Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, Part Four

“She put down in writing what was in her mind” –Bob Dylan, It’s Not Dark Yet

Where we left off:  After six months of virtual communication, Billy, the musician I’d never met in person, suddenly announced he’d be in Ojai within a week. And sure enough, early Monday morning in the middle of June, a week before the Full Moon and Summer Solstice, he called to say he’d be in Ojai that evening. By that time I’d made it clear, both in writing and over the phone, that he could not stay at my house and that he’d have to be responsible for finding his own accommodations. It still wasn’t clear to me whether he was seeking housing for the summer, possibly with plans to move here, or just coming for a short visit. When he told me that he had a place to stay at one of Ojai’s retreat centers for four days during the week (it was not available on the weekend), I let this slide and didn’t ask, “Where will you stay after that?” I shrugged it off and figured we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

After teaching my morning yoga class, I put on my domestic goddess apron and went to work cleaning my small abode—I vacuumed all Honey’s dog hairs, no easy task as they kept clogging the promising new Dyson animal vacuum I purchased a few months ago—mopped, scrubbed the toilet, tub, and sink, and threw piles of clutter and paperwork that could easily wait into boxes and stashed everything into the garage. Out of sight. Out of mind. I waltzed over to Rainbow Bridge and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers to help  make a good first impression, assorted cold drinks, raw vegan “Back to Life” humus, cucumbers, avocados, pixie tangerines, watermelon, coffee,  and a large container of vegetable coconut curry from the deli. I cooked a pot of sprouted organic brown rice, filled up the bird bath, watered the front yard, took a shower, rested in the Goddess Pose, and walked my dogs early in the evening so I’d be free by the time the mystery man arrived.

Three of my closest women friends knew this unknown quantity was coming. They were ready to greet him with one hand on their hip and a pitchfork in the other. “Yes,” one said, “he looks very good on paper. Impressive credentials. Nice public persona. But, until you can smell him in real life, you have no idea what he’s really like.”  Another one said, “Sure, his meditation music is beautiful. That’s why we buy CD’s. You don’t have to get involved with him in order to listen to his music!” 

I assured them I had the situation under control. They recommended I not see him till the next morning and just meet him for coffee, like I would anyone else I’d never met in person before. “You don’t owe him anything, Suza,” one of them said. But, in my mind, having him go straight to his sleeping quarters seemed so unfriendly. I wanted him to feel welcomed. Besides, after six months of virtual communication, I was dying of curiosity.

I didn’t feel the least bit anxious or nervous like I might have been if he had not already told me the story of his life. Plus, the issue of where he would be sleeping that night was settled —so I had no worries about anything awkward, uncomfortable, or inappropriate happening. I basically tried to put myself in the same frame of mind  I would be in if he was an out-of-town yoga student. And he wanted to do yoga so that wasn’t that far-fetched. I felt very much in charge of the situation as he was coming to visit me, on my turf, and, I thought, on my terms.

At 8:30 p.m. my cell phone rang. The screen showed his number so I picked it up. “I’m sitting on your front porch,” announced his familiar booming voice. And sure enough, there he was, as if he’d leaped out of cyberspace and suddenly manifested. My dogs were going nuts, barking like crazy, jumping up against the door. I flung open the entrance to the nunnery, smiled, and welcomed him inside. We gave each other a warm, friendly hug. He was taller and wider than I expected —his presence filled my small, low ceiling yoga room. While he’d metamorphosed a long way from the handsome days of his youth,  by the soft evening light I found his features pleasant. I served him a cold sparkling drink and asked he wanted something to eat—he said he wasn’t hungry yet. So then I did what comes naturally to me. I had him lie down on the floor of my yoga room and showed him how to relax lying back on a yoga bolster. I was thrilled that he willingly took off his shoes and easily sat on the floor in various yoga positions. I saw that he had very flexible legs and hips for a big guy—so the stories he’d told me about doing yoga over the years appeared to be true.

After about twenty minutes of stretching and relaxing together, he fell asleep on the floor—not surprising after driving all day. When he woke up about ten minutes later, I asked if he wanted to have some rice and curry before heading off to the retreat center. This time he said he was hungry—I enjoyed warming up the food, playing hostess,  and serving him. He asked for chop sticks and said the curry was delicious. “This is going great,” I thought to myself.

After he ate, I hinted that it was getting late and time for him to get going. We hugged goodnight and agreed to meet for breakfast. I remember feeling hopeful and happy that this talented, accomplished being had finally come to Ojai to explore our connection in real life.

* * *

The next morning he called to say that he’d be at my house in an hour. Perfect—that gave me time to do yoga and a few morning chores. When he arrived, he wanted to drive to the Cafe Emporium, a 15-minute walk from my house. I was kind of taken aback.  One of the perks of living in the heart of town is leaving the car at home and walking or bicycling everywhere.“No,” I said, “I’m walking. Drive if you like —by the time you park I’ll be there.” That’s when the first conflict and concern reared its head. He explained he had trouble walking . . . of course in my book that’s a sure sign you need to walk more—not less! But, being on his best behavior, he gamely followed me down to the end of the arcade and across the street to the Cafe Emporium. Usually I speed walk but, being also on my best behavior, I politely slowed my stride to a level comfortable for him.

It was very pleasant to be finally sitting face-to-face across the table from the man I’d been virtually communicating with all winter, all spring. Here we were in real life, sipping coffee like normal people, eating a tofu scramble with a side of fruit. Being on his best behavior, he refrained from ordering eggs and bacon. (I used to take for granted that spiritual types are vegetarian but I’ve had to face that for many the definition of “vegetarian” is fuzzy and apparently includes chicken salads, fish, crab, shrimp, and bacon. Some even think that giving up beef loosely qualifies them as “vegetarian.”) I try not to make an issue of eating animals, but, sometimes I tell men that if you want to pour a bucket of cold water on my romantic interest, just order veal or bacon on the menu.

After breakfast we strolled across the street to the Ojai Art Center —he wondered where there might be a good piano he could play, so I suggested that later we’d go over to my parent’s house to the piano my mother has played for decades. We slow walked the back way behind the Art Center over the bridge, into Libbey Park.

That first week Billy was in Ojai, the weather was still cool, adding to the feeling of compatibility between us.  As we wandered under the oaks, I thought to myself, “Well here we are. Two old people meandering through the park, wondering what this is all about—not just our potential relationship but Life in general.”

We sat down on the long cement bench in front of the fountain. I’m used to doing yoga everywhere I go, or at least sitting yoga style. And I always take off my shoes at the first opportunity. So I sat across from Billy —my bare feet near his lap. I thought it was a sweet gesture when he gave me a nice foot massage.

After soaking up the ambience of a cool summer morning in Libbey Park, we slow walked back to my house and relaxed for a few minutes in Legs Up the Wall Pose, just as I normally do throughout the day. In spite of his girth, he seemed to take to yoga like a duck to water. We relaxed together and he reached over and held my hand. I thought to myself, “It’s been five years since a man has held my hand.” It felt like a warm, friendly, affectionate gesture —not prematurely sexual but entirely respectful.

He’d seen photos on Facebook of my students hanging upside down, and over the past months, he’d written, “I can’t wait to be in your torture chamber and hang from the ropes.” Now that moment had come. He asked if he could hang upside down.

“Well,” I said, “I don’t usually hang new students completely upside down. I have them get used to being half way upside down first.” So I had him do Downward Facing Dog Pose. I continued to marvel that a guy as big as him had the strength and flexibility to stay awhile in Dog Pose —I remembered how he often called me on the way to working out at the gym.

To be on the safe side, I questioned him about any medications he was taking, as I do with all my students. I forget at what point I found out he has type II diabetes —a serious health condition that can usually be handled with proper diet. I was somewhat hesitant to hang this big older dude on two medications I was unfamiliar with, completely upside down, but I was so thrilled by his eagerness and willingness to try it that I decided to  seize the moment. “Besides,” the comedienne in me thought, “this will be a good way to test if the eye hooks can withstand 200 plus pounds pulling on the ropes . . .”

I secured my sturdiest yoga strap between the two ropes and proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to safely get in and out of the rope sling. I made sure the length of the sling between the ropes was high enough so that his head would clear the floor . . . I tried to support his weight as he lowered his six foot two frame upside down; at one point, he started to slide his legs outside the ropes, which might have resulted in a concussion. The comedienne in me so wished I’d videotaped the whole scene. After nearly falling out, he hung for several minutes, smiling and making all sorts of happy sounds of relief. I was thrilled by how much he enjoyed it. His face remained a normal color—it didn’t turn beet red and he assured me he felt no unusual pressure in his head. When he said he was ready to come down, I helped him extricate himself safely out of the ropes and he obediently rested in Child’s Pose. Naturally, I was already making plans in my head to put him on a diet and turn his health around.

By then it was noon and I suggested we take my dogs on an outing to my parent’s house. While the dogs played in the yard, he could play my mother’s piano—something I had imagined many times during those six months that we spoke on the phone and communicated virtually. I had rescheduled my Tuesday afternoon private lesson for Wednesday as I thought I should at least clear my schedule his first day in Ojai. On the way to my parent’s house he asked if we could stop at the bank. As I drove, he held Chico, my elder Chihuahua on his lap and massaged his dear little doggie head—scoring more points. (I forgot to mention he was great with the dogs—another hopeful sign.) He proceeded to tell me about his finances —I was pleased to learn he was more financially stable than I thought.

During the months that we communicated on the phone and Facebook, Billy had learned all about my parents, that my dad had been in the ER twice, and that both my parents had at-home hospice care. When I explained early in our virtual relationship that I thought my dad was dying, he’d told me how he helped take care of his mother at the end of her life, and also about other deaths in his family. This all added to the emotional closeness I felt —even from a long distance.

When we arrived at my parent’s house, I found out from my youngest sister, Paula, that my mother had fallen early that morning. Thankfully, no bones were broken but her knee was bruised. My dad is usually in bed most of the day, although he still occasionally sits outside in the morning sun.  My mom normally  sits in her favorite easy chair by the window where she can see the mountains, the birds taking a bath, and the grandchildren and great grandchildren playing in the front yard when they come to visit. Even though she has short term memory loss, occasionally she still plays the piano, and she listens to classical music all day long. But today, due to her fall, her fragile skeletal figure was in bed in a fetal like position, looking barely here. I sat on the bed and said, “Mom, I ‘ve brought you a real concert pianist. He’s going to give a live concert on your piano.”

I pointed to Billy, standing in the doorway. He’d told me he was very good with old people and children—and he was. My mom was too weak to fully take in what I was saying, but when Billy started playing the piano the whole expression on her face changed. She closed her eyes and looked on the verge of rapture. I saw her clasp her hands over her heart and I could see that her consciousness was completely focused on the music spilling forth from the piano. It was unbelievably beautiful. For the first few minutes, I continued to sit on my mom’s bed, just watching the expressions on her face. Her sensitivity and appreciation of Beethoven, Mozart, and other masters is much greater than mine, but hearing the sonatas and symphonies “live,” played with such mastery and skill, I too felt myself swooning. Her piano was only about ten feet away from my mom’s bed so the sound was truly magnificent—like we were in the front row of a great concert hall.

 

As soon as he finished one piece, even as my mom and I were loudly clapping like kids to express our appreciation, Billy floated seamlessly into the next composition. When I went into the living room to watch him play, it was all I could do not to nuzzle the back of his beautiful neck. But I remembered how in our virtual conversations he’d mentioned many times that women would often hang around the piano while he played and leave him notes and the key to their hotel room and how he didn’t like that. He wanted to be taken seriously. I didn’t want to be put in the same category as those kind of women so, I wisely resisted the urge to nibble his neck. But I did look longingly at his beautiful hands as they drew centuries of music out of the piano . . .

 

Dear reader, keep in mind that this is just Day One of Billy’s visit to Ojai. I feel the need to describe these moments so you better understand that in spite of all the wise counsel from my friends, all the hours listening to the world’s top 25 relationship experts, all the books and resources listed in the beginning of this story, how it came to pass that as the moon grew fuller and the issue of where he would stay when his time at the retreat center ran out, why I weakened and invited him to stay at my house . . .

 

To be continued, Part Five

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