She was beautiful. She had visited many of the places that I had visited (Western North Carolina) in particular. Moreover, she was athletic. She had completed several marathons and triathlons. She had traveled extensively internationally. She was interested in self-reliance and homesteading. She sent *me* a message and wanted to meet *me* – I was stunned that a woman like this even existed in this world. She was beautiful. At that time, I was living in San Diego, which was several hours from Palm Springs. We began exchanging messages and then I asked her if she’d like to have a “phone date” – she agreed. We spoke on a Friday night as she drove to Yuma to visit her father who lived there. We spoke for the entire duration of her drive there which was approximately three hours. It was amazing, I felt like I was in high school again.
We continued these phone dates for a couple of weeks and I told her about the trip I had planned to Joshua Tree and that we could likely meet up in person as I was going to be near the area. I asked her if she might like to join me up there for conversation over campfire and a walk under the moonlight. I did not expect her to agree to it…I mean, who the hell meets a stranger in a remote National Park with no cell phone service? To my surprise, she decided to make the one hour trip to Joshua Tree. She stayed the night up there with me, but did not share my tent with me. The following morning she helped me pack up camp and then as we were leaving, we were kind of rushed out of our campsite by a couple of jerk climbers who got a late start and were hassling us about being all goo-goo gaa-gaa, so we decided to go into town and say our final goodbyes over a milkshake.
During that time, we exchanged the books that we were reading with each other and wrote a haiku for the other person in the book that we were giving on the condition that we could not read it until we departed. I felt like I was falling in love with this girl, because she was actually interested in everything that my hopelessly romantic mind could think of and discuss with her. As we finished our milkshakes and haikus, I walked her to her car in the parking lot and we talked about possibly meeting again sometime – or at the very least keeping in touch and remaining friends. The distance seemed to be an issue but we agreed to simply cross those bridges if/when they came. We gave each other a hug…which turned out to last a very long time and was a very deep and genuine hug. She snuck in a kiss and gave me a peck on the lips before she ran off to the drivers seat.
I was swooning. I had died and gone to heaven. The girl that I didn’t think was interested in me…might actually be interested in me. Over the next few weeks and months, we stayed in touch and she came down to visit me on a couple separate occasions. She drove great distances to see me, just to spend a couple hours with me to walk on the beach and watch a sunset. Eventually she came and spent the night at my house. These short visits continued. We spent ours and days together dreaming of a future together, discussing homesteading and off grid living. It was incredible. She was incredible. I even drove to Yuma to meet her father the week before she left for her Ironman Triathlon. Her father had given me his nod of approval for dating his daughter. We were planning our future together. I was convinced I had found my future wife.
<I began writing about Step 7 of The Start Experiment and somehow I have spent a considerable amount of time reminiscing about these series of events. During my last 5 minute break, I thought about why this was taking place. In Part 1 of my “Playing with Ketchup” posts I wrote, “After several welcome distractions throughout the day, phone calls from people wanting to talk and help them process some of the life challenges they were going through…I finally sat down around 1:30 to write.” These challenges that I discussed with this person were relationship challenges – specifically a breakup. This talk got me to thinking about my recent breakup and how this impacted my life. Clearly…it did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing multiple blog posts about it. That’s a little bit of back story behind the content of these posts and how it all relates to Step 7 of The Start Experiment. >
Susan left about a week before the event to drive up there with her father and all her gear. As Susan’s parents were divorced – her mother was flying in to support her as well. An Ironman is no small feat. I had recently completed a marathon and that required a considerable amount of training. I couldn’t imagine running a marathon AFTER a 2.4 mile swim AND a 112 mile bike ride. The event was likely going to take her 15-16 hours to complete. I was so impressed by this woman. During the week prior to her event, we didn’t have much correspondence. I spoke to her the day after the event and she seemed…distant. I chalked all of this up to nerves and sheer exhaustion. I didn’t really think much of it. Besides, she was also spending time with her divorced parents.
The following week, she went sightseeing throughout Glacier National Park with her father and spent some time in Montana at ranch owned by one of her father’s friends. Again, I had limited correspondence with her, but there was limited cell phone reception in the area where she was – so I tried not to think much of it. However, I had a growing suspicion that something was “up.” Something just didn’t seem right. There was a “tone” in her text messages. I *really* tried not to read too much into it, because it’s easily done with text messages and that is always a mistake. However, I just had a feeling in my gut that there was something going on. I’m not sure why…but I could feel it. Her and her father returned home to Yuma on a Saturday in late June. We talked briefly that day and agreed to talk more on the following Sunday. She was tired from many hours on the road.