2010: Alone

It was a summer that began with massive change.  We started recording our first podcast episodes two days before I ended my eight years working for a major retailer.  I was also now single and making a serious go at turning my creativity into a career.  Then she came along.

To be honest, she’d been there for over a year.  We’d worked together for a while and eventually became Facebook friends.  This led to a lot of back-and-forth about who had superior taste in music and movies.  Eventually, our conversations became less about that and more about real life.  I’d always known she was ambitious but I was bowled over by how together she was in every aspect of her life – her academics, her career goals, and how her 20’s and 30’s were going to play out.  Being ambitious myself, and ready to make the leap into uncertainty, I was happy to connect with somebody who was wired in a similar way but who was also a reference point for how “together” I wanted to be in my life.

Facebook messaging gave way to text messaging which gave way to phone calls.  To say I was smitten after a short time is an understatement.  I admired her for everything she was and despite our differing tastes in the arts, we made a very strong personal connection.  But she was so “together” and I felt I had to be good enough if I wanted to be with her.  It’s not that I’d never tried to impress women before but my recent relationships had been based on mutual attraction which was clear to both people.  “I like you, you like me, let’s date.”  Now I was feeling this push to be good enough, to be more and better because it’s what she deserved.  For the first time in my adult life, I had a full blown crush on a woman.

So what was I going to do about it?  I had no idea.

One day, a few friends and I made yet another trip to Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ.  While browsing around, I saw the CD single for the new Heart song, “WTF.”  I’d been way into Heart for a long time (being an 80s baby) and was really excited to see they had a new album coming out soon.  I bought the CD along with a few other choices and absorbed them at home that evening.  I popped on my headphones and dug into some serious rock.  “WTF” is a charging rock song which kept my tempo up while I was doing some much needed organizing in my bedroom.  Next up was “Sand,” an acoustic song, followed by a rollicking live version of the classic “Barracuda.”  The fourth track was a slow, keyboard and vocal-based version of a song I knew well from the rock radio days of my youth: “Alone.”  Since I was harboring feelings for this incredible woman and had no conceivable way to show her I wanted to be more than friends, the lyrics of the song stopped me dead, and I stood still in my bedroom listening to the song.

You don’t know how long I have wanted
To touch your lips and hold you tight,
You don’t know how long I have waited
and I was going to tell you tonight
But the secret is still my own

How could a song I’d been listening to for ages suddenly hit me so hard?  Then it got even deeper…

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?

I’d always been secure in who and what I was but this newfound feeling of wanting to be better so I could be worthy of her was leaving me confused, but this song made sense of it all.  It was then that my plan hit me like a tidal wave.

That Friday night, my former coworkers were having a get-together at the local Applebee’s and I was invited along.  She was going to be there too, and she’d suggested we hang out afterward to spend time together, face to face.  I’m notoriously bad at picking up on hints but I honestly thought it reasonable that she’d want to talk in person so I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.  However, my suspicions about her feelings toward me gave the impression that I wasn’t the only one with a crush.  Friday night seemed like the right time to make my move.

Even though twenty-odd people were seated at the connecting tables at Applebee’s, naturally, she was sitting directly across from me.  I was so nervous that I didn’t even look at her the whole night for fear of having my affection shown plainly on my face.  It was awkward for me, and I hoped she wasn’t put off by it.  People gradually left the party but the two of us hung out until the remaining few called it a night.  We’d made plans to leave the plaza separately and meet at a nearby beach, a definite sign she wanted us to have privacy.  I began feeling better about my plan…until I realized I’d forgotten batteries.  I pulled into a nearby Wawa to buy an overpriced four-pack of C batteries and sped off, hoping she wouldn’t be waiting on me.

I pulled into the parking lot, parked next to her, and clumsily blew off her questions about the backpack I had slung over my shoulder.  We started walking on the beach and making small talk.  I was sweating partly because of the rampant humidity but mostly because of nerves, but I knew I had to follow through with my plan despite this.  I’m very much into taking big chances, figuring they’ll either pay off or my failure will be spectacular.  Even if I was wrong and she didn’t feel the same way, she’d have a story she could tell for the rest of her life, and I’d end up being “some guy who once…”

My first move was to give her a rose as we walked, as an icebreaker.  The week before, I’d given her a flower as a friendly gesture, leaving it on her windshield as a wink, so raising the stakes by making it a rose helped set things up.  Shortly after, I said we should stop where we were and she should face the ocean.  She hesitantly agreed and turned away from me, so I sat my backpack on the sand and pulled out my boombox, which was readily loaded with new batteries and the song which had shaken me earlier that week.  Finally, I took out a candle and quietly tried to light it, which took a few sparks.  Everything was in place so I pressed play and as the audience swell began, I asked her to turn around.  I took her in my arms and began to slow dance with her, hoping she wouldn’t be so overwhelmed that she didn’t hear the lyrics of the song.  There was no better sentiment for me on that night than “how do I get you alone,” and since I didn’t have a better way to express my feelings for her, I left it up to Ann Wilson.

I was remarkably smooth on the outside.  Inside was another matter.  I was hoping she wouldn’t be scared off by the thumping of my heart, which felt like it went out to Pittsburgh and smacked back into my chest with every heartbeat.  I did my best to stay in the moment as much as I could, regardless of how things would play out after the song was over.  Before I knew it, four minutes had passed.  The song came to its end and the audience applauded for Heart.  In my own small way, I hoped they were applauding for me too.

We released each other from our embrace and the butterflies returned to my stomach.  My greatest fear was having this grand gesture met with the honesty of her not feeling the same way I did, an adolescent fear which usually never leaves the mind of every guy who makes his feelings known to a woman.  But that feeling I’d been carrying – that crush – was reciprocated in the form of a slow kiss.

We spent quite a while sitting on the beach after that. When she rested her head on my shoulder, I let out the biggest sigh of my life.  Sweet relief had finally calmed my nerves.  My gamble had paid off!  All of the wondering I’d been doing for the last few weeks had finally brought me to that night and that moment.  Eventually we realized how late it was, so I packed up my stuff and we began a long, affectionate walk back across the beach to our cars before kissing each other goodnight.  It was a romantic rendezvous which would make Nicholas Sparks snap his pencil in anger while wishing he’d written it.

There are many stories I could write about songs the two of us shared during the three summers we spent living in each other’s hearts, but this song represents the exact few minutes we went from being friends to being much more.  It was the beginning of a journey for both of us, one which would forever change the man I am.  Unfortunately, I can no longer listen to any version of this song because of what it means to me and how crystal clear this all remains in my mind.  It’s hard to believe four years have gone by since that night, and although her and I don’t share our lives anymore, we’ll always share the memory of that dance.

And yes, this is the exact version of the song.

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