When I was in college, I spent a summer working at a little vegetarian cafe in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii, called "Decko Gecko Cafe & Bakery." I loved that place. The food was wonderful, my boss was one of the kindest women I've ever met (she runs a granola company now that has THE best granola I've ever tasted in my life), and my coworkers and the customers were so fascinating I could write a book on each of them. Some of my most vivid and colorful memories are of that tiny little restaurant and the people who came in and out of it.
One customer was a man named Martin. He was a 6'4" piece of handsome, with sandy blond hair, light freckles on a tan face, and blue eyes. He was there on business but had stayed over for a week to learn to scuba diva through the shop just a few doors down from us. He came in for lunch a couple of days in a row and chatted me up; he was funny and friendly and from Australia. On the third day, he asked if I'd like to go out for pizza with him that night. I said, "Sure . . . if you don't mind me bringing my boyfriend along." He laughed and said, "I guess I should have asked that question first." I shrugged and smiled back. "Probably."
So we never went for that pizza, but he continued to come in for lunch, sometimes breakfast as well, and before his week was up, he'd asked for my address so he could write to me.
Within my first few days back at college, I got a letter from him, and he continued to write me over the next year and a half--sometimes regularly, sometimes sporadically. And when I was preparing to graduate, he offered to fly me to Australia as a graduation gift. I jumped at the opportunity until I took a minute to realize he might expect a little more in return than I was willing to give. When I gave him my "terms," he rescinded the offer by never writing back.
I wasn't crushed--not by him. I was crushed by my naivete. I felt like an idiot, like a schoolgirl. Of course he thought I'd sleep with him. I was 21 and he was 28. I was single by then and he was divorced. And plane tickets to Australia weren't cheap. Stupid girl. Stupid stupid stupid.
Six months passed, and he called me back home in Virginia where I was living then and working at a newspaper. This time, he wanted to visit me--and get married. He said we'd live in Hawaii so we'd be halfway between my family and his. He'd become a born-again Christian since we'd last spoken, but he said he'd be willing to convert to my religion if I wanted him to. He was making plans. He was excited. Me? I was blown away. I'd only met him that once in Hawaii. Now he was saying he loved me? Wanted to marry me? Wanted to move away from his family in order to let me be closer to mine after we got married? Crazy, right? But he wasn't crazy. I mean, I'd been in touch with him enough to know that. I watched the movie "When in Rome" this weekend, and that's what it was like: I'd picked up his coin in a fountain and now he was under some kind of spell, but not mine.
After a couple of weeks of him calling me and assuring me he was serious--and me telling him that getting to know each other in person might be a good idea first (come on: he was really, really good-looking and funny and kind; I wasn't ready to immediately dismiss his proposal!)--I met my now-husband and started dating him. So I had to call Martin and tell him his visit to Virginia might not be such a good idea. He was disappointed and asked me to call him when I was ready to see him. I never made that second phone call.
My husband and I got married within seven months of our first date, but I knew the night I met him that I wanted to marry him. We only saw each other on weekends because he lived four hours away. In fact, we never even lived in the same town until we got married. We got to know each other primarily through phone calls and letters.
Crazy, right? About as crazy as seeing someone at lunch for a week, writing to them for two years, and then proposing.
Maybe even crazier.
Four kids and 16 1/2 years later, I can say it's good to be a little crazy sometimes--good to take a risk, a leap of faith. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" and all that.
Though I'd still like to visit Australia some day. I have some fond memories of that place.