In Harlan Coben’s new novel, Missing You, his protagonist, Kat, is poised at her keyboard, trying to come up with just the right message. As soon as she sends it, she can’t sit around and wait to see what the response is because it means so much to her.
She hit the SEND button, stood quickly, and almost ran out the door.
I was in a similar predicament once. It was Memorial Day weekend, five years ago this May. That’s when I took the chance that changed the rest of my life. And all I did was send a text message. But maybe I should back up a little bit and explain how I came to send this text message.
After almost a year of being technically “separated” from my now ex-husband (meaning we didn’t sleep in the same room and had begun the legal journey toward a divorce), in May of 2009 he had finally moved out of the house. Those were long and tortuous months for everyone involved: myself, the kids, and my ex-husband. But it was finally happening. In the months leading up to this, I started mentally preparing myself for my new single life, thinking about the possibilities of actually dating someone. I had never really dated before I met my ex-husband. We were together for two years before we got married, and by the time he moved out we had been together for 22 years. So the prospect of dating was intimidating to say the least, but also exciting. I actually created a profile on an online dating site but never really expected to be part of the dating scene.
In the meantime, I reconnected by email with someone I had worked with quite a few years earlier. We always got along really well and he was someone I could talk to. During the time we were colleagues, he was also married, but by the spring of 2009 he’d been divorced and living on his own for several years. I exchanged a few emails with my single buddy, and when his birthday came along (early in that month of May), I invited him to have lunch with me. Anyone that knows me also knows that generally I’m not the biggest contributor to any conversation. That day everything I had gone through in the last few months came spilling out of me like a dam that had burst and just couldn’t hold the flood waters back a second longer. I don’t think the poor guy had a chance to say more than a couple of words during the whole lunch hour. The words he did say as he was dropping me back off at work, however, stuck with me for days and weeks:
“If you’re ever single, keep me in mind.”
If I didn’t know better, I would wonder whether he’d heard a word I’d said – why would anyone in their right mind want to get mixed up with me after all I had said?
But I know he did hear me. And his words kept me awake at night. We continued to exchange friendly, and often flirtatious, emails and text messages. But he was my friend. Someone I had worked with and could joke around with. What would happen if we dated? I already knew we had some chemistry – it was really hard to miss. Even those we worked with could see it.
I had my kids to think about. How would they feel about me dating? I wasn’t divorced yet. Was I really ready to take that step? These questions had me tossing and turning.
Until that Sunday morning on Memorial Day weekend, 2009. I woke up with a new resolve, still shaky and nervous, but nevertheless determined to see what happens. Like Kat in Missing You, I composed and re-composed my message multiple times. I don’t really remember what it said anymore, but I know it was not brief. If I remember correctly, my message conveyed that if he was still interested, I wanted to talk about it. And like Kat, as soon as I hit “send,” I was afraid to see what the response would be.
I knew he was out of town and wasn’t sure when he would get my message or when I would hear back. So I headed to the shower in an effort to not sit by the phone and wait for the reply. I didn’t get a text message back, though. I was barely in the shower long enough for the water to warm up when my phone rang. I knew it was him. The fact that he called me back right away seemed like a good sign and that made me happy. But it also meant that I might have to follow through with my proposal.
A couple of days later I found myself having lunch with him again. I remember it was an unusually cool day and so as we sat on his porch, eating a lunch he had picked up for us, I was snuggled in an afghan. I avoided the purpose of our meeting as long as I could, until I couldn’t anymore. I was still nervous. We talked about what it might be like to date. We both asserted that we didn’t want anything serious, but that it might be fun to go out and “see what happens” without any pressure or expectations. We made a date for the following weekend.
The rest, as they say, is history. Maybe it wasn’t the biggest chance I ever took, but it was the best thing I ever did.