Falling for someone is a car crash: sudden, unforeseen, accidental, and sometimes damaging to both sides. Even people on the sidelines can get involved as you spin out of control.
It leads to follow that falling for someone when someone else has fallen for you is like an interstate pileup.
It began in Sacramento, California. I had just been hired at a contracting firm as an entry-level engineer, and I met him on my first day. There were no fireworks, there was no electricity; in the course of a day, I’d forgotten all about him. I had just moved to a new city to start a new job, and I’d also recently gone “long distance” with my then-boyfriend of over four years. It was a time full of changes, and without my knowledge one of the biggest started to happen within me right from that first unremarkable meeting.
So to recap: I was in a relationship, and my crush and I had a professional relationship. Did I mention he was 40 and I was 23? He was also separated from his wife and had been for years, I was in a committed relationship headed toward marriage. This was, in no way, right.
My crush needed someone to help him on a proposal that needed a quick turnaround. Needless to say, this led to long conversations in his office, late nights at the office. We went on a site visit together, where I accidentally-on-purpose wore a sheer blouse. Our conversations often veered off topic to cycling, skiing, and occasionally stories of our wild college days. During these months we never touched, never even got close, but we were eyeing each other speculatively the entire time.
February came and he nonchalantly asked if I had Valentine’s Day plans. I didn’t, since I was in a long distance relationship. But I only mentioned the first half of that fact.
March came and the company ski trip brought up many topics of conversation for us, among which he mentioned he was bringing “someone.” I immediately asked who she was, and he blushingly and triumphantly said it was a client he had recently won.
We both knew. Oh, did we know.
My boyfriend had come to visit me during the final weeks of my crush’s contract. It was during this week, ironically, that things began to speed up. Despite telling my boyfriend several times that I was too busy to meet him for lunch, I agreed to go on a lunch date with my crush without a second thought. I also told my crush that I didn’t have any plans for St. Patrick’s Day, and he said, “Let’s do something!”
I agreed in a heartbeat. And then went home to my boyfriend.
The ski trip, which took place the day before St. Patrick’s Day, consisted of my crush and I racing each other down hills and later sharing lukewarm beers on the company bus. As the beer continued to flow, the flirtatious touches that we’d been holding back on for so long began to finally break through thought and our action. I grazed his thigh, he touched my arm; we exchanged sly looks and shy grins.
St. Patrick’s night came about, and I told my boyfriend that he had nothing to worry about. I would be prudent and chaste, and the night would end early after only a few drinks. And at the time, I truly believed it — why would I ever act on such irrational and silly feelings?
Like I had a choice, right?
We entered the bar and, surprisingly fast, found two seats at the bar right in front of the bartender. We ordered a beer and talked about work. We ordered another beer. And another. We jokingly called it a race, and as the booze kept coming our topics of conversations veered past the appropriate friends-from-work phase and well beyond any limits acceptable in this situation.
I knew it was complicated and dangerous, that to have even come this far meant we were both battling gross emotional issues that did not make for a healthy relationship. I knew my boyfriend loved me, and that what he offered was a security and safety this man sitting next to me was incapable of providing. I knew that there were implicit rules and no-no’s when it came to work, marital separation, and long distance relationships, and I was ignoring them all. And finally, when I leaned in to kiss him, and felt his lips on mine, I knew there was no going back.