October 30, 1999
It's A Romance

 


 
The first time I saw David -- one year ago today -- my heart sank.

I had just spent a grueling twelve hours traveling from Oregon to California to finally meet my pal, DRaftervoi@aol.com. This included two and a half hours' worth of bus ride on a creaky Tri-Met bus, from the Tree House to downtown Portland to PDX ... several miles of lugging my suitcases through assorted airport terminals and city streets ... a couple of hours sitting at the Portland Airport, reading People Magazine and drinking sour vending machine coffee ... one hour and forty-three minutes (and 586 miles) in the air ... culminating in another forty anxious minutes sitting at the Oakland Airport, waiting for my pal DRaftervoi@aol.com to SHOW UP.

I was not a happy camper.

I was tired ... grumpy ... frazzled ... nervous ... seriously wondering if I'd made the biggest mistake of my life by coming here ... wondering where the hell he WAS: did he see me get off the plane, take one look at the pesto stain on the front of my blouse and flee in disgust? ...

 ... and feeling totally unprepared for this face-to-face meeting. Even though we had been "preparing" for it for more than a month.

I'd been JUST FINE until the moment I got off the airplane and walked down the connecting ramp to the terminal. The flight itself was tons of fun: we'd lifted off the runway in Oregon at precisely 5:17 p.m., flying straight into the most breathtaking sunset I had ever seen. I took that as a portent of good things to come. I enjoyed a beautiful, unobstructed night view of Southern Oregon and Northern California, and when I caught my first glimpse of the Bay Bridge -- lights twinkling, little miniature cars moving in slow motion -- it was a moment of pure, unadulterated *wow.*

I'd even enjoyed the airline FOOD, for a change: a remarkably edible Italian sandwich, swimming in pesto -- [oops] -- followed by my customary club soda and lime, the only thing I ever order to drink on airplanes. After I ate, I popped a breath mint. I didn't expect to be kissed any time in the near future -- honest -- but I did think it might be smart to be prepared, in case there was an awkward airport hug or something, waiting for me at the other end.

I was fine. I was looking forward to this. I was having a Good Hair Day.

It was when I was walking down the ramp towards the gate, after we'd landed, that my knees suddenly buckled.  All of a sudden I felt this sick, overpowering wave of déja vu. I'd been here, already ... this getting-off-the-plane and meeting the cyber guyfriend at the other end of the ramp stuff.  I'd done this already. And it had cost me everything.

Why on earth was I doing it AGAIN?!?!

But then I reminded myself that the circumstances were completely different this time. This wasn't a romance, for one thing: this was two very good friends, who just happened to be male and female, getting together to celebrate their sobriety, and spend a little F2F time together, and have some fun. Also, I felt I really knew David, and I liked and trusted him.

Also ... there was always the chance that he would turn out to be butt-ugly. You can never tell, just by looking at a person's .gif.

So when he came striding down the terminal walkway, forty minutes after I'd landed ("stuck in traffic," he apologized), and I got my first good look at my pal DRaftervoi@aol.com, all six feet of him, dressed in a bright orange shirt, black slacks and jacket, Hallowe'en tie, leopard-skin shoes and black hat, grinning from ear to ear and saying, "Why, this must be Mizz P.!" ...

... my heart sank. Because that was the moment I knew for sure that I was in deep, DEEP trouble.




I am now going to make a startling, dangerous, earth-shaking admission that will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, probably:

I was already three-quarters of the way in love with David before I ever got on that airplane.

Dear Readers [in unison]: "Well, DUHH."

For all of our self-protective blathering, in the days and weeks before my visit, about how this "wasn't a romance," and how we'd both "been there/done that" when it came to online romance, and how I was merely flying to the Bay Area for a weekend of Chinese food, sightseeing and healthy, platonic fun fun fun ...

... my heart knew better.

How could I not be in love with somebody who had tirelessly devoted himself to my recovery, my musical education (particularly as it related to 70's Bay Area Punk Rock) and to my to budding website, for all of those long lonely months in the Tree House?

"I want him to look around his empty apartment on Monday, after I've gone home," I admitted in the handwritten journal, the day before my trip, "and I want him to think, 'God, this place seems empty without her,' instead of thinking, 'God, I'm glad she's GONE!' "  This was 50% secret longing for romance, I think, and 50% fervent hope that the weekend wouldn't end in complete disaster. I was painfully aware that it wouldn't take much to completely fudk things up. Our *connection* online -- and on the phone -- had always crackled with energy and synergy, and I worried that he would find me deadly dull in person.

I worried that we would be uncomfortable and embarrassed around each other, in his tiny apartment. I worried that he might hear me going to the bathroom.

I worried that I might feel enormously attracted to him. I worried that I might not feel enormously attracted to him.

But most of all I worried that we were about to seriously screw up our friendlationship ... one that had (until now) not only been a lot of fun, but had also -- literally -- saved my life. What would happen if I took one look at him, knew he was the one true love of my heart, told him so ... and the feelings weren't returned?

Or  --  Scenario #Other  --  what if he took one look at ME, knew I was the one true love of his heart, told me so ... and then took his wife to Paris for her birthday?

Either way, I was gonna end up sitting in the Tree House alone again, drinking lukewarm Almaden out of a broken Santa Claus mug. I just knew it.




  After he picked me up from the airport, we drove straight to Alameda for dinner. I was acutely aware of sitting there next to him in the Subaru  --  of our physical proximity, and of the newness of that  --  and I was dying to get another good look at him. But the best I could manage was the occasional sneaky sidewise glance, whenever I thought he wasn't paying attention.  He had a magnificent profile, and (once he took off the silly hat) the prettiest hair I had EVER seen on a man.

He talked as he drove. A lot. He was every bit as animated and unselfconscious, in person, as he was online and on the phone ... which didn't surprise (or annoy) me a bit. It was actually a relief. I was worn out from a long day of travel ... more than a little on the side of overwhelmed by the whole meeting-each-other-in-person experience ... and quite comfortable with handing him the conversational reins. I don't even remember what he talked about, but knowing him as I do (now), I imagine it was stuff about Oakland and Alameda and San Francisco, about the geography or the climate or the new construction going on all around us. "Touristy" stuff.

Mostly I remember looking out the car window as we drove along, thinking how odd it was to be driving around at night with the SUNROOF open, in OCTOBER ...

... glimpsing my first palm trees ... breathing in the California air ...

... and wondering if he could in fact HEAR my heart, jack-hammering in my chest.

We had dinner at a place called The China House, in Alameda. We sat at a corner table next to a window, overlooking Park Street. He ordered honey walnut prawns and steamed rice for both us, and while we waited for our order he continued to point things out, on the street below us. This would have been my opportunity to finally get a decent look at him, but I couldn't make myself meet his gaze directly. His eyes are the color of old denim, with little flecks of gold in the iris and almost no pupil to speak of ... it's very intense, almost spooky, if you're not used to them ... and so I looked out the window instead, and fiddled with my teacup, and feigned a comfortableness I did not in fact FEEL.

In other words: I was scared shitless.



whut? you mean YOU'VE never mailed yourself a postcard?

  We lingered over dinner for a long time. He continued to hold up both ends of the conversation; I remember thinking, "I could listen to this guy forever."

[Little did I know.]

We'd made no after-dinner plans -- we'd agreed ahead of time that the whole weekend would be a flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants sort of thing, making it up as we went along -- and now he suggested that we drive across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco and do a little night-time sightseeing. I was teetering dangerously on the edge of exhaustion by that point, but I said "OK." This was why I was here, after all ... to see the sights.

Something in my voice must have given me away, though.  Or maybe it was the sight of me laying my little head down on the table and slipping into a COMA before we'd even gotten to the fortune cookies.  I think he realized that I was running dangerously low on system resources. 

"How about if we do the sightseeing tomorrow?" he said. "Right now we can just go back to my place and look at my etchings listen to records."

Which is precisely what we did.

We sat on his sofa and listened to records until 2 a.m. ... Roky Erickson, I remember, and Neil Young, and Jonathan Richman. We talked. We laughed. We talked and laughed some more. We listened to more records. Robyn Hitchcock sang something called "I've Got A Message For You."

And then ... all of a sudden we weren't listening to records anymore.

I sat on David's living room floor, the morning I was due to fly back to Oregon, and scribbled myself a postcard.

"Having a wonderful time," I morosely wrote. "Wish I were there."   

I knew that in a day or two I would be standing at my mailbox in front of the Tree House -- probably in the rain, after a long day at The Knife Factory -- holding this postcard in my hand and wishing I were back in California.

With David.

Our first weekend together ~ 1998

 
 

self-important blurb #1 will go HERE:  happy anniversary, baby.

self-important blurb #2:  ironically, we've spent this entire day -- our first *anniversary* -- apart from each other. david has been off doing family stuff, and i've been here alone in the castle, tweaking the résumé and listening to music [i still say i would rather be blind] and re-living that first night together in my head. but i still feel every bit as CONNECTED to him, even when he's not here, as i do when he's standing right behind me, watching me type. i feel like he is right beside me, everywhere i go. i feel surrounded by his love ... and his record collection. i am -- as he would modestly say -- "one lucky woman."

special *howdy* to:  my pal chriss, who poignantly asks: " ... does someone have too much time on their hands when they check footnotes and see 27198 so log on twice more to get it to turn over? are these the same people who watch the odometer turn over zeros? just hypothetical questions you understand."  [and to answer your question ... people who tinker with my hit counter are usually the same people who call me *mom*, *honey* or *Terri Lynn.* so you're in good company, at least. welcome to the family.]


here's where i'll ask a *relevant* question:
where will i be a year from tonight?  
writing another icky-poo journal entry about *anniversaries*


amazingly profound thought of the day:  excerpts from an e-mail to my pal Mizz, one year ago: "Hey Mizzle. I am leaving now for the airport ... and for whatever awaits me on the other end of the flight. We've got a list of stuff to do a mile and a half long ... including bookstores and beaches and restaurants and rental videos and anything else that sounds like fun at the moment. My expectations are very low - on purpose. I'm sure you understand. At the very least I plan to come home with some groovy photos for the website. I'll check my mail from time to time over the weekend, so anything you write to me will no doubt be read by EVERYONE in the room ... if you catch my drift. Talk to you soon. What are YOU doing this weekend? "