The Azaleas Will Bloom Soon... [ 2004-03-07, 6:39 p.m. ]

I have done approximately three impulsive things in my life. One was moving to New York, one I�m about to elaborate on, and one�well, there must be a third, but I can�t think of it right now. Suffice it to say that I am dangerously compulsive and a chronic, obsessive planner. Spontaneity and I don�t mix. Spontaneity and I go to the same parties, nod at one another from across the room, then I go sit down with a glass of wine while she dances on tables and smokes.

But once! Once I actually did something rash and impractical! I acted quickly and climbed on a plane and took a chance on love and lived to tell the tale. Which I�ll share now�

About five years ago I found myself with no plans for New Year�s Eve. My roommate (with whom I not getting along with at the time) was out of town, I was single; no big party invites came my way. Then, at the last minute, some friends invited me to a party they were attending on the upper west side. It was freezing cold, definitely below 10 degrees. I met up with my friends near Lincoln Center and we shared a cab from there to the party. Inside, I knew no one, and so I headed for the kitchen to grab a nice big drink. Which I drank quickly. Within a few minutes, I felt a hand on my elbow, and when I turned around, there was a tall-ish, gangly guy standing in front of me. The first thing he said to me was, �Will you marry me?� Now, had that guy turned out to be my husband, I would have a phenomenal story on my hands, one that I would try to write into a screenplay which would stay Mandy Moore and Ashton Kutcher and make Kent and me loads of cash. But that�s not this story.

The guy asked me to marry him, then introduced himself (Patrick), and we flirted, blah blah blah. At some point we went up the roof and made out in the freezing cold, then went back inside and made out some more at midnight, in front of everyone. He lived in South Carolina, and was visiting friends in New York. Eventually, I was ready to head downtown for another party, so he and I said goodbye and I gave him my phone number and email address.

The next day, he called. He was still in New York, and was hanging out with his friends, and he invited me over. So that night I again bundled up against the frigid cold and went to this tiny walk-up apartment on King Street in SoHo. I hung out with a bunch of friendly strangers and when it got really late, decided against staying the night. Patrick walked me out and put me in a cab, and promised to keep in touch. And amazingly, he did. He emailed me right away, and we started writing back and forth, frequently. We would instant message and talk on the phone and flirt and laugh. It was a totally innocent, harmless long-distance relationship. Because it was such a safe arrangement, we both let our guards down a bit, and every now and then, we�d slip the �L� word into conversation. Not, �I love you,� but things like, �I could fall in love with you.� It was fun. He would invite me to visit, I�d tell him sure, as soon as I had a free weekend. Then one day, I booked airline tickets to Charleston.

(That was the impulsive part.)

So in April, four months after meeting this guy and briefly hooking up with him, I boarded a plane and flew to go re-meet him.

And it was fabulous. (Not at first. No way�at first it was horrible and awkward and I was waiting at the airport for him to pick me up and I couldn�t really remember what he looked like and I wanted to barf and hide in the bathroom, but then I saw him, and it was worse than awkward, because I had to watch him crossing the terminal, looking for me, and it was just so icky. In the car home I was really nervous, then we stopped for coffee and it got better, and then he showed me around Charleston, and it got even better. Then he took me to his house � a teeny little carriage house near the battery in old Charleston that isn�t even on a real street � just a little path that leads behind the gorgeous mansions lining the streets. And we acknowledged how weird it was that I was there, and laughed and kissed and that�s when it got fabulous).

I was there over Easter weekend, and we visited an old plantation and saw all the azaleas in bloom, and we drank at an old speakeasy and mostly, we stayed in bed for three days. I felt like a sex goddess, most definitely, not like myself. When the weekend was over, I said my goodbyes and came back to New York, and I was really, really sad. I felt like Patrick and I had a chance at something real. The �L� word had come up again. We were still talking, making plans for him to visit me that summer. I was smitten.

But things change. I met Kent a few months later, and when Patrick called to say he might be able to visit in August, I balked. I freaked out at the possibility of jeopardizing what was beginning with Kent, and I didn�t know how to be casual with Patrick (casual dating has never been something I can do). So I did nothing. And as New Year�s Eve approached, I thought about Patrick, and about how he and I had planned on spending it together and telling people the crazy way in which we had met. But instead Kent and I ordered in and drank champagne. The, a few months later Patrick emailed me and said he was coming to New York, did I want to have brunch? Again, I balked, fed him some lame line about having plans with my boyfriend. And I never talked to him again.

Looking back, I shouldn�t have been such an uptight prude � I should have had brunch with him and given him a hug and let him know that he was a good friend and that he meant a lot to me. But at the time, I couldn�t handle it. I had taken one risk, and the idea of taking another was too frightening.

I�m happy with Kent. Very, very happy, and very much in love. But whenever I take a cab uptown and the driver takes 6th Avenue, I see the building on King Street where I hung out with Patrick and his friends on January 1. And I never forget him. I don�t want to rewrite history and be with him. I just wonder�what he�s doing, where he lives, if he remembers me (and logically, when I think about it, of course he remembers me � people don�t forget entire weekends and relationships). But I wonder.

It was so unlike me to get on that plane, but I�m so very glad I did. Love really is all about risk; it�s the ultimate risk. And it�s always worth it.

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