we didn't expect to fall in love.
at least, i know i didn't. i was living in pennsylvania twelve years ago today, a soon-to-be single unemployed mother of four. my ex had decided to punish me for leaving him by making our divorce as nasty and meanspirited as possible, and the last thing i had energy for was another man. i was happy to dabble in dating, but i knew i wasn't looking for a relationship, let alone a long distance one. i had my kids, i had my writing, and i had a war.
one of the ways i coped was to gather with a group of sympathetic women from around the country every morning at 8 AM in our writing chat room on prodigy. the four of us would chat and drink coffee for about half an hour. it was a nurturing, supportive way for me to begin what were always trying days.
in late summer, early autumn, our space was invaded more and more regularly by a guy whose screen name was PARKPLACE. i didn't like him. he was rude, gruff, and made what i thought were snide comments, the kind that might be funny if you were a mean person. i pretty much ignored him and let the other women talk to him. i was there for my girlfriends.
so i was pretty amazed one day in september when two of the women independently of each other said to me.... i think you should talk to park.
and i said... why?
and they said.... well, you sound just like him.
im not sure whether i was shocked or insulted. BUT IM NICE! i said, when i recovered enough to type.
he's nice too, they said. he's different if you talk to him one on one. you should try it. he's breaking up with his wife and she sounds just like your ex.
so i did. i sent him an instant message the next morning. so and so and so and so said we should talk, i said. why? he asked. they said we sound alike, i answered. well, let's find out, he replied.
so we did. and they were right. our chats were full of what we have come to call EAT-AT-JOE's moments... the ones where the Universe itself leans down and makes it clear you need to Pay Attention, those little signs and synchronicities that make you Aware that Something wants you to Notice.
but he was more than two hundred miles away. i had a book due, my soon-to-be-ex was getting crazier by the month. i had no interest or reason to go to hartford, connecticut, even though he assured me he lived in the most "awesomely perfect place." yeah, i remember thinking, followed by the line from marlowe's faust: and where i am is hell, and where hell is i must surely be. im not getting out of this any time soon.
i did have a little sister finishing a masters' degree at uconn. i'd already driven up to see her once, in fact, coincidentally, in april. when PARK, as i called him then, heard that, he said one morning, almost like an afterthought... well if you come up to see your sister, i'll take you out to dinner.
sure, i thought. like im going to drive up That Hinterland for dinner. but, okay, i said. and then two weeks later my sister called and asked if i wanted to come up.
i'll think about it, i said. the drive from bethlehem to storrs had been long and tedious. i wasn't eager to repeat it. i didn't have much energy between the kids, the book and the war. but my sister is very sweet. she loves me. she was worried about me. she felt a weekend among rowdy college students would be good for my world weary soul. im not sure why.
i'll take you out to dinner, said PARK online. okay, i said.
but something happened and i didn't go.
and furthermore the war must end. blessed be!