September 28, 2006
The Missing Link
Steve sat across the table from me – his eyes sparkling from sudden realization and a little too much wine. His arm was extended, his finger pointing. “You think that I gave up?”
He had achieved the perfect smirk.
I could feel my cheeks flush, my eyes narrow, my arm rise, my finger point back, “You mean you think that I gave up?”
We stared for a bit.
Then I grabbed the corkscrew, another bottle of wine, the dessert and headed for the living room…and he followed.
I knew my life had just shifted – like an earthquake had just passed through the kitchen.
All because of a lost email.
A few weeks before that dinner, our very excellent friendship took a strange, vortexed dive into the weird world of email flirtation. He admits now he was the big, dirty slut who started it all (his words, not mine). But only because, he claims, I must have “meant something” when I emailed him and signed it with just an “n”. I didn’t…but it’s kind of a spurious denial now.
This needs perspective. I am still living down my reputation as an oblivious non-flirter. I was single for four years. My friend Bill told me he was going to pay to have my radar fixed, because something was obviously very wrong. I NEVER noticed when someone noticed me.
When I did stumble into flirtation – I lived up to my obliviousness: I emailed one guy I liked a downright lascivious invitation to “keep in touch”. I was so proud of how forward I was. I never heard from him again.
My friends, those so-called graces of mine, nearly peed their pants. I still hear that story.
So falling in love has a lot to do with good fortune. Because in my case it almost didn’t happen.
Steve and I met through one of my best friends, one of the graces in my life, Carol. She and Steve had been college buddies. They had become rock climbing partners after losing touch for a bit, and we started hanging out.
Steve walked into the pub the first time I met him, and smiled. His smile lit me up. He’s the kindest person I have ever met, one of the most compassionate, and has a sense of humour that chokes us all…and he used all that to get through a hard time.
He was coming out of a long-term relationship – and since Carol and I have both been there, we understood the emotional landslide.
Then, after a winter-long road trip through North America and into Mexico he came home to climb back into his new life.
The emails started about a month later. And as we sneaked toward my birthday at the beginning of May, he offered to cook me dinner. Before we knew it, we were debating the merits of various super villain costumes and how good showers are.
I didn’t take him seriously – because my radar is, as I’ve said, extremely off track. Besides, I kept saying – IT’S STEVE.
Then after a flurry of furious, very lusty typing – he suddenly stopped.
He simply wrote one night that: “he had a visitor coming.” Didn’t know what that meant…but it stopped.
I was certain I had been wrong, misread it all, couldn’t flirt to save my life…See?
And so it went for the next week – we dove back to the fringes of friendship and just agreed on the mundane details of scheduling the dinner and where it would be and who would be cooking and what time it should be.
My stomach fluttered when he arrived. I felt foolish and embarrassed and worked at being normal. He showed up on his motorcycle with a smile and a dinner already cooked. He had planned a menu he could pack into the paniers on the back of the bike.
He walked in with: a chilled bottle of champagne, homemade guacamole and bread to start, curried shrimp and spinach on rice, homemade na’an bread, homemade raita for the main, and homemade apple turnovers for dessert. He was wearing the closest thing he could find to an Indian shirt…all because I love Indian food.
And he prepped it all while I was writing (on deadline).
Then we ate. It was beautiful. As we finished up the last of the main course, I got up to open another bottle of wine. And I tested the water – dipped my toe in… “So we never concluded whose Catwoman costume was the best…”
And he said, “Yes we did. Julie Newmar. I said so in the next email. You got that one right? Because my computer crashed right after I pressed….”
He paused. He smirked, and pointed, “You think that I gave up.”
I pointed back at him and we stared at each other for a long time. My radar was working fine.
He never really left. Even though he’d just rented an apartment and furnished it.
He explained that because I hadn't answered the "missing" email, he figured he'd offended me, gone too far...tested the limits. So he backed off and looked at the dinner as a friendship salvation mission.
Five weeks later, down in a park that juts out into Lake Ontario, on the first day of summer, we went out on an actual "first date". (He even left a voicemail, introducing himself and asking me out and said his friend Carol had said we should meet...)
He sat on a log, I sat on the ground leaning on his legs, and he said he wanted to marry me. And I said I wanted to marry him. Then I told him, he hadn't actually asked me. So he did.
I pulled out a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot I had bought just in case (since my radar was by now, so polished, I sensed what was coming). Then I did a happy dance on the rocks – the wind blowing with me, the sun dancing in and out of the white clouds, the cormorants skimming along the surface of the waves.
There was no existential hesitation. It was an instinctive reaction, a gut feeling, a crazy, impetuous, underthought life change. It was soooo unlike me.
I was so happy.
I’ve lived with Steve now for two years – well, 2 ½. We work together in the same room everyday: our office by day, our living room by night.
About six months into the marriage I realized how lucky I’d been. We had learned more about each other – knew more about our moods, our needs, our habits…I felt richer and luckier. We are good partners.
We share cooking duties – and love cooking together. We talk. We lean on each other. We push and challenge each other. Then we talk some more. And I’ve learned to keep saying I love you out loud and often – because I now know how rare it is.
So this weekend we’ll be celebrating 2 years of fixed radar, lost and found emails, and I think we have enough imagination to leave out the catwoman suit. I never knew how rich life could be.