Rockville, Maryland: 10 March 1998...
It was a day as ordinary as any other. I woke up, put on the bean and prepared to take the subway to my job at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. Although my ex bowl of oatmeal and I had been separated for months, we were still sharing the same apartment. It was a strange, but mostly peaceful coexistence.
I put in my usual morning at work, dealing with students, schedules, paper shuffling, PhDs who weren't intelligent enough to un-jam a copy machine. CUA had leaped (kicking and screaming) into the computer age just a month before and we finally had my favorite Al Gore invention - yup - the internet. All of us were learning about it, learning how to use it, and my supervisor said, "I don't care if you play or what you do, just learn what to do with it!" So, I'd spend my down time surfing. One of the places I'd managed to find was a chat room called "The Reading Room." People would wander in to talk about books (sometimes), or just shoot the shit.
I was doing the latter with 3 friends of mine online when this "mug" stumbled into the room. "I'm looking for information on James Hilton, the author of Lost Horizon," he typed. We assumed he was some high school kid wanting us to do his homework for him - it had happened before. So, we gave him shit, "Hey kid... that's what libraries are for! Go do your own homework." "I'm not a kid. I'm doing research." "Yeah yeah..." and we went back to our chatter and the mug went silent for a while. A few minutes later he chimed in again, "Oh, I see. So this is just a bored Hausfrau's club!"
In an instant I was pissed off and laughing at the same time. How dare he?! So I threw an IM at him and said, "Hey, wait just a minute! Don't make presumptions about me. You don't know me!" "Then talk to me," he wrote back. We began an email discourse that quickly turned into volumes. In his first email he told me he had a "No Bullshit Policy," and asked that we agree upon truth for truth's sake. I'd never met anyone so forthright. He told me right away that he was living in Northern California, was a paraplegic, that he could be an asshole, and that he could cook up some killer spaghetti sauce. I, in turn, told him that I was an emotional wench, but that I could laugh as easily as I could cry, had recently separated, and was living just outside of Washington, DC. Our correspondence had bittersweet elements to it and was always rife with humor.
A couple of weeks (maybe) later, that correspondence turned into hours long phone conversations that quickly became a financial millstone. The guy pulled at my mind and tugged at my heart like no one else ever had. He was strong and independent, yet he spoke with such tender love about the people he cared for, about natural beauty, and art. His was an amazing intellect - one that could absorb and retain facts like a sponge, and yet he had a creative side that was breathtaking. When life's adversities threw new challenges his way, he met them with fierce courage, determination, and a fair bit of MacGuyver-like ingenuity. On top of all of that was a sense of humor that was a non-stop, over the top, riot of laughter.
It wasn't long at all (a mere two months) before I was absolutely, without a doubt, certain that I had to meet this amazing man face to face. As I put it in an early email to him, "I'd like to share an endless pot of coffee with you, and really find out who you are. You intrigue me like no one else ever has." I had to meet him, whatever the outcome. So, with a couple of suitcases and my faithful sewing machine in tow, I hopped on a Greyhound bus, and for four endless days, made my way across the country to meet the person who was to be my spiritual other, John.
You never know what can happen on an ordinary day. Everything's eventual. Ten years ago a door opened in my life and a journey began. As it turns out, there's no such thing as an endless pot of coffee. The cruel to be kind Universe only gave us nine years together, but I'm a better person for those nine years, and for the lessons I've learned since.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43