Looking, looking for the sign that my running partner was thinking the same things about me that I was thinking about him ...
He asked me out to a movie—aha! A date!
Except he asked another friend along. Maybe not.
He asked if I would give him a ride home from a Halloween party—maybe we would make out in the car!
Except he slept the whole way home and hopped out at his place with a sleepy "Bye!" Maybe not.
Meanwhile, I was becoming more and more certain that this was something I really wanted to happen. He started an ICU rotation, which meant he was on call every third night, which meant he couldn't run on my every other day schedule. And for the first time in my life, I CHANGED MY SCHEDULE. I guess I had it bad.
Then one day I rang his doorbell to pick him up for our run, and instead of coming down, he buzzed me up. When I got into his apartment, I found him on the phone. He gestured that he'd be just a minute, so I wandered around trying to pretend I wasn't listening. Which of course I was, and what I was hearing sounded kind of odd.
"Just give me a call before you come to pick that stuff up," he was saying. "I don't think I have anything at your place I want, but if you see anything, I guess bring it over."
After he'd hung up, I gave up all pretense of not having listened in and said, "What was that all about?"
"Oh," he said, as he locked his door and we headed down the stairs, "Ex-girlfriend." And then (VERY uncharacteristically) clammed up.
I pondered this as we ran down the street toward the park. What ex-girlfriend could this possibly be? As far as I knew, he hadn't really had a girlfriend since we'd started residency, now nearly a year and a half ago.
Finally I couldn't stand it. "Um, how 'ex'?" I asked.
At first I thought I'd heard him wrong, but it's pretty hard to confuse the phrase "two weeks" with anything else.
Two weeks? Two weeks??!! He'd broken up with someone two weeks ago? But ... but ... we'd been running together and hanging out for months, and I had heard not a word about any girlfriend!
"How long were you, er, dating?"
Four months? Four months??!! But we'd been telling each other practically everything! Why on earth would he have hidden the fact that he was seeing someone from me?
Of course. He hadn't wanted me to know because he wanted in my pants. But now that they'd broken up, he could tell me. This was my sign.
I didn't press him on it that day, but eventually I found out that she was an undergraduate, and that they'd met when he went into the bar where she waited tables. She was five years younger than he was. Do the math: eleven years younger than me. Oy. But anyway, it was over, and all systems were go from my perspective.
The fateful day, I was post-call from my rotation, and I'd had only 2 or 3 hours of sleep. We'd agreed to go for a run after work (it was his one good day), but he got held up. Now, ordinarily I'd have just gone on my own. But this day, I waited. And waited. And waited. He kept calling me with updates every half hour or so; one of his patients was unstable and the unit was so busy he couldn't sign them out. The hours passed. Finally on his last call, he said, "It's pretty late—wanna just go get some dinner?"
Would I? I scampered over to his place (he lived closer to restaurants) with my whiskers aquiver. I was in the post-call buzz—there's something about sleep deprivation and hard work followed by freedom that makes everything seem a little brighter and happier. I got to his place, and he met me with a grin. "Let's go to the place around the corner," he said, and pulled a bottle of wine out of his coat pocket.
Well, all right.
So we sat in this little hole-in-the-wall place—a takeout joint, really, with just one tiny table—and drank wine and talked and talked and talked and drank and drank and drank. There was one moment when I got a little doubtful again when a friend of his showed up and he invited her to join us—??—but she sat for a few minutes and headed off again. It was pretty late by the time we lurched out of there and back around the corner to his place.
We paused at his stoop. We were joking about something, and he put his hands on my shoulders and gave me a fake neck rub. And I said the cheesiest come-on I have ever uttered:
"Do you give good backrubs?" Giggle. In my defense, I was now operating on no sleep and half a bottle of wine, but still.
"Oh, I give great backrubs .... want one?"
So up the stairs we went. I did redeem myself somewhat with what I said next, as he keyed the door:
"Am I really going to get a backrub?"
"Nope," he said.
"OK," I said, and went in.
[This is where we fade tastefully out for a few hours. I will say that I did get the backrub after all.]
The days following were heady, giddy times, where we marveled at what was happening, told each other the things we hadn't been able to say before ... including, from him, the statement that he'd had NO designs on me.
What the..? How?
That's right, he claimed that he'd had no ulterior motives for not mentioning his girlfriend, it just hadn't come up. And after all, I'd made it so very clear that we were Just Friends that he hadn't given the possibility of Us a thought. He'd been astounded that I suddenly jumped his bones. Very very happy once he'd gotten over the shock, but shocked nonetheless.
And he sticks to that story to this very day.