The Healer

WARNING: This blog entry is rated PG or PG-13, depending on your standards. There’s no food porn, I promise, but there is a wee bit of *ahem* s-e-x. Nothing that’ll make you want to light a cigarette, but a little blush-worthy, at least for me.
“Researching” my book last year led me to the basement and the box of journals I keep in a box waaaaay in the back of the third shelf, behind Christmas decorations and another box filled with every paper I wrote in college. (I was an English major with a writing minor. It’s a VERY big box.)

I’ve kept a journal since sixth grade and I still have the small hard-cover blue diary I began when I started “going with” my boyfriend Ricky. Since then, I’d amassed quite a collection of cloth-bound, spiral-bound and leather-bound journals.

I dug out the one I kept in 1989 when I was newly divorced, had just started college and was working full time. I weighed 170 pounds. When I was 300 pounds, I’d have given a body part to weigh 170, but in 1989, it made me self-conscious. Throughout the journal is the line, “I wish I was 30 pounds lighter…” After a blind date, I wrote, “He is gorgeous and nice and funny and I’m sure I’ll never see him again. He’s too everything for someone like me. I know what kind of men care about me (for longer than a night) and he’s not it.”

Poor me, right? *eyeroll* No need to feel sorry for boo-hooing me because a few pages later, the name “Jace”* starts popping up. (*Not his real name, but I’m using it because in Greek it means “healer,” which will become clear by the end of this blog.)

Here’s my story of Jace.

I was out with some colleagues for a drink before picking up my kids, making dinner and watching “The Cosby Show.”

You know how busy bars are during happy hour – you have to practically yell to talk to the person next to you. But within the hum and laughter, I heard a voice that was definitely not Minnesotan. I casually glanced over my shoulder. Sitting on a stool adjacent to me was a broad-shouldered, dark-haired man wearing a tailored suit. He set his drink on the bar and caught me staring. He grinned. My insides turned to Jell-O.

My friends finished their drinks and asked the bartender for their tab. From the corner of my eye, I saw the dark-haired man glancing at me as he talked with his friends.

‘Crap,’ I thought. ‘Do I stay or do I go?’

I did a quick mental assessment. I was a size 14 and wearing a forgettable skirt and blouse with the buttons undone one hole lower than at work. I’d also freed my hair from its barrette. Hardly stunning, but I was still in good standing with the Pretty Face Club, and thanks to a little liquid courage, I felt sufficiently attractive.

I turned around and smiled at him just as his friends went to get another drink. I leaned over and asked him, “Your accent. Is that Italian?”

He smiled a wide perfect-teeth smile and said, “No. I’m Greek.”

Oh my.

My friends said their goodbyes and whispered, “Call us tomorrow” as the man moved his stool next to mine.

“I’m Jace,” he said. “Who are you?”

I said, “Lynn,” but when he said it, he pronounced it “Lean.” Oh the irony.

Within 45 minutes I learned he held a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and worked for a consulting firm on the west coast. He lived in a corporate apartment when he was in Minneapolis, and his family lived in Greece. He was thinking of buying a Porsche, and was currently reading a German translation of “War and Peace.” I had to pinch myself because he was so dreamy, then I remembered my kids and dinner and “Cosby.” I said I had to leave and he wrote down his personal number on his business card.

“Call me,” he said, and I floated home.

The next day my inner fat girl wondered what a handsome, well-dressed, worldly man like Jace wanted with a frumpy overweight secretary with kids? The woman with the loosened blouse and free hair and subtle wine buzz disappeared in the night, but I knew I needed her help to convince the fat chick to call this guy back. It took a few good hair days and some tough love, but I called him.

“Lean, baby” he growled.

He asked me to dinner for the following Saturday and we agreed that I’d pick him up since I didn’t want my kids meeting Mommy’s new friend. When I got to his apartment, he greeted me at the door, all 6-foot 2-inches of him, with a smile so devilish that Satan himself would have turned around and run the other direction. That’s what my better judgment did, but the rest of me walked in and he locked the door behind me.

We exchanged nice-to-see-you-agains and sat down on the couch. CNN was on TV and “War and Peace” was on the coffee table. As we talked, I tried to avoid his gaze because his eyes were like pools of melted chocolate. If that’s all I had to worry about, we might have made it to dinner that night, but there was no avoiding his accent. It was like an aural massage.

I didn’t care whether mistake or good fortune lay ahead, but I finally decided to get brave and look him straight in the eyes. He placed his large soft hands on my face, smiled and whispered “Baby,” then wrapped his lips around my mouth like a lid on Tupperware. My body went totally limp and he moved me on to his lap like I was as light as tissue paper.

My fat girl was screaming, “There’s a light on! Don’t let him see your stretch marks! My God, what are you doing letting him touch your breasts while you’re in that upright position! You know you should be lying down!” But what I was feeling was enough to send that fat chick packing. For a few hours, I didn’t think about my too-large hips or my mother-of-two apron belly. I just let myself feel.

‘Where did he learn this?’ I kept thinking, because I was signing up all future boyfriends for that class.

I know confidence has to come from within, blah blah blah, but meeting Jace and going toe-to-toe with my fat chick, even for a little while, helped me see myself in a new light.

Jace was so good looking that women would buy him drinks when clearly they could see we were on a date. It was intimidating (because of course ALL those women were WAY better looking then me, right?), but Jace always focused on me when we were together. I began to see that this was more than a physical thing, though not exactly a “love” thing, either, in the traditional sense. I knew that from the start and never tried to change it. I just let things unfold, which was so unlike tight-gripped, control freak me.

Jace was as passionate about conversation and debate as he was about sex. I’d just started college, but he treated me like I had a Ph.D. He was fascinated by my life – my little old podunk life. He asked me questions about my reading lists, taught me about foreign policy from a Greek perspective, and encouraged my writing. That he believed in me opened the door for me to believe in myself. How do you thank someone for that?

We saw each other on and off for a few years until his project in Minneapolis was complete. He went back to the west coast and I moved to the east. I thought about him once in awhile over 17 years, and finally last year, I looked for him on the Internet – not because I was unhappy or needy. I was writing about that time in my life for the book and I was curious about where he was and if it was possible to let him know what an influence he’d been in my life.

He was easy to find. I sent him an email asking him if he remembered me. Not an hour later I got an email back. Yes, yes, he said, I remember you. He asked me where I lived. As luck would have it, he was going to be at a conference in Pittsburgh the following month and, fully sanctioned by my husband, we made plans to have dinner.

I won’t lie. I was scared to death to see him, like I was that insecure girl at the bar all over again. But when I saw his fabulous grin and he hugged me and said, “Hello, Lean,” I knew I’d made the right decision to contact him. Our friendship transcended the years and we talked for hours.

When I explained I was writing a book, he said he knew I could do it. When I thanked him for all he’d done for me physically and intellectually, he said he didn’t understand. How did I not know then that I was a good and worthy person? I just sighed. He hadn’t changed a bit.

But I had.

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