She reached out to me. I was still in Hawaii climbing up mountainsides and listening to lawnmowers and the neighbors shouting at night, not quite relaxed but allowing myself the rental car. I had my profile up but didn’t know why. Was I preparing for an interesting landing when I got home? Part of it was the little thrill in seeing who would pop up. Maybe another part was to be sure I had something interesting to ensure my return.
She asked me if I had any green shirts. My pictures had me in the other two primary colors. I read her profile, about the mountain climbing and the horses, and said I was intimidated by girls that could beat me up. She said not to worry, that she wasn’t into that. She was surprised, but thought it was funny. Her writing was quick, the working of a fast mind that connected things and closed on them like a steel trap: lightning jokes, flashing asides. She liked reading this blog.
Our first phone call was a relief, maybe moreso for her. You don’t know how many guys can’t do conversation. You pass. She told me about getting away from her parents, her father screwing up her scholarship to a good school, running off to Vermont with friends from where she’d been isolated. Her father threatened to euthanize her horse if she didn’t come back. Hearing her channel her furious young adult self reminded me of how angry I was then, how much I wanted to get away from where I was, from whatever great promise stared down its barrel at me. We talked on weekends to conserve my precious minutes, listening through my cheap Bluetooth earpiece and marveling that the sound went through the air and through cables three time zones over to her, where it was already dark. Driving back from Kona she told me her father saw no reason for her to get a car, out in the middle of New England nowhere: her dates would drive her. In the present, looking back to the Eighties, was tinged with funny.
I first saw her in the flesh in the Alaska Junction, across the street. I was on the Easy Street Records side, hoping I wasn’t late, looking, and seeing her red hair. She waved. She was casual with a calm, maybe guarded, radiance, in torn jeans. I don’t remember who crossed to whom, but I remember the voice matching. It felt…good. It felt uncontrived. Messages and phone calls help, but there is the moment of truth everyone speaks about, where there is only the reality of right there. There it was, right there.
There was a bar a couple doors down and we went in. I had been looking at houses and my phone was all but dead, and she’d come from where she lived nearby and brought an iPod charger. Even then our Yankee utility revealed itself, or provided the needed excuse. That my phone declared the charger unacceptable was irrelevant, perhaps even required. We shared our non-alcoholic drinks without meaning to prove to each other we didn’t drink. The conversation continued like it had on the phone and over email, I think about her work and what neighborhoods I was checking. When she excused herself I allowed myself to watch, maybe one of the few times I have thought to do that. She was strong, but not overbuilt, slender but not wiry, not short, just more girl height. She moved really well.
As the sun set we moved outside, walking the block, settling on a bench in a little pocket park. She seemed sure, happy, voluble. I was happy to talk to her–not excited, not really, but breathing steadily, present, there in a way I hadn’t been since maybe going to school in Boston (where she’d also spent several years), relaxed, maybe satisfied. It wasn’t something I’ve felt very often. I don’t think I’d ever felt it with a female. It got dark and she had work in the morning. She gave me a hug and I felt how warm she was, and solid. She had a gentle, warm, floral smell.
We met a few more times, near her in West Seattle, since she was the one who had to get up early. On a walk to Alki she kept bumping my arm and I kept excusing myself and moving away a little. She finally took my hand in hers and gave me a little yank closer. She figured I’d get the hint. Back at the car she pulled me over and kissed me. She said something telling then, something about wanting that and needing to know if I would kiss her back, and if it would be any good, but I really don’t remember anything but her eyes and the dusk, my surprise and that I wasn’t at all afraid. We both laughed about it.
This was August in the unreal time, Hawaii echoing in everything I did. Having my own car back, living with the cat in a friend’s house, sitting in front of the computer doing paperwork seemed unreal, and a different flavor than any I could remember. We texted, met for dinner, went for walks in West Seattle, by the water for its surprising coolness. I used her fax machine for real estate business; she made dinner sometimes, having taught herself from trips to the library when she was out of work. I liked being there, being close to her.
I caused some friction. It felt like what I had experienced with my ex: things being wrong with no understanding on my part, some mistake made I apologized for and said I would try harder to avoid if she would help me, warn me. She had a laugh, a diminutive, fading trail of sound she’d end after her voice went up, and I could never tell if her serious point was the turn of a joke. She was meticulous, planned, used to herself and her ways, having been by herself for years. She’d been hurt badly before. One night on the couch she held me off and said she really, really wanted it to work. Maybe it was my fault for pushing but we both agreed how good holding each other felt.
She was fired. She called and wanted reassurance. Just don’t say everything will be all right, she said at one point, and I said it. Why did you say what I asked you not to? It felt like before, when things were all wrong, which was most of the time.
She foreshadowed: we’d be a great match but the timing is wrong, you’re too soon out of your divorce, I’ve been by myself too long. I improved my date planning and she was grateful. She was upset about my having been in her house more than the one I didn’t have, so when I got the keys I took her over. I bought her a little stuffed horse for her birthday and she appreciated the gesture of trying to make up for historically crappy birthdays and making her cry about her horse, but seemed uncomfortable to be given gifts. She seemed to be convincing me that it was too good to be true. Maybe it was.
Some of it may be the desire to fix and help, which I am told is both naturally male and a sign of the codependent. She felt her firing had been unjustified and she had been replaced by someone younger for the exact same job. I asked another friend for a lawyer reference and she blew her top. That was intrusive. I was risking revealing her hand–she’s worked with lots of lawyers and can’t go talking to just anybody. She said things that I interpreted as not wanting to talk for a while. I called a week later and she was upset I hadn’t reached out to her during the week. I said I was giving her space. She was silent.
This is October. There were a few brief friendly emails. She said she was thinking of me. In November I wished her happy Thanksgiving. She responded quickly and without interest: going to gym before a friend’s house for dinner. On Christmas, I didn’t send her an email.
These pictures are from a Mount Rainier hike we took in September. I asked her for them a month ago, and she sent me none with her in them.
It was a gorgeous day in the way Pacific Northwest summers are: startlingly clear with a clean light, an unoppressive warmth like a sheet from the dryer. One of the reasons she liked me, she said, was because I liked to do things. It had been a while since she had been out here. It was ideal.
This is from the highest point we reached. We walked through last winter’s snow to get there, a lot of up along a steep, crumbling cliff. Out of practice and a little dizzy, parts were more harrowing than I expected. We stopped at a rock and climbed it, sat, took pictures, ate cookies. It wasn’t very long, and parts were more picturesque than others. At the end we turned around, tired, back to the same jobs, but in the future. It was a trail I had never been on before, and I was glad to go. I am glad for all of it, able to see a certain beauty now.