The day I met him is so vivid in my mind I can nearly recount each detail, from the clothes I was wearing (a green tank, cuffed boyfriend jeans, yellow beads that later became known as "the candy necklace", and wooden clogs), the employees in the shop, the weather (ominously dark, a storm looming), my purpose. It was Friday, April 16th. The day after tax day. I only know because I'd received a mass email invite for a tax day ride the day before and he'd replied "to all". I just needed some Chamois Butt'r. And time out of the office.
I didn't so much see him as I skittered in the back door as I felt him.
I had been surprised by the noise of my clogs on the hard wood flooring. And then I turned around and he was there. And i took him all in. I heard him make a funny quip about how his "speak and spell was hooked up to his lite brite", the mistake for the "reply all". There was some joke about his riding a purple Vespa. And his old age. And idle chat about hammer gel, lube, the HOS 200 that I'd done just five days prior, the Rampage Ride vs Reser's ride on Tuesday nights. His lanky limbs and the striations of grey in his long curls that peeked beneath his paperboy cap and the veins that protruded and the wit and charm and his piercing eyes, the fact that he stood nearly a foot taller than I and the bright blue tee emblazoned with "I just want to ride bikes with you"...
I recall going back to the office with the most shit-eatin' grin on my face. By then, it had started raining. And I was pulling my hair into "Friday hair", exclaiming, as I skipped down the aisle of cubicles, that I'd just met "the next boy that was gonna fall in love with me".
I had his email. And sent an innocent little note, wishing that he'd gotten to his destination (on his little purple Vespa) dry. Little did I know that this would lead to an illicit affair.
It began innocently.
It was a matter of days before he was ditching plans to ride (in a group setting) with me. He patted my helmet afterward. And then a text just seconds after parting. A call the next day. A meeting. An intro to Clubby. Song lyrics on the mailbox. A talk (in which I found out later I was being "assessed" for flaws).
I was smitten. And he had a girlfriend. But that didn't leak out until I asked, as did many of the "minor" details. Ya know, like the fact that they lived together. And she had kids. It was all too complicated by the time I discovered that information.
He said things between them were "status quo". I had "taken his perfectly settled snowglobe, and shaken it" But now, you've drop-kicked mine.
[And what you don't know from previous chapters is what I may deem as "typical" or "normal". or the relationships in which i've been involved. or with whom and with what situations my most intimate friendships may be that could skew my whole perception....it's all relative!]
He was at my place morning (before work many times, watching me get ready), noon (lunch every day, many times losing track of time) and night (rides, during which I'd laugh so hard I couldn't pedal. Or I'd spit out my water mid-hill onto Ack, who would question my sanity).
He taught me to be a better rider. He gave me suggestions. He made me push. He helped me fall more in love with my Masi than I ever thought possible. He inspired me. And isn't that the greatest compliment of all? Inspiration? He believed in me more than I believed in me.
It makes sense now why he was brought to tears as he sat in my kitchen, sweaty from a ride, attempting to explain his attraction, but simply only being able to sputter that i was "meant for great things".
He'd told me he'd cut it off with her. He had an interview with Cannondale. Several interviews, in fact. Four phone interviews in one day. And he called me between each. He came over after and proposed the idea of moving to CT with him were he given the opportunity. he just wanted to tuck me under his arm and run off together. I thought there was no way he'd get off that easily.
Then I got the call. "Are you in the car? Do you have a minute? We're going to Connecticut!!!" I was going to the Cleves Time Trial. My legs went tingly. And my eyes blurred. And I lost my head. I knew I was a secret. And I could tell no one. But I was GUSHING with excitement. Got a new PR. Went for a run.
But something wasn't quite right. I was sharing him. And I couldn't handle receiving his heart and allowing his body to reside elsewhere at night. He swore there was nothing. He offered to allow me to walk until he got everyhing figured out. I was torn. And somehow, deep down, I felt that I could let him go then, or I could let him go later. but no matter what...
And I wanted all I could get at that moment in time.
So we continued to have extended lunches where time stood still. And long rides full of laughter. He brought me NyQuil and slathered me in VapoRub in the middle of the night when I was sick. We looked for apartments. We made plans.
And he sat with my dad. And he discussed the move. He told my dad he'd be coming back soon to ask for my hand in marriage. He was going to give me a ring for my 30th birthday. But instead, I didn't even get a phone call.
I used to feel like the most beautiful girl in the world. That's how he made me feel.
In retrospect, I understand why he'd sat on my couch, overcome with fear, tears welling as he told me that he'd be devastated if i ever left him, that he was afraid to take me from my stability, the most I'd ever had, and pull me out East. I guess he knew he was ruining it. He was the only one who knew.
By then, i wasn't so much a secret. Word was trickling out. I'd quit my job. And I gave up my apartment. I ended my gym membership.
I went out there. To search for a place. For us. Me and he and Clubby. Just five days before the big move. He'd already started at Cannondale. And she called my phone. She'd seen thousands of calls to one number on the bill. And all the lies began to unravel.
I was curled on the floor in the hotel room, screaming and crying, incapable of rational thought. Dad got me an early flight home. But business wasn't finished.
I picked him up from work and asked that we each just compartmentalize what had just occured so that we could enjoy one last night together. What purpose would angry words and tears serve at that point?
So, we went and had a pitcher (or two) of beer. And then to a Mexican joint for burritos. And then to this little Irish pub, where we danced, and sang and laughed. And loved.
And that's the last place we were "that couple"- ya know, the one everyone kinda admires; the couple everyone wishes they were; the couple you tell to "get a room" even though they have a room. and it's probably the honeymoon suite.
And the next morning, before I got on a flight to Cincinnati he told me I was awesome that night. What he didn't realize is that I'm awesome every night. And he could've had awesome forever.
That day is blurry. I remember bursting into tears on the first flight and a woman giving me a tissue. I remember being outside at the airport in DC talking to my mom. I remember him calling. And crying. And keeping me on the phone even though there were no words to be said.
And I had told him time and again, that I would be just fine. I've been through sooooo much! But I didn't know if he'd be ok. He had a lot to learn. And discover. and with which to cope.
I took the pain I was feeling and stuffed it down. I didn't know it at the time. I just instilled physical pain on myself instead. I rode long and hard. And ran fast miles in the heat. I thought I was fine. I took some time out and went to IL to get away from the gossip. Word travels fast in the cycling community and it seemed everyone knew my story. And I hadn't told any one of them. (So, here it is now. I'm sure she has a different tale to tell. As does he.)
Now I find myself sad. and angry.
I was riding the other day, the wind beating me into submission, screaming "I hate you! I fucking hate you!" But it's not him I hate. I hate my situation. I hate that I don't have a place to call home anymore. I hate the instability. I hate that I'm making $10/hour in a bike shop and I have a 401k sitting in the bank. I hate that I think of him every day. And I hate that people that I don't know, know me because of this. I hate putting on a happy face when I'm not feeling happy. I hate when people ask me where I live. I hate that when I briefly tell this story that people snicker. I hate seeing pity in others' eyes. I hate that I trusted and believed. And loved. And failed. I hate that the man I love is not in my life every day.
There are things that occur that make us question everything. This is one of those things. And some days, I question why I ride or run or swim at all. I used training. I used it to my advantage, to help me cope, to get me through. And I've found it's failing me. Because training can't heal a broken heart. But it sure can make one tired. And abusing it can make the passion for it go into hiding. And denying the heart the ability to grieve can make one angry. And bitter.
So, I'm taking a break. And I'm getting honest about how I feel. This isn't for you. It's for me.