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After ending our date two minutes into it to go to a doctor’s appointment, Online Guy text me a few hours later.

“Sorry about that,” he said. “Ended up on an antibiotic. I’d really like to get a do over, if you’d like.”

“I’d like that,” I said.

“It was nice meeting you. You’re very pretty. I’d love to see you again for more than 3 minutes.”

I guess the man really did have a doctor’s appointment. I told him I wasn’t sure if he used the appointment as an excuse to duck out or if it was real.

“It was a real appointment. The last one they had for the day. I’ve been feeling like crap all week.”

I joked that perhaps he was rushing things if he expected our next date to last three minutes.

“Normally, I keep second dates under three minutes,” I said. “But, for you, I’ll make an exception. Hey, by the 10th date, maybe we’ll be up to a whole hour.”

We’re making plans to grab a bite to eat and linger over the meal with some conversation. He’s attractive. He seems nice. He’s intelligent. Why not?

I have absolutely zero experience in this type of dating. My dates turn into 20 year marriages. To go out with someone a few times, then move on is a whole new world. I’m learning.

I’ve continued to dabble in the online marketplace. You know, that place where attractive, scary, toothless. hairy, balding, supermodel, and average dudes all converge, strike a pose, and hope you’ll pick them.

My profile is honest: I say I “never” drink. I say I have kids. I say I am 5’10”. Those things will never change. Yet, I seem to attract 5’7″ men with a Bud in their hand.

I don’t think this meat market is the place for me.

A gentleman I met a couple of times called last night. He wants the uncomplicated friendship stuff because he’s not really ready to date. A series of health issues has taken him off the market for awhile. And, yes, I’ve been around long enough to know “not really ready to date” means “not interested in dating you.”

“Hey, not a problem,” I said. Truly, it wasn’t. I appreciated him speaking up and saying he wasn’t interested in dating. Really, I did.

“I still would love to hangout and watch a movie. Maybe order some pizza,” he said.

“That would be great. You know where to find me.”

I got Friend Zoned.

I just met another gentleman for coffee this morning. I cancelled the first time because I chickened out. He’s a little shorter than I normally consider datable. Taller than I am, but still not heel-wearing height. (God, 6’2″, remember? 6’2″ minimum.).

We’ve talked by phone, exchanged texts. We have a similar education background, similar interests in old movies and quality literature.

He was persistent. “Let me know when you’re available,” he said. “I’d really like to meet you.”

I finally agreed. What’s the harm? He’s a nice guy. I’ve learned from all those meetings-after-the-recovery-meetings  that conversation over coffee can be enjoyable. Easy stuff.

We set a time. We set a place.

I arrived early and ordered my tea while my heart rate started elevating, sweat puddles forming in my armpits.  Thank goodness for wool sweaters this time of year. I don’t know why I was so nervous.

He walked in: gray wool coat, great hair, nice eyes, gentle demeanor. Holy shit, he’s hot.

“Are you Online Guy?” (I used his real name.)

“Yeah, I am.”

Wow, he’s really attractive. I found myself drawn to his demeanor, the way he carried himself, the sound of his voice. You know how you meet someone and you just want to be around them? It was like that.

“Nice to meet you,” I said.  Shit, I sound like all those dorky first meetings I’ve heard in coffee shops. 

“You, too,” he said. “Hey, I hate to do this to you, but I’ve got a doctor’s appointment. I’ve had this sinus thing and they just called on my drive here and can get me in in 1/2 an hour. I didn’t want to cancel on you because I really did want to meet you. I wanted to see you. But, this appointment…”

“Hey, no problem. I’m meeting my kids in a little bit anyway.”

“Really, I wanted to meet you.  I’ll take you anywhere. We can meet here again. My treat. You name the place. Can we reschedule?”

“Absolutely. If you’re going to make it back over to your doctor, you probably should head out. Just let me know when you’re free and we’ll try again,” I said. Fuck! He saw me, figured I wasn’t his type and made a doctor excuse. I don’t want to play this game anymore. I don’t have the stamina to do this. 

“I will.”

He left. I continued to sip my tea and relax in one of my favorite places in all the world, hoping my face wasn’t glowing red and hoping no one around me was feeling sorry for the girl who got left at the coffee shop. Nothing to see here, people. I can handle this. See, got my tea, got my smart phone. I can handle it. 

Maybe Online Guy was telling the truth. Maybe he really did have an appointment. I mean, he did drive 1/2 an hour to meet me in nice clothes and will have to drive 1/2 an hour back to the doc — if that was a true story.  Otherwise, I just had the fastest date of my life. Less than 2 minutes. From a 20 year marriage to a 2 minute date — Wow! I’m getting much faster in my turn around time.

Ugh!

I don’t want to do this. I really don’t want to do this.

My online dating profile went active with a mix of excitement and shame. Really? This is my life? I am shopping the online catalog for a date?

My sponsor isn’t really happy with my decision to swim in the dating pool again. “Can’t you wait?” she asked.

No. I can’t.

“I know I can’t tell you not to date because you’ll do it anyway. But, can’t you at least give yourself a week?”

No. I can’t.

I admit: my profile is a distraction. I don’t want to think about Chef Man. When the longing thoughts enter my brain, I push them away. Or, I try to. I’m an alcoholic — pushing thoughts away doesn’t work for me. I am powerless over my obsessive thoughts.

I don’t want to have the thoughts. I can’t have the thoughts. I shouldn’t have the thoughts.  I’m not supposed to covet someone else’s man. He belongs to someone else. It was all a fantasy — not real, nothing was real.

He’s attached. Don’t think about him, I tell myself. I even went so far as to say a little prayer, “God, let him know I miss him and that he was important. But… don’t bring him back to me. Help Chef Man find peace and help me let him go.”

I have even had my screaming match with God, kneeling in the adoration chapel at my church. In the silence and reverence, I have my best fights with God. Always one sided.  I scream, silently.  God listens. If the little old ladies kneeled next to me knew my prayers, I would probably be thrown out.  Of course, they may be screaming, too.

“Why the f*** God did you bring Chef Man into my life? What the hell were You thinking? First you give me The Wizard, now, Chef Man. Really, God? Really? You have got to be kidding me. I specifically asked You to show me who was supposed to be the man in my life. The next day, Chef Man appeared. I trusted God. I thought that’s what You wanted. How the f*** am I supposed to know now? How am I supposed to trust when You send me the losers? What is so wrong with me that I attract the losers, the liars, the cheats? Why, God? Why?” 

The tears poured, dripping off my nose on to the pew in front of me. The angry words gushed through my thoughts as I bowed my head. When I looked up, an older lady had glanced my way. I wiped my eyes and hoped my thoughts weren’t too loud. I resisted the urge to turn to her and say, “It’s OK. I’m just having a fight with God. He’s got broad shoulders and can take it. We always make up, but I just gotta do this.”

There’s peace in letting God have it all — the good, the bad, and the profanity.

When the obsessive thoughts enter my head, I remind myself that even if Chef Man were to leave the girlfriend, even if he were to enter extensive therapy, even if he were to “fix” himself, I would never trust him. Ever. That isn’t the relationship I want. It isn’t the partnership I desire.

So, I shop online. I email the pilot with the adorable puppy. I text the humorous tall guy. I visit on the phone with the film buff guy. I take a walk with the computer analyst with good taste in coffee. I cancel the coffee date with film buff guy because he turns out to be shorter than his profile first revealed. I listen for my gitchy feeling that tells me something isn’t right.

And, I compare them all to Chef Man, both his good and his bad qualities. He’s my benchmark until I can create a new benchmark.

“Will you at least ask God to help you know what to do?” my sponsor asked, exasperated but loving me unconditionally.

“Yeah, I will.”

Hey God, I’ve been prayin’ for somebody I’ve never seen. And I don’t care what he looks like as long as he loves me. No I’m not particular. But could he have blue eyes just like the sky and blonde hair, wavy and light and 6 foot 2 is my favorite height… Oh wait… That’s the song. God, I’ll take a nice guy, preferably tall, who wants to be a partner in my life.

“This is Chef Man’s girlfriend, Amy. The one he’s lived with for the last five years and has a daughter with. Call me. We need to talk.”

I started shaking when I listened to the message from the unfamiliar phone number.

Chef Man is… was… shouldn’t have been the gentleman I thought I was dating this past year. Apparently, I was only a distraction, a fantasy, an escapist drug from another life.

“Um… I just got a call from Amy,” I text Chef Man. He was at the restaurant, busy closing. Or that’s what he said. With the mounds of lies he has told me, he could have been clubbing baby seals in his basement.

My phone rang again. Same number. I didn’t answer.

I listened to the voicemail. The verbal vomit of an injured animal oozed from the speaker. I know her words. I know the phone call. I know the pain. I know the shriek, the high-pitched, not-in-control terror of her words.  I’ve made the same phone call she made to me — five years earlier to The Wizard’s other woman.

I couldn’t stop shaking.

I called Chef Man. Fuck the busy closing the restaurant crap. It was time for truth. The call went to voicemail.

“I just got another call from Amy,” I tried to keep my voice steady, tired not to let my own wounded animal out. “What the fuck is going on? I don’t mess around with other women’s men. We need to talk NOW.”

My phone dinged with a text: “I’m on my way.”

Five minutes later he was at my door.

We sat on my couch, the place where just hours earlier we lounged with fingers intertwined. Now, I sat at one end, my knees pulled to my chest; he sat at the other end, tears brimming on his eyes.

“I live with Amy, our daughter and her two kids. I knew if I told you, you wouldn’t see me.” No shit, Sherlock.

I didn’t say a word. I tried to make my space on the couch as small as possible, lessening my footprint in the world to avoid the impact of his words. I knew about their daughter together. I knew about Amy. The story I got was that they broke up two years ago. He had his daughter on Monday and Wednesday nights. She didn’t do overnights with him yet because she was so young. I didn’t know he and Amy were still together.

“I didn’t mean to fall in love with you,” he said. “But I did. Your voice, your lips, your intelligence. I just wanted someone to have conversations with. I fell for you.” Fuck you. That’s the same thing I heard from The Wizard about his other woman. 

“My plan was to get the house finished then leave,” he said. “I’ve slept upstairs, in the basement, wherever I can. I hate that place. I hate being there. I hate being with her. My brother and sister-in-law keep asking me why I don’t leave. I am so sorry.” Yeah, Genius, where are your fucking balls? Be a fucking man. Only cowards do what you do. 

My voice squeaked, hardly above a whisper. “Please tell Amy how sorry I am. If I would have known…” The tears started pouring. “If I would have known, I would have never… Please tell her how sorry I am. I’ve made the phone calls like she made. I know the pain. Please tell her… Please tell her I know the pain. I am so sorry.”

“I will.”

I continued to sit on the couch, still shaking, a warm cup of tea in my hand, when Chef Man got up to leave. The door closed. I took two more sips of tea, then sent the Bat Signal up in the recovery sky.

“Who’s still awake? I need to talk,” I texted my sober recovery friends. Less than a minute later, I was on the phone with a good friend explaining the details.

“It’s not your fault,” she said. “You asked the questions. You verified the best you could.” As I talked to her, more phone calls and texts from recovery friends came in.

I am not alone.

I won’t reach out to Amy. I can’t. Anything I said would create more harm. So… I write this for Amy and for all the women who have been in her shoes… and in mine.

Dear Amy–

As a wise friend once told me: if I was truly sorry, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place. I’m sorry are just words. But, they are all I have right now. I am so sorry.

When Chef Man first contacted me, I asked him directly if he was married, separated, attached in anyway. He told me about his ex-wife and that he was divorced in May. He told me about you and that you hadn’t been together in two years. I believed him.

If I would have known, I would not have engaged in any way with him. I asked on multiple occasions about his past relationships. I asked about you. I asked about his ex-wife. He always told me you were one of his ex’s. I thought I did my due diligence.

A couple of months ago, my gut instinct started screaming at me that something wasn’t right. I started asking more questions. On the night you called me, I was preparing to break up with Chef Man because I knew something wasn’t on the up and up. What I didn’t know was that something was you.

I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve made the phone call you made. I know the gut-wrenching pain. I was left for The Other Woman.

It’s hard for me even to conceive of myself that way — The Other Woman. It’s not what I thought I was. It’s not what I wanted to be. It’s not a title I would ever choose for myself. I never intended to hurt you or your daughter.

I didn’t know. I swear to you: I didn’t.

Please know you deserve better. You deserve a man who will respect you and give you the relationship you want. You deserve the very best of the best. You are in my prayers. Every night I ask God to give you the strength you need to have peace in your life.

I am so sorry.

Dorothy

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