I remember that first date – a blind date – after 20-something e-mails and a 2-hour phone conversation. He drove up to my house in a green convertible, the top down, the dog in the back seat. He got out of the car, smiled behind dark glasses. A good-looking guy, not my usual type, but chivalrous, confident, and all smiles. He opened the door for me. I felt nervous. We talked nervously on the drive to Napa, the wind in our hair, it was hot, even on the freeway with the top down. We talked, and talked, and slowly got more comfortable with each other. There was the nice dinner in the French bistro in Yountville, the flowers and chocolates. This was an old-fashioned man, but only old-fashioned in the way I like – all generous attention, with grown-up goals and a grown-up life behind him, with sadness and joy freely expressed, but without possessiveness, arrogance, or judgment. He told me he wanted to know all about me. Later, he told me he knew from that day that we would be together,
I wasn’t so sure. At the Police concert, afterwards, I drove home and he stopped me in the parking lot as I was driving away, down on one knee, and told me he wanted to kiss me. Maybe it was the champagne talking. But I told him I wasn’t ready. I drove away, watching him in my rearview mirror.
At my birthday party, I watched him watch me. There was something about him – what was it? In a photo of the birthday crowd, he was there in the background, watching me with a strange combination of intensity and calm. Strangely sexy. When his friend got locked in the bathroom and it took three guys an hour to realize they couldn’t un-jam the door, he took control and kicked it down. The next day he came over with bloody maries and an omelette pan, fixed the door, then made me breakfast.
He was going to Burning Man, so I came by to help fix the food. He showed me how to efficiently chop an onion. We worked in the kitchen like we had been born to work together.
I told him I’d be his when I took his hand. He told me his hand would be there any time I wanted to take it.
Then the dinner – he's a trained chef – and the wine and I couldn’t drive home but didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in his bed. So he gave me a Dan Marino football jersey to wear, that fit me like a dress five sizes too big, and I slept on the couch with the dog. Or didn’t sleep, actually. In the morning, a Friday, he made me coffee and we sat on the couch and talked about books. We kept pushing back the time we needed to be at work. We walked the dog in the park, and I did it – I took his hand. And we kept walking as if it was the most natural thing in the world. And we sat on a park bench, looking at the water, and we kissed. And checked in at work, to tell them we wouldn’t be in that day.
Then he was off to Burning Man. I went to Grass Valley, a solo trip, and from Reno, he called several times a day to tell me he was thinking of me. The sweat dripped down my back, as I sat on a wall under a pine tree, and heard his words and felt his love, and I missed him so much, but it was a beautiful feeling, to miss a man I loved who loved me.
Within weeks of knowing each other, we made plans to travel to Florida for a week, where he grew up, so he could show me the Florida keys. We drove up to Mendocino in his crotchety old van to collect driftwood for facing for the bathroom he was installing, stayed in a crummy dog-friendly hotel right on the freeway, got popped by the local cops, but got out of it, as he's wont to do. On the way back, me driving, we stopped on the shoulder of the road, overlooking the fierce ocean, and he held me with tears in his eyes, telling me he was so glad to have found me. Told me I was the woman he'd been waiting for his whole life.
There was lots more – the drama with his best friend – a woman – who wanted to be with him and stopped talking to him after we got together. The complications of old friendships, the disappointments, the needs not met, the old stuff that comes up, the marriage that wasn’t quite ended. And our love that seemed to grow and grow, within three months came up against obstacles it couldn’t overcome. The talk of love and a future, yet the past coming back and back, to haunt us, not quite ready to leave the stage. My need for solitude with my love, his need for social time, my insecurities, his need to hang on, my uncomplicated life, his complex one, and then, as usually happens, the purity of love being sullied time and again with emotion, bad decisions, resentment, things we both wish we could take back. Then the pain, such pain, a different agony than the agony of missing someone you love. The agony of seeing your love and dreams fading.
And now? The love and the truth, the pain and the ambivalence, all intertwined and inseparable. A decision that must be made, and we know what decision that is, but I, at least, rationalizing how not to go there. How to have what we had, back then, though I know we can never go back. But I want to, so badly. To be in that place of uncomplicated love again, when we thought the future was there waiting for us.
I’m sorry, S, for everything I did wrong. I wish you and I all happiness, love, calm, and peace. We were meant to meet, and I’ll always remember that first sight of you, driving up to my door, the top down, all smiles behind dark glasses. I love you.