By Eric S. Elkins
A year or so ago, I received a Facebook friend request from a really beautiful woman. Honestly, I might have accepted the request not knowing anything else about her, but she wrote that she’d been one of Simone’s preschool teachers years ago, and upon a closer look, I recognized her. I remembered the young, sultry teacher around whom I’d studiously maintained a low-key sort of coolness, not wanting to screw anything up for Simone by being the creepy dad who ogles the teacher (it was good practice, and is actually serving me well this school year, if you know what I mean).
After I accepted the friend request, we started communicating a little bit, and I learned that she was now a single mom of two very young children, living in a remote town in Colorado. She wanted to hear all about her Simoney, and I was happy to share. The more we talked, the more we found we had in common. When she mentioned that she’d be in Denver for a conference in a few weeks, I expressed an interest in crossing paths.
The exigencies of our parenting schedules (she and her kids were staying with her mother) and her conference commitments gave us only a short window of time to see each other — not more than a few hours one evening. But from the moment we made eye contact, the connection was electric. Our first hug felt both familiar and thrilling, and I couldn’t believe she was even prettier than I’d remembered. One of those rare, ethereal beauties, she had soulful brown eyes, a delicate face, and an achingly sweet smile that seemed to carry a secret within it. The evening was a stunner — not knowing the nature of our rendezvous, I was elated when, after lots of conversation, the kissing began. Everything fit, and it was all I could do not to feel smitten.
In fact, a couple days later, when she was able to come out for just a little while and meet me at my home for an afternoon, I said, “Oh no, I can already feel it starting.” She laughed and kissed me hard on the mouth.
The situation was both beautiful and depressing — she and her two kids lived in a faraway town that wasn’t easy to get to. With her ex and his family there, moving herself and the kids to Denver would be out of the question; just like me, she believed in the importance of her children having both parents in their lives. When we said our goodbyes, we promised each other we’d find a way to spend more time together soon.
But airfares and commitments and parenting and everything else got in the way, and we didn’t see each other for a couple of months. Again, we felt that thrill of connection, but she was much more pragmatic this time around, keeping a bit of distance at first, but finally unable to resist the pull of our ridiculous chemistry. We spent a couple of beautiful evenings together, with her returning to her mother’s house late each night.
I remember taking her to my favorite bar for pre-dinner cocktails, and somehow settling right into the girlfriend-boyfriend dynamic. She told me later that she felt the same thing — it was like we were a couple, and I wasn’t self-conscious in the least about holding her hand as I introduced her to the most delicious martinis on the planet.
I’ll admit that I was close to tears when she left town that time, feeling hopeless, and wondering at God’s sense of humor. I finally met a woman who was right for me in every way, with whom I shared chemistry and connection, whom I could love so easily and for so long, and she lived 800 miles away.
And, yes. I know what you’re thinking. That perhaps the reason I could love her so freely was because there was no danger of a real relationship with her. I get that. I agonized over it. I talked to my shrink about it — about my feelings and about our impossible situation.
After that trip to Denver, she went on radio silence. I respected her lack of communication. It seemed like spending time together was just a way to keep our hearts aching. It was pointless. She eventually emailed me those exact thoughts, explaining that the way she felt about me would make it impossible for her to find love closer to home. I understood. I had the same concerns for myself.
But that didn’t make my heart ache any less.
Mid-summer came along, and she let me know that she and the kids would be in town for a few days. If I was up for meeting her for lunch, she’d love to see me for a little while. The message was clear — we can only be friends, and the way to ensure that we don’t get caught up in each other again is to only meet in safe places… during the day.
Man plans, God laughs.
We settled on a gorgeous country Japanese restaurant downtown, and she was waiting for me outside the door with that mysterious smile of hers. Our hug lasted a long time; I don’t think either one of us wanted to let go. Finally, we followed the hostess to a little wooden table in the beautiful garden area behind the restaurant, where we ordered noodles and soups and tender side dishes of Japanese delicacies. I realized before she did that we were being incredibly solicitous of one another: I’d wave a low-flying insect away from her sashimi, she’d gently wipe the little splash of soy sauce off my cheek. We couldn’t help it; we’re both wired to care for others, and putting us together was like the perfect storm of mutually nurturing behavior.
I’d craved that responsiveness for so long. It was the first time I’d met someone who was so naturally caring since the days of the Peach.
We talked about nothing of consequence, avoiding any danger of drifting into the terrain of heartbreak. We kept it light. But in our shady corner of the garden, with its tall, fragrant blossoms, the quiet buzz of other diners, and the indolent warmth of a summer afternoon, it was easy to drift into the complacent contentment of the moment. We hugged goodbye. I kissed her lightly at the apex of one of her perfect cheekbones. She put her hand to my cheek, and kissed me on the lips. And then she got in her car and drove away.
But she couldn’t stay away that week, and managed to sneak over for a little while Saturday morning. She found me reading on an air mattress on my balcony, still in my pajamas. After curling up with me for a few minutes, she managed to lure me out for brunch down the block, followed by a visit to our local panadéria. As we stood together, hand-in-hand, looking at the magical array of Mexican delectables, I had a vision of us doing the exact same thing, but in some faraway country.
As we walked back to my place, I said, “You know, it would be amazing to travel together someday.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” she said.
Which became an ongoing text conversation for the next month — where would we travel together? What would it be like? I told her that we should try something small, first — spend a weekend together away from our homes, like in Taos or San Diego. Schedules and budgets decided for us, and I bought her a plane ticket to Denver, so we could spend Labor Day Weekend together in the mountains.
Full disclosure — Summit Mountain Rentals is a WideFoc.us (http://widefoc.us) client, and one of the perks is free lodging for me when inventory permits. And it is quite the benefit — the company manages a slew of well-appointed condos in the lively mountain town of Breckenridge. So it was a matter of a phone call to get us a romantic spot right in the center of the city.
Our anticipation was like a fever.
I picked her up at the airport, and we hightailed it for the hills. This was our chance to see what it would be really like. We’d never spent more than a few hours at a time together, but now we’d have two days and two nights to really see what was possible. Sure, the longterm situation hadn’t changed, but that didn’t matter.
The weekend was definitely romantic, but only to a point, and it turned out to be ultimately disappointing for both of us. We found little incompatibilities, differences in communication, and something undefinable that made us both realize that we weren’t quite right for each other. As much as we loved each other, and enjoyed each other’s company, our weekend together never caught fire. Maybe we were both distracted, or overly careful, or just not into it. Maybe the timing was off. Whatever it was, by the time I dropped her at the airport, the hug goodbye was real, but the kiss was perfunctory.
I drove home that afternoon feeling a sense of desolation. She hadn’t even thanked me for the weekend, and that just sealed what I’d felt. Something was missing between us.
As time passed, I could only feel gratitude for that weekend away — we learned something valuable; it helped us move on in our own worlds without the heartbreak of a breakup. And it helped me realize that I was still capable of feeling smitten and could still surrender to love and possibility.
We’re still friendly, catching up here and there. I’m excited that I’ll get to see her when she comes to town in a month or so. She might not be the right woman for me, but I’ll always adore her.
Note: Out of respect for our experience and love for each other, I ran this column by her before posting it. So before you start beating me up for sharing a story about a real person, know that she read it and approved it before anyone else did.
Eric Elkins’ company WideFoc.us specializes in using social media and ePR strategies to develop constellations of brand experiences, delivering focused messages to targeted segments. Read more of his Dating Dad chronicles at DatingDad.com , or tell him why he’s all wrong by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.