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I was 23 and living the dream of an ambitious Gen-Xer, in a gorgeous
white Victorian in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. It was the
Clinton Era: Everyone had a job. Money was thrown at young companies like
confetti, and I was working in the middle of the high-tech boom. Life was full
of parties, exploding ideas and IPOs.
When, on a sunny afternoon in May, I got an unexpected call at
work from my longtime college friend, Brian. After having spent a year tuning
skis in Aspen, he was taking a road trip through California and
could he visit? My stomach dropped at the thought of seeing him. I set the
phone on its cradle and stared at my cubical wall for a while. Smiling.
“You know, I would love to date someone like Brian,” I told
my roommate later that evening. “He’s nice, he’s smart and he’s stinkin’ cute.”
What I failed to mention was that I also loved the way he smelled, how his deep
voice resonated when he spoke, and the dimples in his cheeks that showed when
he smirked, even through his scruffy beard.
“Well, why don’t you just date him?” my roommate
asked. It was a simple solution, for sure.
“No, I couldn’t do that. He’s just a
friend,” I responded, as if her suggestion was impossible. I mean, he was
stop-dead-in-your-tracks adorable. I, in the words of my hair stylist, was “mousy.” I loved my job and San Francisco. He was a ski bum and lived a
thousand miles away.
Before he said goodbye, Brian casually suggested I visit him in Aspen that winter.
Brian finally arrived for his visit, and we spent the
weekend rolling the hills on the California Street cable car, listening to
jazz, eating sushi and laughing — a lot. He made me want to forget all the
dating nightmares of my past: the dependence, the power plays, the heartbreak. I wanted to just grab him and kiss him. Every time we were left alone I felt the urge
to reach out and touch him.
Before he said goodbye, Brian casually suggested I visit him
in Aspen that winter. I nodded my head in agreement. A ski vacation would be
the perfect break from city life, I told him (and a wonderful excuse to see him
again, I told myself).
Then he dropped a bomb.
“Maybe you should just spend the
whole season.” Was that an invitation? My cheeks fired red, but I hoped he hadn’t
noticed. I wasn’t entirely sure if he had, in fact, asked me to move to
Colorado. So I pretended he hadn't. But I couldn’t let go of the idea.
The summer passed. On the evening Princess Diana was killed
in a car crash, a friend and I sat and watched CNN, talking about how quickly
life can be snuffed out; how we only had one chance to live the lives we
imagined. My friend turned and, without hesitating, said to me: move to
We debated the pros and cons of moving — jobs, snowboarding,
life experiences. But I never admitted to her that the only thing I wanted in
Colorado was to love a guy who probably had no idea how I felt about him. And I
wanted him to love me back.
It took 29 days after my arrival in Aspen for Brian to kiss
me for the first time. It was on Halloween. He was dressed up like a bottle of
beer, and I was a mythical Jack-a-lope. The booze likely helped us drop any
shroud of pretension and abandon all rules of a common, decent friendship.
When he took my hand and led me into a secret room away from everyone, kissing me in the darkness, my path in life changed direction for good.
If I could give that 23-year-old girl advice from the woman
I am now, I can’t say that I’d tell her, or any woman, to chase after a man
across the country. But what I would tell her is this: When it comes to matters
of the heart, no one knows better than you.
Two months after our first kiss, Brian broke my heart while riding up a (painfully slow) two-seater chairlift. Five minutes after he broke off our relationship, I broke my leg in three places.
Men in the past may have called you
crazy. The world might say you're flighty and callous. Your father might
secretly believe he wasted big-time college tuition money on a lovesick little
girl. But everyone, no matter if it’s a man or woman in search of another man
or woman, needs someone. A person to hold your hand when the airplane takes
off; someone who will bring home the first tulips of spring; someone to say,
above all else, I need to be near you and I’m never going away.
Two months after our first kiss, Brian broke my heart while
riding up a (painfully slow) two-seater chairlift. Five minutes after he broke
off our relationship, I broke my leg in three places. That night in the
hospital, as I lay there in a full-leg cast, with a belly full of painkillers,
Brian confessed that when he heard I was hurt, his life flashed before his
eyes. He said he didn’t want “us” to end.
Whatever it was he saw in that flash, I'll never know. But
I’ve got a hunch. Maybe he saw a vision of our two little boys, blonde and
freckled from the summer mountain sun; or a glimpse of us on our wedding day
riding a bicycle built for two along the shore in Rhode Island. Maybe he saw us
lying next to one another, old and gray, remembering the day when some kind of
divine intervention (or my amateur snowboard skills) helped us see the true
gift of love and friendship laid out before us.
Almost a decade ago, three years into our marriage, I freely
began to admit that I moved to Colorado for Brian. I can finally say I’m proud
of it. Yes, I gambled everything to live my life looking into the green eyes of
a wind-burned ski bum. But of all the things I’ve done in my life — traveling
to foreign countries, summiting mountains and career achievements — the biggest
chance I ever took was on love.
I never thought I’d chase after a boy. But I’m
so happy that I did.