít like because he was clearly very angry with me. The message was clear. I wasnít even allowed to ask my grandparents for food because they might start to find out about the awful world that my siblings and I had been put into.

When I was 13 years old we moved out of the double-wide trailer that my mother owned into a large house atop six acre hill. It was also about this time that my mother had become acquainted with a group of single women who may or may note have had lesbJon inclinations. It was at this time that my mother declared that since she had to give up her childhood for her children, she was going to go out and relive it. My mother conveniently forgot that although she had children at a young age, she still went out and did whatever she wanted to do with little regard for her childrenís welfare, which was no doubt why her children were such emotional wrecks and had so many behavioural problems.

From the age of 13 onwards, I only saw my mother about once a week because she felt that her children were just cramping her style. So rare was it for my mother to be home when I arrived from school, when I was 14 I was totally amazed to come home and find my mother making a pot roast. When I asked her what she was doing home so early on a weekday, she replied that she thought it would be nice to fix her children dinner. With the exception of that one incident, I subsisted on mainly whatever groceries my stepfather decided to buy and put in the refrigerator.

By the time I was 16, I had experienced more trauma and abuse than any child should have to endure, and was therefore already living away from home, which was just fine with my mother, who never wanted me anyway. From the age of 16 to 18, I lived in fear that the police would come and get me and make me go home to suffer more hell. I was still in total denial and thought that my mother actually cared about what I was up to. The fact is that my mother plain and simply didnít want me at home because she could have taken legal action to get me back if that is what she wanted.

When I turned 18 I had a General Education Diploma (GED) and no career prospects other than standing behind a counter at McDonalds or K-Mart. I therefore allowed a friend to talk me into joining the United States Air Force, which I knew was a mistake even at the onset. Before I could join, though, I had to lose weight, which somehow I managed to achieve.

Considering my previous life experiences, it is not surprising that I would chose to take up a vocation because it is a well known fact that people from dysfunctional backgrounds are attracted to the armed forces, thereby giving them a sense of belonging that they would not have otherwise have had. It is for that reason that the armed forces tend to actively recruit in areas of social deprivation, which is where they enlist many of their service members.

The day that I flew out of Little Rock, Arkansas to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas was another disappointment. Although I had phoned my mother and let her know that I was leaving to join the Air Force, she never even bothered to go to the airport to see me off. That said it all, really. Everyone else was surrounded by their loved ones, wishing them well on the adventure they were going on, and I was all on my own. My mother could not even be asked to pick up my pay-check from my former employer and send it to me, which is just one of many examples of how low I was on her list of priorities.

The entire time that I was in the Air Force seemed to be a constant battle with my weight. I was always struggling to keep my weight down to the prescribed 138 pounds and at one time was even put on the weight control programme. At a little over 150 pounds, I was classified as obese, which upset me immensely.

Based on my childhood history of being taunted and humiliated, and made to feel like a second class citizen because I didnít meet the ideal, svelte sex symbol typical of our era, it really isnít surprising that I would enter into a profession that would continue to encourage my feelings of self-loathing just because my dress size might be a little larger than what would be considered normal.

This obsession with food didnít end with my job, however, as it also became a very significant part of my personal relationships. Almost all of the men who I became involved with made derogatory comments to me about my weight, and in particular, made reference to my big stomach. I was therefore accustomed to being put down because I didnít look like one of those tall, thin models who appear in glossy magazines, and this belief was reinforced by the men and women who I chose to become acquainted with.

The fact is that the military is not an ideal environment to forge lasting relationships because, aside from the fact that it is an organisation that condones violence, aggression, death and destruction to achieve its goals, it is a highly transient society. For the most part, a person could expect to spend no more than four years at any given assignment, which is not conducive to settling down and establishing roots. As a consequence, as soon as a person meets someone he or she likes, it is time to move on to pastures anew. The separation anxieties and attachment disorders that develop in the military are astounding because there is little or not possibility for a person to become attached to someone on a long-term basis. It is also worth noting that a very large percentage of homeless people are ex-military, which says a lot about how the institution turns seemingly normal people into dysfunctional beings who are unable to function in modern society.

Because the military is such a transient sub-culture, many people in the armed forces have a tendency to marry in haste, only to later discover that they are really not compatible with the person who they previously had felt that they could not live without.

* * *

When I began my relationship with Jeff, I had been conditioned to be a classic enabler. Throughout our relationship, he pretty much did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. His attitude was that if I didnít like it, I could just lump it. For my part, the idea of being in no relationship at all was even more appalling than being in a bad relationship, so I stuck in there, hoping that one day this frog would miraculously transform into a prince, the man of my dreams.

What ultimately broke us up was my weight, but we had an on again, off again relationship for a period of about nine months before the final split. During this time I had begun a mild flirtation with Jon, hoping that if I broke up with Jeff, I would have someone else to fall back on. I was filled with such self-loathing that I felt so unworthy of love that any boyfriend was better than no boyfriend at all.

As with practically all military love affairs, Jeff received a posting, and in his case it was back to the UK. Missing him desperately, I took a weekís leave during the Thanksgiving holiday to visit him. My visit with Jeff was a disaster from beginning to end. He had just recently bought a new house and a new car, both of which he couldnít afford. Because he didnít have any money, he expected me, his Ďrichí American girlfriend, to foot the bill for everything. Since I was so used to paying for everything anyway, I bought all of the groceries and even some of the major household appliances, dismissing any reservations I may have had about his inability to manage money. In addition to the fact that Jeff saw my bank balance as a bottomless pit, we fought like cats and dogs, and I packed my bags to leave on more than one occasion.

When I came back to the Netherlands after my week of hell, Jeff decided that he was going to punish me for not being exactly what he wanted. He told me that he didnít want to spend Christmas with me, which completely broke my heart. Armed with the knowledge that the man I loved didnít even think enough of me to spend Christmas with me, I made the very difficult decision to break up with Jeff. If he didnít want to spend the holidays with me, then what future did we have?

My Christmas was a dismal experience and I was one to the most pathetic souls to walk the face of the earth. I was so upset that I lost a tremendous amount of weight, which was probably the only positive thing to come out of my split with Jeff.

It was, however, during that Christmas period that I was speaking to T, a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army, who told me that Jon was just crazy about me. To be honest, I didnít even know who Jon was, but in my despair at no longer having a significant other in my life, I was intrigued and therefore decided to find out more about this individual who was supposedly crazy about me. It wasnít, however, until well after the Christmas holiday had passed until I was able to get a glimpse of Jon. Although I was not aware of it, Jon had gone to the States for Christmas to visit his girlfriend, whose name also happened to be Krystal.

This lapse in contact, however, was just long enough time for Jeff to wheedle his way back into my life. Jeff and his friend had booked a skiing holiday and he decided that he would conveniently drop my belongings off at my house on the way. This served a dual purpose, as he and his friend had free accommodation going to and coming back from their holiday in southern Germany.

When Jeff came to deliver my things, I suppose that because I was lonely and vulnerable, I let him back into my life. He spent the night with me on the way to his skiing holiday and spent the night coming back. Our reunion, however, wasnít without difficulties because he took offence to the fact that I had given his friend a Tarot reading. Jeff wanted absolutely nothing to do with the esoteric arts and used ridicule and derision to try to get me to conform and not study it. So embarrassed was he of my studying Astrology, Tarot and Numerology, that he told everyone that I was interested in Science Fiction, which is a completely different subject altogether.

Shortly after the Christmas holidays, I ran into Jon at the base gym. Even though I didnít like to exercise, I tried to put forth the effort to work out at the gym in the belief that it would help me to be slim, trim and beautiful. This encounter at the gym was probably the first proper conversation that I had ever had with Jon.

Practically the first words to come out of Jonís mouth were, ĎI have a houseí. That should have told me volumes about where his priorities lie, which was property and prosperity.

Having said that, practically the first words out of my mouth were, ĎIím writing a book.í That should have told him volumes about where my priorities lie, which was truth and knowledge.

Shortly after Jon uttered those infamous words to me, he finished what he was doing on the exercise bike and left. I suppose that even then I didnít possess the qualities that would totally captivate a man like Jon and keep him interested for any length of time.

Any image consultant will tell you that first impressions count. The first five minutes of meeting a person are probably the most important five minutes of the duration of any relationship. Jon had set a precedent by letting me know that he had a house and that house was very important to him. I had also set a precedent when I told Jon that I was writing a book, which was very important to me. Both of us had very strong feelings about completely different things. Although I wasnít aware of it at that very crucial stage in the development of our relationship, what we both found to be important were at cross-purposes with one another.

* * *

Even though Jeff and I were technically back together, because he was living in another country across a channel of water, it was difficult for us to actually be together. It was for that reason that I allowed myself to flirt with Jon whenever the opportunity arose. One Friday night during Carnival, a friend and I went to Club 13 to join in on the celebrations. Secretly, I had hoped that Jon would be there so we could get together because I had already tired of having a long distance relationship with Jeff.

That evening I kept an eye out for Jon, but he wasnít to cross my path. I therefore felt that our meeting wasnít to be because every time I had surreptitiously sought him out, he was unavailable. It would be many months before I was to learn this, but Jon was at Club 13 that evening. He had, however, made the acquaintance of a young Captain in the United States Air Force, who was just as hungry for love as I was and who quite possibly had just as low a self-esteem.

* * *

Shortly after I had given up smoking, I was invited to Kuchenhof to see the flower gardens in April 1993 by a friend who I worked with. Jon was invited as well, but I wasnít made aware of this until my friend, Paz, came to me and informed me that she would be riding with Jon. Since she didnít want to be alone with him, she asked me if I would ride in the car with them. I didnít understand why Paz didnít want to be alone with Jon and assumed that it might have something to do with a sense of modesty on her part, and therefore agreed.

On the day that we went to Kuchenhof, Paz sat in the front seat, chatting to Jon, while I sat in the back. Although Paz had never before expressed it, I had assumed that she would have wanted to date Jon since she made sure that she sat in the front seat with him and not in the back.

Paz chatted away with Jon. She told him about her divorce and Jon told her about his first marriage. I just listened. Paz commented to Jon that one of the things that she did not like about her husband was the fact that he used his money for himself while she was expected to go to work and use her money to pay all the bills.

Jon responded by telling Paz that in his marriage, his wife left him because they had separate banking accounts. Paz and I both did not dispute what Jon said, but upon reflection, there must have been more to the split than that. A woman just doesnít leave her husband because they have separate checking accounts.

While we were seeing the sights of Kuchenhof, Jon approached and made small talk. I didnít, however, take it seriously because I was still involved in my long-distance relationship with Jeff. At the end of the evening, Jon dropped me off at my house. He didnít ask to come in and I didnít invite him. Although it would be several months for me to discover this, Jon had told Kim, the woman he was seeing at the time, that he was spending the weekend with the Ďboysí. That night, alone in our respective beds, I phoned Jeff and Jon phoned Kim.

* * *

During this time, Jeff had made another visit to see me. When he saw me, instead of being happy, he was appalled that I had gained a few pounds. The weight gain, incidentally, was brought about because I had quit smoking to please him. Jeff had always treated me badly and gleaned a sort of perverse pleasure out of punishing me for any sins that I may or may not have committed.

I had never quite resolved my conscious of Jeffís inability to keep within his budget, and when he went to the car showrooms looking to purchase a new motor even though he had just bought one a year before, I was very concerned. Because I had already spent so much money of Jeff, he naturally assumed that I would buy him a new car with my savings, which is not something that I was prepared to do. Jeffís inability to manage his finances, coupled with his insulting comments to me about my Ďbig stomachí, were what nailed the coffin lid shut onto our relationship. It was during that visit that we decided that we would part company.

Before Jeff said goodbye to me for the last time, however, he made a point of cleaning my house out of any items that he thought he might need. I allowed him to take whatever he wanted, but was disgusted by his mercenary attitude toward our relationship. I suppose that he only saw me as a meal ticket to be used and exploited.

* * *

In the military the two things that are really cheap are cigarettes and booze. This seems to be an apparent contradiction because on the one hand the military is claiming to want lean, mean fighting machines, and on the other it is practically giving away extremely unhealthy, if not toxic, consumables to its members.

My theory is that the military wants its members to be slim so they will look good in their uniforms. Although they are expected to be physically fit, this can be easily accomplished because the majority of its members retire before their 40th birthday, just before the damage of a life of drinking, smoking and hard living have begun to take their toll on the body. With any luck, after a 20-year stint of a rigorous physical regime, combined with a lifestyle of heavy smoking and drinking, an individualís life expectancy will drastically reduce and thus alleviate the need to pay out monthly retirement cheques for several decades. Unfortunately, many service members donít give much thought to such conspiracy theories when socialising with their peers in their 20ís and 30ís, which is before the physical effects of their lifestyle begin to set in.

Keeping in mind that cigarettes were so cheap, I could smoke as many as I was physically capable of ingesting without making myself ill. I therefore managed to smoke anywhere between 25 and 50 Belinda cigarettes a day. I literally chained smoked one cigarette after another. I quite often became nauseated because I was poisoning my body with tar, nicotine and all of those other harmful substances that are put into cigarettes. Although I was able to keep my weight down to about 130 pounds for the most part, I had merely swapped compulsive eating for compulsive smoking, which was doing significantly more damage to my body than I would have done if I had been a few pounds overweight. With this in mind, at the age of 32, I decided that I would quit smoking because I was already experiencing respiratory problems.

In March 1993 I enrolled at the Stop Smoking Clinic at Geilenkirchen Air Base, and somehow managed not to smoke with the help of nicotine patches. I had decided not to take any time off work and subsequently made my colleagueís lives hell in the process, which no doubt served to alienate me from them. I also gained at least 20 pounds because I ate to fill the void that had been left by my abstinence from smoking.

* * *

During one of the few conversations that I had with Jon, he revealed that he was going to be getting a new computer, a Gateway, which was at the cutting edge of technology. He also commented that he was going to be getting it through Ďfriendsí. Silly me. I never bothered to enquire as to who those Ďfriendsí might be. Months later, I was to learn that the Ďfriendí that Jon referred to was Kim, the woman who he had been seeing. Jon had talked her into buying the computer on her credit card, and he agreed to pay her back in monthly instalments. I suppose that her self-esteem was so low that she allowed herself to be talked into such a scheme even though she must have undoubtedly had reservations.

Jon was somewhat of a sports fanatic and spent a lot of time working out at the gym or going for runs with his colleagues. This lifestyle, however, is not unusual for military personnel because they are expected to maintain a certain body weight, pass periodical fitness tests, and of course, look good in their uniforms.

The base gym had many facilities and one of them was a massage service. One of the first things that Jon told me about the massage service was that he had failed to keep his appointments. He didnít, I would like to add, have the courtesy to phone in and cancel his appointment, thereby leaving the masseuse out of pocket for an hourís work. When Jon found out that he would have to pay for the massages that he missed, he was somewhat upset and stopped going to the masseuse altogether. This incident may seem minor in itself, but it indicates a lack of forethought and respect for other people, a personality characteristic that I should have picked up from day one.

After I had broken up with Jeff, I made it my business to get to know Jon. I had decided that we had spent quite enough time playing cat and mouse, and I wasnít going to waste another minute on that game. The reason for this is because many years earlier I had found that getting another boyfriend straightaway was the best way of getting over a failed relationship. My self esteem was so warped that I could not bear the thought of being alone, on my own. I had to get another boyfriend, and fast.

After about a week of intense bombardment, even I was close to giving up on establishing a rapport with Jon. Even though I was as friendly and charming as I could possibly be, he still didnít seem to be responding to my attempts at getting to know him better.

I was so confused about what was going on that I decided to consult the Tarot. Even though one is not supposed to, I asked the Tarot the same questions over and over again. To my confusion, the Page of Wands kept coming up in almost every reading. I had no idea who or what the Page of Wands could represent. The fact of the matter is that I was reading into the cards only what I wanted to read, which is a very common problem when people attempt to read for themselves.

Even a mediocre Tarot reader would be able to see that Page of Wands corresponded to a young person, probably a woman, who was either an Aries, Leo or Sagittarius. I should have been able to see and hear what the cards were screaming out, but I was afflicted with a self-imposed blindness to see and deafness to hear the truth.

After about a week of high anxiety, wondering if Jon would ask me out, my nerves were on edge. I was almost at the verge of throwing in the towel and looking for another conquest. I have a very short attention span and feel that no man is worth waiting indefinitely for.