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02.13.2004 - 12:06 p.m.


I was working as a receptionist, fresh out of a longish stint as a Kinko's employee and feeling giddy about my new "real" job. Day after day, I arrived at exactly 8 AM and left at exactly 5 PM, dressed in crisp skirts and blouses. I endured inane chatter with countless boring sales reps who lurked in the lobby waiting to meet with their prey. I filed stacks of checks, sorted by date. I typed various things. I dutifully entertained employees who lingered by my desk, killing time.

I don't remember the first time I noticed him, he was just someone I gradually became aware of. While most of the single men in the company swooped in for a look at the new, young, unattached front desk girl, he didn't seem to give me a second glance. Pudgy, sweaty engineers would lean on the counter in the lobby and ask me nervous questions about my weekend plans, while he strode by on his way to the mailroom, frowning at a printout of something or other.

He started to become very interesting to me, this good-looking guy about my age who seemed to have all the self confidence in the world, and was maybe a bit of an asshole to boot. Employees were supposed to enter and leave the office through a hallway so as to not 'disturb' the front office, he blatantly ignored this and came charging through the lobby two or three times a day, never saying hello.

I became friends with a few of my coworkers, and I learned he had a bad boy reputation; a guy who sometimes got in fights, an ex-frat boy who still raised hell when he had a few drinks.

So he's a macho jerk, I though. Hmmmmm.

Eventually we exchanged a few words whenever he came through my office, just idle banter that I couldn't read into. Sometimes he'd ask me, "Going out Thursday?" (Thursday being, for whatever reason, a big bar night in Corvallis, OR). "I don't have plans..." I'd say, throwing out my hook. And - nothing.

I sent him the occasional flirty email; god help me, once I even told him about a dream I'd had about him. He was inscrutable, sometimes I got the feeling he was returning my vibe, sometimes I simply couldn't tell.

After a while I sort of mentally shrugged and stopped paying attention to him. I was increasingly frustrated with my job - I had started doing more and more marketing work internally, and despite the interest of the marketing department manager, the company wasn't willing to move me out of the receptionist position, even part time. "We can give you a raise," the HR manager said worriedly. "But that's not even what I want," I told her.

I was also tired of living in Corvallis, tired of what had sort of turned into a rut, life-wise.

In what seems in retrospect a sudden whoosh of events, I quit my job, found a new marketing job in Portland, and moved. On one of my last days in Corvallis, one of my coworkers told me she had given him my email address. "I didn't think you'd mind," she said with a questioning look. I shook my head. "No, that was okay."

Some time after I'd been living in Portland, getting settled in my apartment and making friends at my new job, I got an email from him. It was light and chatty and just touching base. I wrote back.

Ah, email, that magical means of delving into another person without any of the awkwardness of looking them in the eye. We wrote back and forth, building a buzzing current between us. We told stories, asked questions, filled in missing spaces.

I hadn't seen him in person since I left the company. There was a New Year's Eve party we both were invited to, and we planned to meet there.

I had been at the party for about an hour when he showed up. He was wearing a shirt that said "Porn Star", and brought a backpack filled with cans of Coors. We sat together on a couch and filled out silly "Hi, My Name Is:" stickers the host had provided ("Hi, My Name Is: Plumps When You Cook It"). We drank beer and laughed together and generally ignored everyone else in the room.

Sometime before midnight, we were in the kitchen together rummaging cheap champagne from the fridge. "You know," he said, straightening, "we're going to kiss at midnight, so maybe we should practice now so we're good at it then." And that was our first kiss, beery and lusty and against the wall, with the sounds of a party just outside the doorway.

That's part of our story.

It's not a glance across a crowded room, a bolt of lightening in the heart as your eyes meet. It's not candlelight and perfume, it's not a white horse, it's not a swelling orchestra.

It's just a story, but it's real.

Every day, every month, every year together adds another note to the song we're building between us. It's complex and rich and not always without discordance, but it's always there and it's always playing and it grows and changes all the time.

It's not a red velvet heart-shaped candy box; it's more like a real heart, glistening and pulsing and alive and dripping blood and trailing arteries and freaky and beautiful.

So, you know what I think? I say no more Valentine's Day. Instead, February 14th can be Remember When Day. The best part is, you can celebrate with anyone you want. JB and I could have Remember When Cat Climbed The Post At The Cabin And She Looked Like A Little Fat Bear And We Laughed And Laughed At Her Day. Chiara and I could have Remember When We Walked Around At JournalCon All Nervous And We Started Talking In Smarmy, Vaguely European Accents For No Reason Day. Peachy and I could have Remember When We Went Out To Lunch That One Time And I Tried To Imitate Sean Connery Saying "ROTFLOL" Day.

They might just be stories, but they're real.

Have a happy Remember When Day!

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18 comments so far.

I have moved. - 1.03.2005
Obviously, a work in progress. - 12.27.2004
Happy holidays! - 12.24.2004
Listen, I am not a complete dick, it's not like I want Joe to die alone surrounded by cats or something. - 12.23.2004
Plus I am convinced my butt is extra big when it's upside down. - 12.22.2004

yay, diaryland