Speeding along a mountain pass, Mr. Colorado pulled off the road and parked at a secluded spot, far from any streetlights. He lowered the convertible top, giving us unfiltered access to a sky full of stars. It was amazing. Romantic. The perfect make-out spot. And then . . . we played Scrabble.
I’d planned to have my Colorado date before I left for Hawaii, but the guy who I’d initially selected, a rancher, had gone from “I can’t wait to meet you” to “MIA” when I tried to actually pin down a time and place for us to meet. He left a message on my voicemail the morning I’d boarded the plane for Honolulu. Too late, buddy. I no longer had the time or the interest in making it happen at that point. It kind of left me in a lurch, though, and I wasn’t happy that I had to spend time I could have been on a beach emailing, texting, and calling friends for leads. Luckily one of my old friends agreed to be my Mr. Colorado. Okay, maybe that was cheating a little, but I did have a crush on him at one point in my life. Using the book as an excuse, I asked him out, something I was never brave enough to do years ago when I wanted to, and he said yes. Game on.
My jaw dropped when I saw him drive up in a convertible. Wow. I’m not normally impressed by cars, but it was a sweet ride. I obviously hadn’t seen him in a while -- the last time I saw him, he was driving a Jeep. The leather seats in this car had stitching like a baseball glove. Awesome! I’d never seen anything like it. We zipped down the highway.
“I was thinking we could go up to a ski town for dinner,” Mr. Colorado said. The last time I’d seen him, we’d been at Copper Mountain with another friend. I missed skiing. I’d only gone two days last season before leaving Colorado. He said he was going to miss snowboarding this season since he was under doctor’s orders not to take any risks. I’d heard about his car accident from another friend, but he told me about it firsthand.
“I shouldn’t be alive. Everyone who saw the car said I should be dead,” he admitted. “And it sounds awful, but God smashing my head into my windshield was exactly what I needed. My priorities are straightened out now. Lots of time in the hospital gives you clarity like that.”
I hoped I’d never have to find out for myself.
I found myself alternately laughing uproariously and entrenched in deep conversation. Why hadn’t we hung out more when I lived here? Calling Mr. Colorado “my old friend” is probably a stretch. We were kind of friends of friends. We saw each other occasionally within a group of similar acquaintances. We’d never actually hung out, just the two of us. I’d dated one of his friends; he’d dated one of mine. I never really knew if there was substance behind the pretty face. I figured there probably was, but I’d never taken the time to find out. I was regretting that. A lot.
We drove up to South Park (yeah, it’s a real place . . . not a town, more like an area) and ended up eating at The Only Bar in Alma. Alma is the highest town in the U.S., and I can’t say I’d ever stopped in for a visit. It’s on the way to Breckenridge or Keystone if you’re coming up the back way from Colorado Springs, so I’d been through a time or two on my way to ski. It seemed to me they made most of their money off of skiers speeding through at the end of their day. I guess everybody’s gotta make money somehow. Every small town has a bar, and Alma, Colorado, is one small town -- less than 200 people. I worried a little bit, leaving Mr. Colorado’s flashy little convertible out there on the street, but he didn’t seem too nervous about it. The bar had a fairly extensive menu, I thought, well, being a bar and all, and we ate and watched Monday Night Football with the locals. You’d think the Broncos would be the only team people in Colorado cared about, but one man must have been imported. He proudly wore a Steelers jersey and screamed obscenities at the Bengals. The locals were friendly, although we did get some funny looks when we started playing Scrabble after dinner. And really, Scrabble in a bar? I can’t blame them.
I love Scrabble. And I’m insanely competitive. The last time I’d seen Mr. Colorado, he and I and our other friend had gone out to eat after skiing and then played Scrabble. I keep one of my Scrabble games in my car at all times. I have four versions of the game altogether: super mini Travel Scrabble (which entertained me when I spent three months in Africa), regular Travel Scrabble in a soft, padded case (the one I keep in my car), the original Scrabble (inherited from some family member, circa 1973), and Deluxe Scrabble (with a turntable! yeah, I said a turntable!). When the three of us had played in Breckenridge, the game ended in controversy. I won, but just barely, and the guys challenged my winning word. We had to drive around town, trying to pick up an internet signal on one of their phones so we could look it up in an online dictionary. (Oh, and P.S., I was right. Do NOT challenge me, suckas!)
I trounced him. He was a good sport about it. I’d had one drink and I teased that he should have encouraged me to have another before we started. Between my low tolerance and the altitude (Alma is over 10,000 high!), me being loopy could have benefited his game. We wrapped it up and started the hour and a half drive back.
Climbing Wilkerson Pass, Mr. Colorado drove off the road and onto a little overlook. He pressed the button to put the top down on the convertible, turned on the heated seats, and cranked the heater. The sky was unbelievable. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d just sat and looked up at the stars. This is the perfect make-out spot, I thought. Did he bring me here to make out? I doubt it. But maybe I could talk him into it. I couldn’t help it. It was just so perfect. As I sat there wondering, he pulled out the Travel Scrabble for a rematch. Soon I was kicking his ass again.
“One of my friends told me once that I should let guys win so they wouldn’t be intimidated by me,” I admitted.
“Actually I think it’s really attractive, how smart you are,” he said. Hmmm. Maybe I really could talk him into making out. But he was my friend. You’re not supposed to make out with friends, right? But did I mention he’s really good looking? And not the cocky, “I know I’m good looking” good looking, but the sweet and kind-of-shy-when-it-comes-to-girls good looking. I kept looking at his hands, since they were right in front of me on the Scrabble board. They looked strong. I don’t know what my thing is with strong arms and hands. I like it when I can see veins and muscles. Maybe it makes me feel like they would be good protectors. Maybe I just hadn’t touched a guy in a long time.
A shooting star shot through the sky as we ended the game, and I wondered if I was stupid to not stay in Colorado. It was so beautiful. I’d been sad to leave Hawaii, but the mountains were incredible, too. I’d have a harder time finding the beauty in the next state, Kansas. But I figured the stars are everywhere, if you take the time to go out and see them.
When he dropped me off at my friends‘ house, my face hurt from smiling. It had been a great date. I kicked myself for never having been brave enough to ask him out when I was living in Colorado, but I hadn’t thought a guy as good looking as he is would be interested in a Plain Jane like me, and I wasn’t sure our personalities would mesh long term. I still wasn’t sure they would, but he definitely would have been fun to hang out with. And make out with. Just sayin’.