(Continued from Part 2.)
For an entire week I neglected my motorcycle. The spark plugs are hard to get to, much like those incognito feelings that haunt us and make us feel lost. It’s because of these plugs my bike wouldn’t start.
I waited to see what James would do. How was his ignition working? Would his motor turn to put his words into motion?
We are ridiculously flawed. It doesn’t matter how together we look on the outside. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Our delectable second date at Blue Ribbon Brooklyn was followed by dinner the next night in the same neighborhood at a popular Italian place called Al di La.
Before we went in, James left me at Al di La’s wine bar while he jogged down the street to give an extra $10 to our waiter from the night before. Talk about extra mile.
He returned from his stalwart act.
“Was he there?” I asked.
“He was. He was surprised.”
Naturally. At this point something happened to my heart like a scab had been picked from it, loosening the skin underneath.
Our seating arrangement was unlike the first two dates where we sat adjacent to one another. By this time, however, it didn’t matter how we sat. We were so comfortable with each other that a little food stuck mid-bite was no embarrassment.
He reached his hand midway across the table where mine came to meet his.
“When can you fly out? Are you ready?” he asked.
“Friday, possibly Thursday. My bag is already packed.”
Our dinner ended on glasses of tawny port and discourse on the Republican primary.
We drove home.
“Sushi tomorrow?” He wanted to see me as much as possible before leaving town.
I wanted to trust James with all my heart. But I couldn’t. There were still old heart wounds with scabs still on them. Every invitation brought up in me a fear that he would not follow through.
But the next day he surprised me again showing up in the middle of the day while I worked from home. I had become sick with a cold. He didn’t seem to care, except that he didn’t kiss me that day. Then in the evening, he came over again and picked up take out from a nearby sushi restaurant. Four visits in three days.
He was a knight. Or he was over-infatuated.
The following weekend I got my bike running. Those damned spark plugs. To get to them, the fuel lines and gauge get disconnected, the seat and tank removed, and plugs unscrewed. Sure enough, the middle two spark plugs were fouled with wet, black oil. The valve seals were leaking oil into the middle two cylinders.
Troubleshooting an engine that doesn’t start requires a step-by-step analysis. Is the battery charged? Is there fuel in the tank? Does the starter turn? Are there sparks? The Saturday before, my bike reached the fourth question. The answer was no. This was unlike the new relationship on the horizon.
Every day we didn’t see each other, we texted, emailed, or called each other.
I wondered during his travels if he drank a lot. What kind of people he met. If women tried to pick him up. If he tried to pick up women. They were questions that arise with new relationships that are only answered by time, situations, and trust.
One week after our second date, he calls. “What do you think of Mendocino?”
“Sounds great.” I had never been there.
“Will you check out what’s going on there?”
Two hours researching built excitement about ocean cave kayaking, horseback riding on a 10-mile deserted beach, wine tastings, and Mendocino’s crab and wine event. Airbnb advertised the Elk Inn, a perfect oceanside B&B and spa not found on Expedia. I forgot about all the work I had to do that week.
Expectations are what you have when someone else convinces you to plan time out of your busy life.
The next morning he calls. “Are you ready? When can you fly out?”
“Friday. Maybe Thursday. I have to find a dog sitter.”
“How about if we go someplace warmer?”
What if this all fell through? What if I packed my bag, sent the dog to the sitter, and had no ticket?
Tuesday I pull my carry-on down from its storage place and speak to a potential dog sitter. In the evening, still no ticket.
Wednesday we meet the new sitter. Arrangements are set. James texts, “Can you leave Thursday?”
“Yes.” I had moved my schedule around. Wait, Thursday is tomorrow.
With all the effort to plan a trip with a guy I just met, the last thing I would allow is to be left with a packed bag and nowhere to go.
Before riding a motorcycle, I did other dangerous activities like skydiving and skiing double diamond trails. In spite of plenty of invitations, I hadn’t skied in over 20 years. So, I made it my plan B. It was too cold to ride a motorcycle, and the valve seals were leaking.
When you ride a motorcycle, it’s important to have emergency phone numbers and a tool kit at all times. Motorcycle riders are infamously known as organ donors, and their bikes are infamously known to crash or break down. Perhaps this was experience enough to be prepared at all costs.
Wednesday evening arrives. Still no ticket.
Thursday morning the phone rings. It’s him.
Bag packed, I looked back into my apartment and bid farewell to the dirty dishes and piles of paperwork.
On Friday, I arrived at my destination, took care of business, and settled down to watch smiling faces as they laughed with the delight of their day off.
The chairlift carried me into a snow-blurred sky.
I thought about James’ phone call. I had answered. He hung up.
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