He reached out across the vast Tinder wasteland and said he liked my profile and could I meet him for breakfast? This was last winter and he, in my town on vacation, had posted photos of himself looking as pure and smooth as a well-aged Canadian whiskey, a guy who could’ve had an Olympic pedigree with his tall, lanky physique, chiseled jaw and mop of silver hair that begged to be touched.
I couldn’t make a date work with my full schedule, but he parted town with, “I hope our paths cross again.” And lo and behold, as it does in a good rom-com, he re-appeared in the app on my phone this summer with an even better set of photos and a wryly crafted profile that said he was stranded and waiting for someone to find him. Texting ensued and by the time he called a few days later, he suggested we write to each other in the three months before he would return to the desert and we’d actually meet in person. Not emails, mind you, but old-school, handwritten snail mail–his in peacock blue fountain ink and mine in ballpoint pen on yellow legal pads.
As my bff JP said, “He had you at fountain pen!”
The Canadian explained it’s how he and his former wife stayed in touch some 30 years ago before they married. They lived hundreds of miles apart so wrote each other to share their hopes and dreams for the future; they learned a lot in those letters, he said. And every week to 10 days, his beautiful, fluid penmanship arrived in my mailbox, introducing me to his world: An avid cook who owns two dog-eared copies of Joy of Cooking, a competitive runner and cyclist, a proud dad of two grown sons and a man whose wanderlust for not just places but desire for new experiences spoke directly to my curiosity about the world.
So, fast forward five months to the question all my friends asked: Are you finally free of Tinderland, happily toasting English muffins while said Canadian, all manly in my gently used kitchen, preps a pot of silky hollandaise??
Two word answer: Hell no.
I’m not gonna lie–this one felt like the real deal. Once I’d confirmed he was who he said he was, plus his address and that of his ex-wife (I could write the class on this stuff for FBI rookies), I was all in with the letters. He shared intimate details about his marriage (not sexual, but actual thoughts on how he felt when his former wife gave him a few days to vacate the house), his reactions to visiting his childhood home and his 92-year-old mother, and the awkward familiarity of sitting there at his boyhood desk to write to me.
He felt safe enough to describe his ugly battle with stage three cancer and its chemo/radiation aftermath–and his relief that it’s been in remission for more than a decade.
I, without going into the gory details, told him I’d been an afterthought to my husband in our nearly 30 years together, and I was still grappling with the fallout of feeling unloved. I described in detail, though, how the love of my family and friends filled the furrows my ex dug into our lives. I fessed up to rarely cooking anymore and said I looked forward to changing that when we whipped up a meal together–but I never told him that the thought of cooking for and with him, moving seamlessly around one another in my pristine white and stainless kitchen, gave me a pleasurable tingle right up the back of my spine. By the time he told me on the phone that he fell in love with my town last winter, and was coming back to stay awhile because he “wanted to meet me in person and have our first real date,” my jaded eye saw something beyond friendship.
That, and I loved the deep timbre of his very masculine voice, a voice that would sound good on the radio.
I wasn’t naive enough to think the Canadian wouldn’t see other women before he crossed the U.S. border, and I certainly kept my guy options open. But my connection with him was the most intimacy I’d had–well, since before I met my ex, mr. invisible. Because invisible couldn’t get intimate with anybody lest someone see inside his addicted, pornographic heart, my last truly validated romantic feelings were way before my laugh lines started traveling south.
Two days before the Canadian’s arrival here, I was in Washington DC, marching with feisty, like-minded Americans against Trump and for civility; I sent my letter-writing guy photos, and he said he wanted to hear all about it on Monday when he got to town. By Sunday, when my phone dinged to let me know a text was ready and waiting, I assumed it was him confirming the time of our date. Instead, he wrote that he’d recently begun a new relationship, and it didn’t feel “appropriate” to meet me.
He wasn’t coming.
“Fuck,” I said to myself before I blocked his number. And then I just laughed, and turned back to my usual Sunday date with the New York Times.
Telling the story later about the swift change of the Canadian’s plans, the most echoed response from folks I know (therapists and shrinks, both certified and the armchair variety) was this: He got caught.
And that’s probably true. But what’s a girl to do with all of her expectations and a hopeful outlook that felt like it’d been brought back to life with a big dose of rarefied air? Even my overly cautious friends said, “This guy’s different.”
Well, dear readers, if you know me at all you’re right to assume I didn’t miss a beat in the days that followed: I dined out with my peeps, contemplated life from my yoga mat, drove to San Diego to see Big T’s new condo, swayed in my seat at a Diana Krall concert and traveled to the midwest to see my darling daughter, DD, son-in-law and the three merrymakers. My tears didn’t pop up for days, and when they did, it was a brief release–and then the Canadian took a way back seat in my daily thoughts.
I realize now the intimate act of letter writing is a tricky one that wooed me into thinking I actually knew he of the chiseled jaw and dreamy voice. After all, he told me the kinds of things I begged my husband of three decades to share, the fears and feelings about life. It became an intoxicating game of tell me more with the Canadian…and as he did, I did, too.
What I know for sure now a couple of months since that last text is that my life was already full before his face appeared on my phone, and I’ve used the time I freed up with no more letters to write to take a harder look at just what kind of man I’d want in my world.
He may or may not exist.
But I do know it’s not some guy who ducks and runs when he’s cornered.
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