It was just over two months before Rhea and I became an us. In other words, Valentine's Day 2004 fell during that weird, ramping up time when what's coming is obvious when you allow your mind to go there, and becoming less ignorable even when you're not allowing your mind to make that trip at all. Those awkward last moments of your old friendship, the breath or two just before the next step becomes completely inevitable. That small bit of time when the very air - every movement, every vibration, every last word - is thick with possibilities and alternate meanings.
It was a Saturday. Both of us had an opening shift at Borders that day. As opposed to the snark-fest of two years prior that I recounted in yesterday's post, I don't think either one of us really knew what to say or do. My first thought thinking about it just now was "well, if we both opened, why didn't we just go to the bar after work?", but upon further reflection, it kind of makes sense that we didn't: getting all sloppy-on-the-drinky on Valentine's night under such thick air might have led things to not happen as they should have (and as they ultimately did). I'm sure it wasn't a conscious acknowledgement on either of our parts, but I'd bet money on the fact that the back of our brains kept us at home in our respective homes for a reason. Mostly, I remember the day passing with a general lack of Valentine-ing one way or the other: no, I didn't have the prize yet, but to say I wasn't in love would certainly have been a lie.
It's a little after nine o'clock that night, and my cell phone rings. I remember having a spilt-second sweaty-palm moment once I saw who the call was from nearly as well as I remember not even really having to look at the caller ID to know who the call was from. "Turn on channel five - you've got to watch this for a few minutes." I do, and for the next two hours we end up watching a special self-explanatorily entitled Cops: Love Hurts, jabbering away about the shirtless, white-trash circus unfolding before us on the tube. It was, of course, the last not-quite-Valentine's Day; a magnificent send-off that did justice to the snot, swagger and sarcasm of the old world while pointing our heads squarely at the new adventures just ahead. To this day, I thank the producers of Cops for coming up with such a perfectly tacky special; it was the perfect ice-breaker.
Back in Part One, I mentioned a DVD that had "thankfully just finished" downloading for Rhea. It took some doing, but in one of the deeper, dustier back alleys of Usenet, there it was: Cops: Love Hurts. We haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I can't wait to see it all again - this time, with the phone turned off and the air nice and light. Eight years into this thing, it still feels like the very beginning of an amazing adventure. There isn't a single thing more that one person could reasonably demand from Cupid.