About seven months ago…
After dinner, we both got up and went to the restroom before going out to the car. While our conversation had been easy, for the most part — imagine spending an entire day with someone you barely know and never feeling awkward or running out of things to talk about and allowing silence to be comfortable — there was something more. My mind and my body and my heart were all engaged, as though every cell in my body was at attention. Against all expectations and odds, despite his hang-dog expression and hunched posture, I was feeling alive in a way that I hadn’t felt in a very long time in the presence of this man.
I carefully checked myself in the mirror, re-applied lip gloss and emerged to find Chi-guy waiting for me. He seemed to be a bit reserved; perhaps his impeccable manners, respect for me or broken-hearted insecurity were getting in the way of what could happen…I felt compelled to take action to let him know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was prepared to follow through on every flirtatious text, email or phone conversation we’d shared. I leaned toward him and gently kissed his lips.
He recoiled, seemingly taken aback.
“That was nice,” I said awkwardly, trying to recover.
“What was nice?” he asked, confused.
“Dinner was nice. I really enjoyed it.”
And we proceeded to the car. I tried to regain the lightness we had enjoyed earlier and mentioned the possibility of one of those rooftop bars he had mentioned or the condo he had recently moved into. He was noncommittal.
We drove in silence for a few minutes before he began haltingly, “You know how we’ve been flirting…”
“Yeah,” I said, “I’m interested in you.”
“The thing is, I like you.”
“I like you, too,” I said, excited to think we might be on the same page after all.
“But aren’t you afraid things are going to change?” he asked.
My mind began to cloud with confusion and my thoughts and words and what he was saying all jumbled together. I don’t think I ever managed to express that things had already changed, simply by his having said that.
I foolishly recounted the tale of my first post-marriage experience, in an effort to illustrate that we could be adults, both wounded but meeting on common ground, and that we could share something neither meaningless nor too meaningful…
We were now across the street from my hotel. We sat in the car for a few minutes talking, both of us inarticulately fumbling for a way to adequately express what we were thinking and feeling or the points we were trying to make.
“But what about next time you’re in town?” he asked. “What happens then?”
“We do it again!” I exclaimed, smiling broadly at the thought.
- We liked each other — and it seemed we had for some time.
- We weren’t in high school; being 40-something and divorced had bought us some hard-earned freedoms, namely not having to play “hard-to-get” games. After all, we’d both been married and had children — we no longer had virginity nor innocence to protect.
- Neither of us was in a place to consider getting into a relationship. We could both be mature enough to be friends and lovers without jeopardizing the friendship.
- We had a window of opportunity in which neither of us was in a relationship, and I would be traveling to Chicago twice more in the next several weeks. We could view these circumstances as a gift.
- He was reading “The Road Less Traveled” and trying to do the right thing or be a better person or something — my mind could just not absorb the meaning of this at that moment.
- He was still technically married and had never been unfaithful to his wife.
- He’d met a woman recently who, when he explained his current life situation, had given him her number and said, “Call me when your divorce is final.” He found this refreshingly mature.* (What did that say about what he was thinking of me at that very moment?)
- He told me the story about another woman — part of a married couple he knew — who had kissed him at a party. When he pushed her away she said, “I’m afraid I’m losing my moral compass.” He didn’t want to feel that way.
- He told me he was “not really very big.” What?! Did he really just say that?! As if I could possibly have cared about his size! I am not the woman who believes bigger is always better, and I believed that this man was more than capable of satisfying me.
- He told me that he was not a terribly strong-willed man and suggested that, if I were really determined, he might be swayed. But I had already put my cards on the table; I would not further embarrass myself by pleading or groveling. I had no interest in going to bed with a man who needed to be talked into it.
We were at an impasse. Chi-guy got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, opened my door and held out his hand. He led me across the street to my hotel, said, “There’s not much to recommend me right now,” and told me about the first time we’d met: “When I first saw you, I thought you were the most vibrantly sexy woman I’d ever seen.”
At this, my bullshit detector was going off wildly, because a) Eva Mendes exists and b) well, what more do I need to say?
He went on to tell me how surprised he’d been when I’d stepped away from that cocktail table and he could see for the first time that I was pregnant, and how he’d nursed a crush on me for some time. I listened, acknowledging neither what I’d thought upon our first meeting nor that I’d seen his jaw drop nor known of his crush. Within a few moments, he hugged me, planted a chaste kiss on my cheek and bid me goodnight.
Dumbfounded, I pushed my way through the revolving door back into my hotel.
*With little introspection, I can easily concede that this is the mature and proper perspective to have, particularly if one is single and has not been through the long, painful, lonely and arduous task of dissolving one’s primary relationship. For those of us who have, we know that, oftentimes, a marriage is well and truly over long before the final paperwork is signed.