I'm pressing pause in writing about Lil E tonight. It's time to discuss the Not Boyfriend.
This picture here? Yes, this one riiiiight here...
This is how I see the Not Boyfriend 80% (maybe more?) of our time together. Shhh, don't tell him you see him this way now, too. He's unaware (at least for the next couple of minutes) that I snapped this photo of him on a crappy Skype connection a few weeks ago.
I haven't written much about him, in part because I was afraid to spill my gooey, messy heart all over a post and in part because we've chosen to take things very slow.
Slow is not my style. When I think of an idea, I want to put it into action tomorrow. When I get an urge to purge clothes, five minutes later every single thing in my closet is piled up on my bed. It might take me a while to weigh a decision, but once I do, I am assured and relieved and confident. But things with the Not Boyfriend are different and even when I don't like it, I see how good it is for me.
He may jump up and bolt out of bed at three or four in the morning to the job where he bakes what some people have called "ridic bread." And he may run at clip that puts my pace to shame. He may crank out a gazillion push-ups or shimmy into a handstand in the split-second it takes me to notice he's no longer curled up on the loveseat with a book. But he speaks and reacts in a much more measured way than I do. He is thoughtful. He is analytical. He is not in a rush.
It's also our circumstances -- both alone and together -- that have wound down what otherwise may have been a whirlwind romance. It is 2,136.8 miles between us, door to door. His pastry chef hours are insane. His National Guard duties are unpredictable. I am set to the schedule of a small child, an intense job, a visitation agreement. We've both been hurt. Badly. We both have learned. A lot. We both want more from life now, and that includes a big, deep, lasting love.
And so the answer to all of that is...slow.
The time we have been reacquainted is creeping up on two years. We wonder what it would be like to casually stop by for dinner or to take a long trip to a beachy town together. We talk openly about how we'd like to be together...someday when our other commitments sort themselves out and a path opens up. We try, we are trying so hard to make living in the same city and traveling and dreaming of our future into a reality. We make Plan As and Plan Bs and then rattle off a few more ideas. Then when it seems like we are trying desperately to cram a square peg into a round hole to figure out how in the world we can get it together and still be true to ourselves...well, then we try to remind ourselves that right now, this very moment, we are OK. That seeing a smile on Skype can work wonders for a relationship. That there is a trip planned -- perhaps four or seven weeks away, but it will happen. That one day we will be thankful we took steps rather than rushing in.
Still...still. This guy is great. I want him beside me. I want to know him by living in the same city, by trying out lives that intersect in person every few days or hours rather than weeks or months. I want to speed it up, even just a notch.
While Lil E was vacationing with his dad in June, I spent six luxurious days in San Francisco with the Not Boyfriend. It was fabulous and surreal to share that much time. I worked at the local office and he picked me up every night, whisking me off in his little white car to dinner at an Italian restaurant hidden away off a cobblestone alleyway, to a movie I never would have picked myself, for drinks with friends, for a hike.
"Oh look!," he said with a smirk one evening when I piled my bags into the backseat and climbed into the car next to him, "We're playing couple!"
Of course, what we have is real. Probably more true than any other relationship I've ever been in. We just don't get these everyday moments in the middle of honking traffic and fog rolling in. We've had a few big occasions together. they have been sparkly and spinny and so fun. But I have to say -- if we were doing things the normal way, I might blink past how important and delicious simply sitting in the passenger seat beside him as we speed down Geary Street orreading a note he left me to remind me to eat breakfast and get the coffee on or feeling his breath on my neck at night really is.
Tonight, while we have our last Skype sesh for three weeks while he is away in the field, most of that time completely out of computer or cell phone connection, I am going to have tight grip on the ordinary moments we will get soon. Or soon enough. I admit, I might pour over this photo or close my eyes and remember looking out from a cliff with the chill of the bay all around us or just the skip in my heart to see him pull up outside my office door.
I will focus on this damn map, stretched out more than I'd like it to be. The map that says we are 1 day and ten hours apart, code for 22 days for our long-distance situation. The one with the circle around my city like a pulsing heart veined out toward him. I will go a little nuts. I will stay up too late watching bad TV to fill my time. I will make another one of those impossibly dreamy, fast forwarded plans. I will try very hard to just be.
No matter what, here we are. Riiiight here. And I am grateful. And slower now. But still hopeful. And ready.