A few months ago, my Mr. Big announced that he was moving to Florida. I guess I should have been prepared for the news, but for some reason it really caught me by surprise. Of course, from his perspective it makes perfect sense. It is just too hard for him to get around during these long, cold Michigan winters.
It has been almost five years since his stroke, and I still have a hard time accepting that he will be living in a place where people eat dinner at 4:30 and go to sleep by 7:00 PM. To me he will always be larger than life. The most amazing man I have ever known.
The first time we actually spoke to each other we were standing at a trash can. It was at the company picnic. I was there alone trying to stay just long enough to make a good impression on my boss. I wandered over toss my cup in the trash and he walked up at the same time. I remember that he introduced himself to me. Then I made a very poor attempt at small talk and he politely excused himself and walked away. I shrugged it off and said to myself "that guy must think I am a total loser."
Then we started working together on a project. We saw each other almost every day. He was a computer programmer. And he had this little move that he would do with his fingers when he was cutting and pasting lines of code. I thought it was kind of sexy. And even more appealing was how I would come up with an idea and he could instantly transform it into a program and spit out the results in a matter of minutes. Talk about instant gratification.
While our chemistry at work was immediate, our romantic relationship was more of a slow burn. He was married at the time, so I never considered whether my feelings towards him were anything more than platonic. I remember gushing to people about how great he was and how much I genuinely liked working with him. In retrospect, everyone we worked with probably could see it way before I did.
Back then, we had a core group of four or five people that would go to happy hour almost every Friday. There was one night that we were all walking out to the parking lot and my Mr. Big reached for my hand to guide me across the street. I can't say that there was a spark or a jolt of electricity that night. It was much more than that. It felt completely natural. It was not until months later that he ever touched me again. But I will always remember that night as the beginning of us becoming us.
There was something unique about our relationship. Every step along the way felt like it was fated or meant to be. There was a natural progression from friendship to flirtation. Until one night he kissed me. And we never looked back.
So many people fail to appreciate what they have until its gone. That wasn't the case with us. We would go out every weekend and have a few cocktails. Then we would talk about how lucky we were to find each other and how happy we were together. There was nothing left unsaid.
The last time I saw my Mr. Big before he had his stroke, we were in his apartment. He had been traveling a lot for work and he was getting on a plane for South Carolina later that morning. He would always get up before me and let me sleep a few minutes extra, so by the time I woke up he was already working on his laptop at the kitchen table.
After my shower, I strutted into the kitchen in my undies to get some juice. He looked up at me and held my gaze for a second. Then he jumped up from the table and chased me down the hallway into his bedroom and we both melted back into the bed. It is my last memory of that part of our life together.
After months of planning, his move date was finally approaching. On Sunday afternoon I went over to his house one last time. When I pulled up, he was sitting on a chair in the driveway wearing a floppy khaki colored hat and a t-shirt that said "Gone Fishing." He smiled and gave me a wave as I walked up toward the house.
I helped pack up his remaining belongings into three medium size cardboard boxes, which we agreed that I would ship down to Florida. Then we went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. When we got back to his house, I knew it was time to say goodbye. He reached out to hug me and I laid my head on his shoulder. I held it together for as long as I could, but I finally broke down and started sobbing.
"I don't want you to go," I cried. "I feel like I am losing you all over again."
"You're not losing me," he reassured me as he stroked my hair. "I'll be down in Florida. If you want me, you know where to find me."
We have spent so much of the past two years being friends, but in that moment I felt like I was talking to my Mr. Big. Not the resilient stroke survivor that I have come to know and respect, but my original Mr. Big. I told him that I loved him and that I missed him every day. That I missed our life every day. And then it was time to go.
The thing about my Mr. Big is that there is no goodbye for us. No matter where he goes, he will be a constant presence in my life. Maybe someday when I am old and tired, we will go out and catch the early bird special. But first, I have a lot more living to do.