A true tale of brief encounters, lost briefcases and found love, shared by Di, holds a special message to all on the path to true love. Re-Romance Now! Harper
It was July, 1992. Iʼll never forget the date...
I was taking a group of adult Spanish students to Mexico and Guatemala for a “Leave ʻn Learnʼ trip. I was groggy as I stumbled into the airport at 5:30 a.m. All the other students were flying from different cities, so the only person I was to meet was Bob. And there he was, looking fresh, more handsome than ever, calmly waiting for me at the check in area.
Now you need to understand that Iʼd had a crush on Bob for a long time. We had met at a workshop ten years prior and the spark between us is palpable in a photo a friend recently dug out and gave me. But, alas, we were both married to other people. Had this been Hollywood, we probably would have run off together right then and there. But we were both responsible people, so we said goodbye after the workshop and went our separate ways.
Ten years later Fate had arranged that Bob and I would exchange business consulting for Spanish lessons. Again, I was smitten. In fact, so much so that I found myself behaving like a teenager. Iʼm ashamed to say that I started stalking him. Actually, not exactly stalking, but I would drive past his house slowly and notice my heart beating faster. Unfortunately, during one of these cloak and dagger episodes I saw him emerging from his house with a tall, attractive redhead. They stopped to chat with an artist who happened to be painting his house, then got in a car and drove off. Like a sprinter who is perfectly still, then, hearing the gun, runs madly–but in reverse–my heart went from frenzy to stillness in a split second. Forget it. Heʼs living with someone.
So this is where I was that July morning at the airport. I donʼt know if it was coincidence, but Bob and I were seated next to each other on the plane. He told me about his life, that he was divorced, had a very demanding business consulting with companies all over the world, and had full custody of his 15 year old son, who is developmentally disabled.
“How do you do it?” I asked in wonderment. “Well, weʼve had a nanny for years. And then my sister comes to help out occasionally.”
“Oh,” I responded casually, shamelessly shifting the conversation to his sister. It was only when it was ascertained that she was tall, lovely and redheaded that I was able to exhale.
Despite the mutual attraction, however, I realized that a relationship probably wasnʼt in the cards. First, I was still officially married (though unhappily). Second, we were so different. He had been serving in Viet Nam while I was protesting the war. He spoke about the worst professor heʼd ever had in graduate school, and that person happened to be my ex- husband. And there was the issue of his son. He sounded rather challenging and I ungraciously wondered whether Bob might actually be wanting a caretaker more than a lover.
However, the trip to Mexico and Guatemala was magical in many ways. The Spanish class was held in a gorgeous ex-convent in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. Then five of us rented a VW Beetle and drove to Guatemala.
About halfway through the trip Bob realized that heʼd lost his briefcase containing his passport, other important papers, and all his money. The group was planning to stay at Lake Atitlán for a couple more days, so Bob and I set out in the Beetle, retracing our steps to try to find the briefcase. By the end of the day we had covered 500 kilometers, had gone back to where we had the flat tire, where we crossed the border, where we had stopped for lunch, where we ran out of gas. So absorbed were we in our conversation during this search that we nearly ended up in Honduras. We got to know each other. But no briefcase.
When we returned to the group with the bad news, everyone commiserated with Bob. This was going to ruin his trip, and who knows what would happen to a U.S. Citizen in Guatemala with no passport? Bobʼs response was succinct: “Yes, I lost everything in my briefcase, but I found something much more important: Diane.”
We decided to continue on to Antigua and deal with the authorities there. We were all pretty tense during the 150 kilometer drive and it didnʼt get any better when we arrived in Antigua to learn that there was a festival going on and literally not one room was available (we needed two). So we drove another two hours stopping at every fleabag motel and 5 five star B & B. (This was before the internet.) Nothing.
We decided to go outside of town and look. Finally, we found a place with two rooms available. Exhausted and relieved, but still worried, we were unpacking when the phone in the room rang. A mysterious voice spoke in Spanish telling me that he was in the building across the street and that I should go there right now. Being quite naive, I went down the stairs, crossed the street, and knocked on the door.
“Have you lost a briefcase?” the man asked immediately. And thatʼs when I started believing in miracles.
It turns out that the owners of the place we had stayed in Atitlán knew we had lost the briefcase, knew we were traveling in a white VW, and knew we were headed to Antigua. He only had one acquaintance in Antigua, a restaurant owner, so he called him just in case he happened to see five large gringos in a small white Beetle. When we pulled up to the motel, this man happened to be looking out the window, saw this unlikely group, called us, and thus the briefcase was retrieved. [I know this story is unbelievable, but itʼs true. You can ask Bob. Details of the actual recovery are too long to be recounted here.]
Throughout this ordeal an irresistible magnetic draw to Bob was growing so strongly in me that I couldnʼt sleep. And I didnʼt need to for over a week.
It is now the summer of 2012. This week Bob and I went to a Colorado mountain retreat to celebrate twenty years of being together. Of course we had some things to work out over the years. But the trust, joy, unconditional love, laughter, and deep intimacy continue to flourish.
Iʼm so glad I ignored the ʻred flagsʼ that appeared in the infancy of our relationship and remembered:
“Falling in love consists merely in uncorking the imagination and bottling the common sense.”