October 30, 2002

miles to go: 268.93 [YTD: 1,733.07]

I'm pretty sure it was the shoulders that did it.

I've had four years to think about this: to try and pinpoint exactly what it was that made me fall in love when I saw David in that airport terminal for the very first time, four years ago tonight. For a while, I liked to tell people that it was his smile that reeled me in: easy, open, accessible, movie-star-dazzling. At other times I've decided that it was his handsome profile, or his gorgeous blond hair, or those spooky translucent blue eyes of his ... eyes that seem to pierce right through pretense and artifice (and fabric, occasionally). In less carnal moments, I've considered the possibility that it might have been his honorable heart or his brilliant mind or his twisted sense of humor that won me over.

But in the end ... it always seems to come back to the shoulders.

Shoulders were a brand-new experience for me at the time: something different and exciting and vaguely exotic. Before David, my previous two or three or eleven romantic partners had been -- how shall I put this? -- ever-so-slightly deficient in the shoulder department. They were otherwise normal, healthy, attractive men with no glaring physical deformities, no incurable skin diseases, no mullets (except for my ex-husband). But they also had no shoulders to speak of. At least, not compared to David.

(Although compared to David, ATLAS is "ever-so-slightly deficient" in the shoulder department.)

I saw him striding down the concourse towards me, four years ago tonight, and I remember thinking Wow! He's so much bigger than I'd imagined! Bigger in the physical sense -- taller, sturdier, hunkier, handsomer -- but bigger also in personality and in spirit and in sheer life force. I'd picked up on some of those *Life Force Molecules* in the chat room and on the phone, over the years. But until you actually meet an online acquaintance face-to-face, you can't really know what they're like. Personal experience has borne this out for us both, time and again. My chemical reaction to David, as we stood there and exchanged that first chaste, awkward Hello-nice-to-meet-you hug, was swift and visceral.

Holy crap! it said. Are you sure you want to sleep on this guy's SOFA all weekend? 

I was able to beat it back, though ... mainly through determination, intestinal fortitude and sheer force of will. (Plus I hadn't eaten anything but airplane food in over eleven hours, and I was going to keel over right there in the middle of the terminal unless we got some Honey Walnut Prawns into me, stat.) After all: I wasn't in California to fall in love. I was in California to spend time with my friend. And not just any friend, either, but the friend who had hand-held me, long distance, through the first forty days of my recovery. I wasn't about to fudk that up.

And then he took off his jacket.

I saw those remarkable broad shoulders, sitting across the dinner table from me, and I couldn't help myself. Those are relationship shoulders, I thought. Good for leaning on. Or crying on. Or massaging with fingertips ... or sitting on top of, topless and shrieking, at a Journey concert ... or looming above me in candlelight ...

Funny thing about the libido: once it veers off in an unholy direction, without any help from the rest of your brain, it's pretty tough to steer it back to weather chat and Honey Walnut Prawns. I don't know how men do it, frankly. But somehow I managed to get a grip on my feelings -- without blushing, even -- and finish the meal without making a fool of myself. If he was at all aware that there were little *lust explosions* going off inside my head (and other interesting places) for the rest of the evening, he never let on. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure that he wasn't finding me anywhere near as attractive as I found him ... and that was OK. (Well. No it wasn't OK. It was mildly depressing, actually. But it meant that the sanctity of our friendlationship would be preserved.) We had a lovely, 100% romance-free dinner. We talked non-stop, with no awkward silences or uncomfortable lapses: music, kids, chat room gossip, relationships, recovery issues. We planned our sightseeing schedule for the weekend: The Cliff House, Haight Ashbury, The Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Pier 39. 

We laughed ... a lot. We made eye-contact ... a lot. We finished each others' sentences ... a lot.

We didn't touch at all, except for once when my foot accidentally grazed his.

When dinner was over, we went back to his tiny Alameda apartment and sat on the sofa -- maintaining a safe, discreet, wholly platonic two-foot distance from each other, the whole time -- where we listened to Robyn Hitchcock albums, one right after the other, until the wee hours of the morning. All very companionable, all very comfortable, all very innocent. In fact, I had just started to congratulate myself on my vast reserves of willpower and restraint -- See? This *Just Friends* stuff isn't so tough! -- when all of a sudden he reached over, right in the middle of "I Have A Message For You"  -- and pulled me me towards him. "Come here," he said softly. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the crook of his arm.

And my face was mashed into one of those remarkable broad shoulders.

Have you ever walked into a room or a church or a garden, for the very first time, and known beyond question or reason that you were home? That's what those shoulders were like for me, that first night, and what they've continued to be like the past four years, as I've leaned on them and cried on them and loaded them down with my burdens and my baggage ... as I've rubbed them with Icy Hot and drafted behind them on the bike trail ... as I've draped my purse across them in shopping malls, and snuggled against them in the middle of the night. Those shoulders have been my home. Those shoulders are probably what cinched the deal for me, right from the very beginning. Plus those shoulders prove that the old saying is true:

Once you've had shoulders ... you can never go back.

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