February 11, 2015 § 30 Comments
Sometimes, when I tell people I met my husband on Match.com they wince and act as if I’ve purchased him from Walmart, as if I’d wandered the aisles looking at shelf after shelf of men, all arranged in eye-catching displays; snazzy dentists wearing sailing shoes, bureaucrats with their sleeves pushed up, biologists rolling their own sushi. People act as if I’d picked up each one and turned them on their sides to check ingredients, see which parts (if any) were under warranty. They act as if I bailed on romance and the synchronicity of chance encounters, as if the deeper order of things can’t be revealed online.
I’d be lying if I said I was completely comfortable with the whole online dating thing. It’s not that I struggle with adapting to modern age developments—I don’t really, but more than the online foray, it was the dating men thing that unnerved me, made me sweat. I was in my mid-forties, recently divorced and hadn’t lingered on another man’s lips, another man’s body for two and half decades.
Online dating made sense because I wasn’t interested in rendezvousing with the single men on the island where I lived. Bike clubs, hiking organizations and dance circles etc., weren’t my thing—I’m not a group person. Also, I tend to be attracted to introverts and figured they wouldn’t be joining groups either. It seemed more likely there’d be quieter souls online—we could meet in the tranquility of our own homes without wasting energy getting new haircuts and figuring out what outfits to wear. Also, meeting through writing was an excellent way to see if we were headed in the direction of finishing each other’s sentences.
People said, “Watch out. There are sketchy guys on those sites.” I didn’t experience sketchiness. Mostly, I met good guys. Interesting guys. A performance artist, an anesthesiologist, a musician, a chocolatier. Ok, fine, fine—there were a few who made me bite my lip a bit. Like the guy who couldn’t give me a direct answer. If I said, “Read any good books lately?” he’d say something like, “Don’t you think Ralph Nadar got a bit carried away with the whole Corvair thing?” Or if I’d say, “What’s the last bad movie you watched?” he’d say something like, “Dental insurance sure is a scam isn’t it?” Oh, and there was the guy whose profile name was Whatever. It turned out a better name for him would have been Worrywart, as he needed to arrive sixty minutes early for a movie, (no matter what was showing) so he could sit in the fifth row in the seventh seat. One night, once we were appropriately seated, I began munching on my popcorn and Whatever snacked on raw almonds he’d brought for himself in a zip-lock Baggie. I offered him popcorn. “No way,” he said. “There’s some toxic shit in that stuff.”
My own Match.com profile name wasn’t very original, but whatever. It was Ocean. Yeah, I was like, “Ok, universe. I’ll play this madcap game, but I’m not going to try THAT hard.”
Anyway, one day, I received a note from a very handsome fellow, on my Match.com Someone’s Interested in You! page. He asked if I wanted to connect. His profile name was “waterandwords” and he included this poem he’d written:
Streets turn me at their will
And wind molds me to its form
Love tells me how not to feel
And distance begins to feel warm
The poet creeps out in explanation.
I melted a little, (who writes such things?) but caught myself. How did I know he really wrote this? (Divorce had left me less likely to believe in things.) But what if he did write it? I stayed up most of the night writing and weighing the pros and cons of conventional love narratives. At last I gave in and sent him an Okay. We wrote back and forth. Doubts fell away. His writing, god, his writing, the wow of it waking up the yes, yes, yes. We spoke every evening for weeks on the phone. Found out we both tended to walk away from the crush of a crowd and toward water or trees, anything quiet, that he had smuggled turf out of Ireland—a smell I understood and craved (childhood memories) and we both had Rilke and Merton on our nightstands.
We decided to meet in person. He traveled to the island by ferry and I met him at the dock. It was late March. A cold wind rippled the water, but the sun was bright-eyed and cast light generously, some of it landing nicely on his face. He strode toward me grinning and easy as a summer cabin, wearing an Irish cap, hands in the pockets of his parka. When he kissed me on the cheek, the scent of soap and a wood fire.
We walked and talked for hours, just like in the movies only without all the camera people around. We didn’t touch, except for occasionally bumping elbows, but I wanted to and I think he did too.
Over smoked salmon and beer at the local pub, he stared at me strangely.
“What?” I said.
His fork hung mid-air with a chunk of salmon on it. “I don’t know…it’s just, well…you look just like a woman I saw years ago fiddling around with a red accordion at a music store in Pike’s Place Market—I forget the name of it.”
“Lark in the Morning?” Adrenaline prickling my arm and leg skin.
“How many years ago?”
“I don’t know…maybe ten?”
I had been in Lark in the Morning, only once in my life, and it was about ten years ago. And…yes, I’d been investigating accordions because I’d wanted a small one I could take hiking with me. I ended up buying a red Hohner.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked, head knowing we hadn’t been ready, heart striking a match to my stupid pro and con list.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. You were so focused…eyes closed, listening to the sounds it made…I don’t know…but I remember my heart slowed watching you.”
At the end of the evening, I walked him back to the dock. He leaned over and kissed me on the lips, wrapped his arms around me. My head fit perfectly under his chin.
“Damn,” he said, “If you’re not feeling what I’m feeling, I’m in big trouble.”
“We’re good,” I said, something hot and vaguely familiar seeping through tiny cracks, blood rushing into long closed places—a wild desire to say, “I want to lie down with you.”
Instead: long slow inhale long slow exhale my face hard into his chest.