The Boy Next Door

Roughly 17 years ago, I met the boy next door. Truthfully, I first saw him while I was out eating dinner with a friend. He passed by the restaurant window and waved to Mary while giving her a big smile. I asked who he was and noted he had a lovely grin.

Chris lived next door to Mary, and a few months later I moved into a room in her main-floor-of-a-house apartment. Chris sat next to me during a potluck. Still, he left my side as soon as he was done eating, seemingly very happy to not have to make any more small talk. A few weeks before that, he was part of the New Year’s gathering at a local bar. He danced with every woman in our small group save me. He was having a great time that night, and his dance moves were funny. I wondered why he didn’t dance with me. But it wasn’t because of some great crush, more because he asked everyone but me. Perhaps I was frumpy in comparison to my friends?

Cut to six weeks later, and I was bored on a Saturday night. Mary was dating Chris’ roommate, and I knew she was at their house hanging out. I walked over, cribbage board in hand. I can’t recall what everyone was doing when I came in, but Chris was the only person who said yes when I asked who wanted to play cribbage.

Chris had never played cribbage before. I had no idea that his uneven playing that night was a rouse. Every single contest we have played since that night has been a duel. He figures out games quickly, and usually wins. That night there was pheromones in the air, and I handily won. At the end of our playing, we were talking about our mutual love of good writing. As I said goodbye at his front door, he made me wait a few minutes while he ran to his room to dig out some favorite issues of Smithsonian Magazine to borrow to me.

So it began. This was Valentine’s week. We managed to avoid each other on that Hallmark-card driven day. Still, we played cribbage at a local bar during an outing with friends. (Yes, he played well that night.) I stopped by his house a few days after the 14th, and his brother laughed at me when I asked if Chris was home. Nope, he told me without words, but I know you like him! All the people renting rooms in the 3-level house I lived in threw a party that weekend. I stopped by that day to make sure Chris was coming. He was. He would make me dinner beforehand. He told me he was selling his scooter that day and buying a Volkswagen bug.

So it was. We drove his new yellow bug to the Food Giant. On the drive there he asked, “How old are you?”

“24. And you?” I said.

“26.”

There. Now I know I passed some test. He asked because he liked me and I was the right age for love. What is the menu for true love? Pita bread, avocados, red onions, humus, tomatoes, cucumbers. The meal was divine; my party date was sweet and nice and funny. I have been lucky in love. And maybe I’m the third person he chooses to cut a rug with during our at home dance sessions now — Annie and KK go first — but now we dance together often and well, with funny moves and much laughter always.

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