|Don't worry. They kept healing.|
Among those I started following was "Glitter Gravel" who was the subject of much of the bike shop's train wreck loving hateration at the time. Dustin was supposedly the root of this, but since hateration is about the furthest thing from his M.O., I'm sure it started as a more benevolent fascination. Anyway, I followed her to find out what the fuss was about. For the record, her crime was basically just another that I myself have often been guilty of: getting super stoked on things and signing up for events above one's depth. You want big rewards? You gotta take big risks. Sometimes you fail.
More importantly, she lead me to the picture above when I was scrolling through others' liked pictures and thought, "What the heck is that?" upon seeing the thumbnail. I can't remember my exact train of thought, but I'm sure it was something in the vein that anyone who messed their legs up that badly at CX Worlds while spectating and had enough of a sense of humor to write #iammyownworldchampion was probably awesome enough to make my list of random people I followed. Frank did not have his flask confiscated that day.
Fast forward a couple of months, a Death March, and a divorce, during which time posts from "the guy who really likes beer" would occasionally catch my eye. (His side job is at a craft beer store where he likes to post pictures of interesting new arrivals.) I sort of remember noticing the picture of him modeling his "Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels" t-shirt (written in strip club-esque neon) in combination with his squirrel tattoos and again thinking he was sort of awesome.
It wasn't until one day in May when I'd just finished cooking up my favorite seasonal treat of asparagus drowned in Hollandaise sauce and of course posting a picture. I was quite excited when less than an hour later I saw that someone else in my Instagram feed was enjoying asparagus as well. When I saw that it was "Beer/Squirrel Guy", I thought, "Beer/Squirrel Guy is pretty cool, I'll say something about our mutual love of asparagus." So I posted the unbelievably eloquent comment of, "Yay for asparagus pictures!"
Until that point he hadn't noticed my "likes" or followed me back, but I suppose my comment must have intrigued him a little. He started following me back and left an equally awkward comment on one of my tattoo pictures. And thus it went with the occasional back and forth likes up until the Gravel Metric.
After getting lost and limping back to DeKalb, on the car ride home I saw the above comment on my pre-race picture. The good luck had obviously not been received in time, but the sentiment was greatly appreciated.
At that point he became more of a real person in my mind, and I wanted to actually get to know him. What followed was what could be kindly referred to as necessary research or unkindly referred to as stalking. I knew from his pictures he was on the Penn State cycling team, so I looked at some ECCC results and figured out his last name. This allowed me to find him on Facebook, and was followed by a few days of gathering the nerve to "cross social media platforms".
When I finally sent him a friend request on Facebook, I had planned to just sit back and gather information for a while. However, he apparently found my request a bit strange and felt the need to address the issue. He sent me a long, very nice introductory message, which only heightened my opinion of him. Over the next week or two we exchanged long messages in the style of old fashioned pen pals.
Then came the liver. In response to Dustin's joking about wanting to eat "a big organ burger" after the Gravel Metric, I posted the contents of my freezer as it was getting down to the nasty bits before a new quarter beef shipment. It caught Frank's interest, as well, although not necessarily in a positive way. I later sent him a joking message about how if he was ever passing through Indiana he would probably be afraid to have dinner at my house because I'd serve him sheep liver. He responded that he'd been thinking it would be a good challenge for me to make it into something enticing. There it was. We had both thought about a dinner at my house scenario within the previous two hours.
As a native of Joliet, IL, he asked if I had ever seen The Blues Brothers. He told me that if I hadn't, he would drive here to watch it with me, and then I could cook up a tasty liver dinner. I said that I had not seen it, but even if I had, I would lie and say I hadn't, because he'd just described the best date ever, especially considering my "entertainment center" was a 14-inch TV/VCR combo with a portable DVD player hooked to it.
Things quickly escalated from a vague reference to the price of VHS tapes on eBay to the revelation that he would be in Illinois in less than a week and would "stop by" on his way home so we could watch said tape. No big deal since it was only four hours out of the way. It was what my friend Sarah and I referred to as "a straight Josh Prater move" based on the odd but grand romantic gestures her now fiancee' used to win her over in the early days.
It was quite nerve-wracking knowing that someone I'd never met but to whom I was already somehow quite attached was coming to my house to watch a movie, eat some liver, watch the Stanley Cup final at a bar since I didn't have cable, then have him sleep at my house "in one capacity or another". The last part was the most awkward, but there really is no good solution to first dates when you live nine hours apart.
Luckily, once he arrived and the awkward side-hugs were given, we eventually calmed down as we watched the movie, which had to be viewed on his laptop, because my VCR wouldn't play the tape. By the time it was over, it seemed we had come to a silent mutual agreement to drop facade that we weren't sure if we liked each other or not, and that was the moment at which our first kiss occurred. Then we had dinner in the most oddly intimate, "we've known each other forever" way as we picked through our baked liver pate' that was "like meatloaf, but bitter".
By the end of the night calendars were already consulted regarding when we could see each other again, and thus began what was and continues to be the most complicated and wonderful few months of my life.
|Our first selfie in my very unscenic living room.|