Less than two months after I started corresponding with Frank, the Navy pilot I met through eHarmony, I volunteered to fly 3,000 miles, from New Jersey to Washington, so we could meet face-to-face. (You can read more in Part 1!)
“I should have been the one to invite you!” he moaned, which proved how little he knew me. He was the first person I met on eHarmony, and I had been the one to reach out. My middle name might as well be Sadie Hawkins.
Frank and I were communicating endlessly by that point, and I couldn’t bear the suspense any longer. We made plans to meet in Seattle, where we’d spend a night (“IN SEPARATE ROOMS,” I clarified repeatedly) and do some sightseeing, before heading north, closer to base, where I’d spend another two nights, he at home, me in a hotel. He hinted at a few surprises while I shopped for clothes and got my hair cut, both of us more excited as each day passed.
The weirdest part about the whole thing was that no one told me not to go. Not my parents, my siblings or my closest friends. Was I that stubborn? That in need of adventure? It was as if I’d been single for years instead of months; the ink was still wet on my divorce paperwork and I hadn’t been on the market in over ten years, yet I felt ready.
The flight to Seattle went smoothly, unlike picking up my rental car. I was delayed two hours, and wound up with the only thing they had left: A giant red minivan.
“I got this,” I told myself as I drove into a city I’d visited only once before. “No big deal. Just driving a MINIVAN into downtown Seattle by myself, about to meet my soul mate.”
“Is there any chance I can check in early?” I asked the front desk once I arrived at my hotel. My Pre-Soul Mate Meeting Plan definitely included a shower and change of clothes.
“No, I’m sorry,” the receptionist replied.
I went outside, suddenly feeling panicky, and texted my best friend.
“YOU GO IN THERE AND TELL THEM YOUR SITUATION,” she fired back. I obeyed, stomach in knots.
“I’m sorry,” the receptionist said, unmoved by my romantic tale. “There’s nothing I can do. But I can give you a free parking pass.”
I wound up changing in the main bathroom, right before Frank arrived, two hours early. It looked like I’d be making my grand entrance in the lobby, a la Kate Winslet on the stairs of the Titanic.
But somehow he had been able to check in (must’ve been the Southern charm of a native Tennessean).
“I can come down or you could meet me up here,” he said, from the shroud of his room.
“I’ll come to you,” I replied, taking a deep breath and heading to the third floor, eager to avoid an audience.
Moments later, I knocked on his door and he swung it open, looking as nervous as I felt. I had worn my black wedge heels, striped cotton dress and yellow cardigan from Old Navy because I knew he liked them, but now was cursing my decision. I felt huge, standing nearly six feet tall, and probably not much lighter than him, though I’d finally hit my goal weight that month. In heels, we were almost the same height, blue eyes anxiously meeting blue eyes.
We awkwardly embraced. Oh no. Oh no. This isn’t how I expected this to go. Will we really click? Was this a mistake? Does he really like me? Does he still think I’m pretty?
We walked the short distance to the Space Needle, struggling for conversation. The March weather was mild compared to temperatures back home, but I shivered anyway. I relied on the people skills I’d honed through my work as a project manager, trying to keep uncomfortable silences at bay. Once atop the Needle, Frank pointed out various landmarks, his command of the territory impressive. He must be used to seeing it from up here, I thought.
I listened to the slow, calm way he spoke, as if this kind of conversation could go on for hours with nothing more pressing to get in the way. A vast contrast to the animated, hyper speed I was used to, having grown up a breath away from New York City. I nodded and pretended to listen, while my head and heart and breath continued their intrinsic rhythm: Go-go-go.
Eventually, as we toured Pike Place Market, accepting the samples of exotic fruits and vegetables offered to us, he took my hand.
Oh thank god. Relief flooded my body. He likes me!
We shared a candlelit dinner followed by drinks at one of a million hipster bars in the city, where we both finally started to relax. We sat knee to knee in a cozy red booth, staring into each other’s eyes while he occasionally murmured compliments in my ear. I flushed from head to toe. My experience with romance up until then had been young and sweet and tongue in cheek, then familiar, comfortable and tongue in cheek.
I had never been so earnestly wooed.
It was working.
Next up: eHopeful Part 3: High Altitude! (Don’t worry. I’ll wrap this shiz up in Part 4.)