It was D-Day.
100 plus hours of phone talk had led to the moment Thom and I would first set eyes upon each other.
I waited for his arrival at my home in Los Angeles. It’s a straight trip down Interstate 5. Six hours.
He chose the scenic coastal route. An eight hour trip at best.
By hour eleven I was pissed. Was he traveling by covered wagon?
Every so often he’d call with an explanation of where he was and a new ETA.
I kept myself busy cleaning the tile grout in the kitchen. The more anxious I got, the more stomach distress. The more stomach distress, the worse my breath became. I trolled the Internet to find home remedies, then began stuffing the recommended quantities of parsley down my throat.
I took PJ, my aging, grouchy Chow, for a walk. It was the end of May and already a hundred degrees. We returned, dehydrated and in ill-humor. The pollen in the dry, dusty air created an allergy flare-up for me. Lots of sneezing and a distinctly audible wheeze upon each inhale.
Plus, I was getting sleepy. I would have killed for a glass of iced black coffee, but I’d just whitened my teeth and polished them to a high gloss.
Finally Thom called with a two minute warning. He’d just exited the freeway.
I ran outside to direct him to guest parking. And, yes, to make sure he wasn’t a Cyclops. Or a hunchback. Or a woman trapped inside of a man’s body screaming to get out.
The sun reflected off the windshield as he pulled into the spot. I couldn’t see a thing. Walking over to the driver side of the SUV, I peered into the window and prayed I wouldn’t find anything freakish or unpredictable.
Thom was bent over the passenger seat grabbing for something. When he turned around to look at me, I froze. He was gorgeous. Just like his photos. Truth in advertising. Thank you, Supreme Being. I could trust this man.
He got out of the car. We stood there talking to each other for a moment before lunging into a big bear hug.
It felt good. He felt good.
Inside the house he walked into the dining room and for a protracted time, gazed over the sunken living area, like Moses atop Mt. Sinai looking toward the promised land.
“Love the Eames chairs,” he said.
(Not a surprise. In some worlds, viewing Eames chairs actually constitutes foreplay).
“Worried I’d have a room full of Victorian furniture and lace doilies?” I asked.
“I was actually more concerned about shabby chic.”
The dumbest thing can provoke a romantic moment. As I moved toward him, his protective Golden Doodle, Rhoda Morgenstern, rushed in to fill the space between us.
PJ, was nonplussed. He wouldn’t waste a move unless all other negotiations to save my life had failed.
Thom laughed. “I’m road weary. I hope this isn’t off-putting, Bobby, but do you mind if I take a quick nap?”
His eyes were bloodshot. This was neither a move to get me into the bedroom or an editorial comment on meeting me. He just needed some sleep.
This wasn’t how I’d dreamed the first meeting would go. So, as he snoozed upstairs, I sat downstairs, continuing to binge on parsley and ice water, indulging in a self-indulgent private pity-party.
Thirty minutes later there was a flurry of activity. I looked up at the staircase to see Rhoda Morgenstern descending. She continued toward me in a way that I would call deliberate and worrisome.
(Hadn’t I just watched a CNN piece on Doodles dismembering humans?)
A second before she reached me I looked up to see Thom loping down the steps, wearing a big, rested smile. Rhoda slid to a complete stop, turned and ran back toward her Daddy.
Suddenly motivated, PJ ran toward Thom, but for different reasons.
Growls and barks ensued. When it sorted itself out it was sound and fury that ultimately signified nothing.
Eventually the three of them sat down opposite me in the living room, their heads slightly tilted to the right as I wove an illogical tale about why I had a pound of flat-leaf parsley sitting in a plastic bag in front of me.
I casually mentioned to Thom that during the scuffle between the dogs I saw that Rhoda had…you know…male parts.
He didn’t seem flustered by the question. “I call her Rhoda Morgenstern because I think she actually self-identifies as a female.”
Then he laughed. And although I still had no idea why a male dog was called Rhoda Morgenstern, I laughed and held out the plastic bag toward Thom. “Parsley?”