I had been dating a man casually for four months but hadn't heard from him in three weeks. He was nice and a perfect nonthreatening entry into the dating world, as I had been separated for 2 1/2 years and was just starting to think about dating. But I woke up a few days before New Year's Eve and decided this would be the last one I spent alone.
On a whim, I signed up for Chemistry.com using a nickname, Milly, so no one would recognize me. I posted a brief profile and two pictures and hit "send."
That afternoon I received an email from a man named Phillip. He wrote with humor and depth in his profile, and I found his picture intriguing. His email said he was separated, expected his divorce to be final soon and was looking for conversation and friendship. We exchanged a few more emails and then phone numbers.
Taking a deep breath, I made the call, got his voice mail and learned his full name. After I left a message, I Googled him and found he was a social worker in Riverside. His Chemistry.com profile said he lived in Laguna Beach.
I immediately had a deep intuitive feeling. I knew him. I knew this Phillip.
During graduate school at San Diego State, I had been best friends with a woman named Dana and a man named Phillip. He commuted from Riverside and I from south Orange County. The three of us spent several evenings a week together in class and at the cafeteria drinking coffee and eating cookies while we worked on our master's degrees in social work.
I was married, and they were single. I was deeply unhappy in my marriage, however, and their friendships were a lifeline for me during that time. During those three years, I had strong feelings for Phillip and was attracted to him but never did anything about it. Being young and a newlywed, I felt I had to work on my marriage. Eventually we graduated and lost touch.
Flash forward 23 years, and I am sure that the first man who emailed me on the first day of my online dating experience was the man I had a crush on so long ago.
The next day Phillip called me back. I said, "Did you go to graduate school at SDSU in social work?"
"Yes," he replied.
"Did you graduate in 1991?"
"Yeeesss …" he said.
"We know each other, Phil! It's Melissa," I said.
He initially was a little confused. But gradually he made the transition from Milly on Chemistry.com to Melissa at graduate school. We caught up on each other's lives, and it was easy and relaxed. I affectionately recognized his slight lisp and his laugh. It felt as though we were picking up from where we had left off.
We met that Sunday at Zov's cafe in Tustin, and I was struck by how familiar he seemed. We talked like old friends and kept the conversation meaningful but not too intense. As we said our goodbyes, I told him I had considered looking him up after my divorce was final but thought he was happily married. And I didn't know how to find him anyway.
He gave me a little hug and said, "I don't want to let you go."
I felt a thrill at his words. Phil, my friend from long ago, was standing next to me, and suddenly I was aware of the possibilities in the moment. We made a date to see each other in two weeks. And as I drove away, I got a text message from him: "Melissa, I can't stop smiling."
Over the next few days, we emailed and texted nonstop, catching up on the last 23 years in four days. I learned that he also had had a crush on me so long ago. We had dinner a few days later, sitting as close as possible in a booth at the Bluewater Grill in Tustin. Later, as we walked to a movie, a flock of geese flew overhead. I looked up at them, and he drew me into an embrace and gently kissed me. The night ended with two 50-year-olds kissing like teenagers in his car. It was uncharacteristic for both of us, but the chemistry was irresistible.
Two weeks later, he surprised me with tickets to see "Chapter Two" by Neil Simon at the Laguna Playhouse. It's a play about a divorcee and a widower who meet, have a whirlwind romance and marry two weeks later. Unbeknownst to him, I had received a postcard for "Chapter Two" months before and had it posted on my bulletin board. I had had no one to see it with — until now.
A year later, we are still reveling in this whirlwind romance and marveling at the serendipity of a second chance in our own chapter two.
Ogata is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Tustin.