THE LONG VIEW: Writer finds a romantic spark 600 miles away

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The human condition compels people to interact, and that's where all things good and not-so-good start. Without our common inclination toward affiliation, we would not be happy, nor would we manage to populate the planet. Then again, were we not prone to forming alliances, we'd probably not amass armies and go to war.

The human condition compels people to interact, and that's where all things good and not-so-good start. Without our common inclination toward affiliation, we would not be happy, nor would we manage to populate the planet. Then again, were we not prone to forming alliances, we'd probably not amass armies and go to war.

Still, one must take the bitter with the sweet, knowing that any mortal activity can be positive or negative. It is commendable, then, that despite the likelihood of heartache, humans tend to risk rejection and, as the song, says, take a chance on love.

A hiatus of 23-plus years can really get you out of the swing of dating. Oh, my former wife and I went out from time to time, but that sort of outing was not the ritual of single people, who tentatively approach and retreat from each other in occasionally heart wrenching exercises of vulnerability, desperation, hope, and just wanting to feel less alone.

After my divorce, I finally asked a few women out. Some said yes, resulting in varying degrees of pleasantness. It felt good to be with someone one-on-one, to be sure, but my heart was not wholly in the endeavor. Eventually I had to admit ignorance of what I wanted, so I curtailed any potentially romantic excursions until I better knew my heart.

Then, unexpectedly, a visit with a longtime friend and former voice-over colleague turned other-than-platonic. To our mutual surprise, sparks started flying; suddenly we were swooning, moon-eyed, and lost in a sea of endorphin-elevated pulse rates. And there it was: unable to open my Fortress of Emotional Solitude for any local gal, I lost my heart to someone 600 miles away.

A long-distance relationship offers attributes good and bad. It's a drag to not be with your sweetie, and too much longing grows tedious in short order. On the other hand, being far apart allows one, if so inclined, to conduct the day's interaction exclusively in mono-syllabic grunts.

When in the same space, the prism of proximity magnifies emotion. During our limited moments together, when things are good they are better-than-anything sublime. And when we are not seeing eye-to-eye, things are a cataclysmic and end-of-the-world awful.

But we have been wise enough to know this dating from afar takes extra effort whether we are in the same room or not. Stripped of facial expression and tone of voice, emails and texts are carefully composed lest meanings be misinterpreted. Skype sessions allow interaction by sight, a marked improvement over mere phone calls. We have an appreciation for the finite nature of our shared moments, and work hard at showing our honest selves, an endeavor that makes one feel less isolated even when we are apart.

And the whole notion of having someone feel “that way” about you again can truly send your spirits soaring in the buoyant breezes of affirmation. One cannot help but feel better when someone thinks the world of you.

Hollywood Cinematic Philosophy teaches us, “…the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” (Casablanca, 1942) It is not a stretch, then, to assume the troubles of two people barely comprise a bean mound.

But we are grateful to have such long-distance difficulties, and game to face the fruits of what we have sown. If only for today we have one another, and that makes on feel very human indeed.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com