First, a side note: my new running partner (let’s call him RP) had, in general, quite good taste in clothes … for a doctor. He did like to take some sartorial risks—hence the red jeans.
Our first run together could have been a disaster, because I was so full of my bad self after finishing my marathon that I went much farther and faster than I'm really capable of. I took RP on an eight-mile-plus loop and paced myself so poorly that I had to stop multiple times to keep trying to work out a painful stitch in my side. He was entirely good-natured about it, just mentioning that it was a bit farther than he'd expected. He didn't mock me for having to stop, either. I was sure after this that he’d decide I wasn’t worth the trouble, but he hung in there, and we settled into a much more comfortable 40-45 minute routine, every other day. Which is a lot of time to spend with someone you’re not dating, when you think about it. Especially if you spend it sweaty and nearly naked.
One of the first things I learned about him was, the man can talk. And talk. And talk. He was like a human ipod; I could bring up a theme and he could just expound on it for the next forty minutes. I didn’t have to say a thing if I didn’t feel like it. Maybe that sounds unappealing, but you have to understand that I adore being able to be silent with someone. I just don’t always want to talk, even if I’m happy to have company. And it wasn’t that he wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise; I was simply free to hop in and out of the current of conversation as I wished.
So I learned a lot about him. I learned that despite having gone straight through college and medical school, he’d done a lot of interesting things—cycled halfway across the country, climbed mountains in Bolivia—and that he’d desperately wanted to take time off, but his mother had put up such a fuss that he decided it wasn’t worth the fight. I heard about his crazy family and his wild times at college. He adored movies, and could quote verbatim dialogue from something he’d seen once ten years before.
Still, he was one hyper, anxious dude. And he hated being an intern. As in, would probably have quit if he didn’t have so many student loans. I also learned that he was kind of a ho. He’d had a long-term girlfriend in college, but aside from that, he’d never gone out with anyone longer than a few months. And he’d gone out with a lot of women. A lot.
I started joking with friends that if I got desperate, I could obviously hook up with my running partner. Not as a serious thing, god no.
Then something interesting happened: internship year ended, and we became residents. The life of a resident is very different from that of an intern: you’re the one running the show instead of shoveling the coal. And RP seemed utterly transformed.
Thus it was revealed to me that the person I’d been working with—Intern RP—was almost nothing like the real RP. The real RP was charming, funny, warmhearted, cheerful, open-minded, generous, loyal—a mensch. He was also exceedingly smart, and tremendously fun to be around.
So we started hanging out. Movies, brunch, beers. Being stupid, I took a little while to understand what was happening. The first time I had an inkling I was out on a date with someone else, feeling bored and awkward, when I thought, I wonder what RP’s up to? I’d sure rather be hanging out with him … hmmm.
Suddenly I started to feel a little awkward with him. After all, I’d been pretty clear about the boundaries of our relationship, and I couldn’t blame him if he’d ruled me out. Then there was that classic not wanting to mess up a good friendship dilemma.
So I looked for clues that he might be thinking about me the same way I was thinking about him. And couldn’t seem to find any.
Had I blown it?
To be concluded.