Do you believe in magic?

Just realized that in a few days it’ll be nine years since John and I first laid eyes on each other. It’s easy to remember because that Sunday was my father’s birthday and it was 20 years after his death. We spotted each other across the room at (the now defunct) Sufficient Grounds in Hillcrest — but we met online.

(Let me pause here to stress that, contrary to what some of my friends have said, I have not led a charmed life. I’ve had my share of tragedies and mistakes — more than enough, thank you very much — but some things have, ahem, worked out. And, yes, people do meet online and end up married. Same thing happened to our friends Rich and Julia, in a totally different part of the country.

But if it weren’t for a confluence of events and circumstances, John and I might have kept passing like ships in the night (unbeknownst to us at the time, we’d had close encounters). So I’ll grant that this has the aura of magic in some ways.

I was long enough divorced to have worked through the trauma and long enough out of a long-term dating relationship to be ready to move on with my life. My mother and daughter (from Hawaii, courtesy of the U.S. Navy) and two of my considerably younger friends (Tammy and Mel, you know it’s you) had been pushing me to do the online thing, but I hadn’t been able to bring myself to sign on.

For one thing, I was a columnist and feature writer at the time and … wait, what was I thinking. Hello, perfect feature story idea! I could be an online dating guinea pig and write about the experience. Sounded like a fun idea, and if I actually met someone, so much the better. So I pitched the story idea, then signed on for free trials at three different sites.

One thing I knew in advance — no photo with my profiles. Didn’t want to be recognized and didn’t want appearance to play any part. Must love big dogs was plainly spelled out, however (Zuzu and Tess are wrestling as I type this — though Zu took a brief break to chase her tail). Some things are non-negotiable. I was extremely specific and honest, and, evidently, very naive. For example, no one younger than 45 need contact me, but one young law student in Texas was rather a pest. Only local men need apply. Heard from one as far away as Hawaii. No fair! It was raining men via the Internets.

Here’s where it’s serendipitous: Comcast somehow crossed my e-mail with a Linda Cartwright somewhere up north (Illinois, maybe?) — I was getting hers along with mine. So on a Friday night, I was on the phone with Comcast and on my computer trying to get the mess straightened out. This was nine days — yes, days — after signing up, and by then I’d learned what the little instant chat thingies that kept popping up were. (I’d been deleting them thinking they were spam.) When one popped up that night, I answered. It was John who was working very late.

We exchanged a bit of saucy banter (so we’re nerds), then he told me his name, and for some reason, I found myself telling him my real name.Definitely against my rules. “OH MY GOSH! I’M YOU’RE BIGGEST FAN,” was what he typed in response. Seems he read my column and, as he tells it, already had a crush on me. Wow. He asked if he could call me the next day (totally against my rules); I said absolutely and we set a time.

He called and we talked for hours. I knew within minutes that he’d never think I was weird and that he was the most interesting man I’d ever talked to. We also made a date to meet in person the next day, my dad’s birthday. TOTALLY against the rules I’d set. Birthday present from Daddy? That’s a nice thought.

I do believe in magic.

But I never wrote the story. Until now.

Wye Mountain, 2011.

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