It was an interim period in my life, the time after a rotten breakup. I was in dating mode to prove that someone, anyone, might find me attractive and desirable. I was in my early 40s and having the kind of desperate fun you have when you can't distinguish the pain of being dumped from the pleasure of a new adventure.
Running was my solace, the remedy to hitting the wall in my relationships. I joined the Running Experience Club in the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach as a way to soothe my ego, with the added benefit that there were a few cute guys to match my paces.
Connor was a tall, handsome, mid-40s man whom a lot of women would have been happy to have. We became friends, running together and sharing drinks with other club members after Wednesday night runs. He began pursuing me with invitations for dinner or drinks, and around the time of the club's annual awards dinner, we crossed the line between being friends and dating.
Connor may not have known that my mutt, Concha, was the way to my heart, but at the club dinner, he announced that she had taken the award for "best running dog." I was smitten.
I quickly became comfortably ensconced in Connor's company, relieved to be desired by someone again, even though we had agreed we could see other people. When I planned a ski trip to Aspen with friends, Connor offered to pick me up at
We carried my luggage to the door of my apartment near Bixby Park in Long Beach. The key was still in the lock as the door opened to a voice coming from the bedroom, expressing her longing to see me. "I can't wait to feel your body next to mine," the rich, undoubtedly female voice said as I rushed into the bedroom and fumbled with the volume knob on the answering machine. I pushed the stop button, but not before the message became even more explicit.
Connor stared at me in disbelief, his face flushed. I could only imagine how horrifying it must have been, and just one glance at him confirmed my suspicions.
"I'll call you later," he mumbled as he made for the door.
What Connor didn't know was that at a solstice party on the Westside, I had met a swirl of gray cape who took my breath away. This woman had come to the gathering with a mutual friend, who introduced us. We immediately connected, discovering that we lived only blocks apart. She also was a runner. Before the evening was over, we had made a date to run a path along the shore.
The evening run became a weekly routine followed by dinner at Acapulco on Broadway. And for two months, I found myself in the perplexing position of dating a man and a woman at the same time. The answering machine episode amplified my confusion.
When Connor did call, uncomfortably, we made a date for dinner at Park Pantry.
"I'm confused," he said. "I'm not sure I can be in a relationship with someone who might leave me for a woman. I don't understand."
I said I had feelings for both of them. "I can't explain it," I said. "I'm sorry."
Connor and I continued to see each other, though it was awkward. I felt pressure to explain to him something that I couldn't fully understand myself. Though I felt empathy for him, I had my own uncertainties to deal with. My relationship with Vicki was deepening as we spent more time together, and my connection to Connor began to erode.
Twenty-six years later, Vicki and I sometimes find ourselves reminiscing about those days. I feel tender about how awkwardly all three of us negotiated the triangle I had created. I am no longer uncertain, as I was then. My connection with Vicki is secure. We now walk on the path that we used to run, among a new generation of joggers, finding their way. I can only hope that Connor found his. I know I found mine.
Waverly Farrell is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Long Beach.