Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Love Story Part 5: Mr. Autumn Man Strikes

During my phase of avoiding Frank

I had sworn to avoid Frank for the rest of my natural existence (or until I got over him, whichever came first). But as I set about shunning him, there was one little hitch in my plan.

Frank didn’t notice I was ignoring him.

I mean, it’s not that I wanted him to notice, exactly. But you know, it would have been nice if he thought, “Where’s Tess gotten to these days?” or maybe even, “Man, I miss Tess!” That would’ve been fine with me.

But he didn’t. Frank was smack in the middle of midterms, and then his semester quickly segued into finals. He became a bit of a hermit. He didn’t notice that I was missing from his life, because he was hardly hanging out with anyone until after finals.

Still avoiding Frank

I didn’t know this at the time, of course. I busily set to work avoiding him—dropping out of our Facebook chat group, ignoring his occasional texts, and the like.

One rare free Saturday, Frank asked my roommate and me if we wanted to join him and his friends on a hike to Harper’s Ferry. I ignored him and then put him off with excuses (to be fair, I did have a volunteer commitment that day). Finally, I just canceled outright.

I even went hiking without him
My chilly response aroused his suspicions. Frank sent me a concerned Facebook message asking if I was mad at him. “Of course not, I’m just busy!” I lied. But secretly I was impressed with the sweet and thoughtful gesture—which just made me even more resolved to avoid him. There he goes being so nice again, I thought gloomily. He really was the nicest person I'd ever met.

Avoiding him went swimmingly until early November, when my friend Meg and I decided to go to Princeton for the Love and Fidelity conference.

Meg and I had met in September. Both young journalists who were new to DC, and both covering the love, marriage, and college beats, we collaborated on several projects.

Serena came with us to the conference, since her boyfriend (now husband) Anthony is in grad school at Princeton. And my dear friend Alex came out from NYC, so we made quite the party.

Alex and I at Princeton
The conference went really well—we met amazing people (including Meg’s future colleague, Helen Alvare), enjoyed the talks, and socialized like it was our job. Being dutiful journalists, we also produced good articles for our respective publications.

But I made one crucial mistake: I posted on Facebook that I was in Princeton.

You see, Frank is from Princeton. And he happened to be home visiting his family that very same weekend. Seeing my Facebook status, he texted me asking if I wanted to get together.

Does anyone else think this is suspicious behavior from a guy who supposedly had a girlfriend? I certainly did, so I filled Serena and Meg in on the situation. They thought it wouldn’t hurt to get together for a little bit, if only out of politeness. Serena loyally volunteered to be my wing-woman for the rendezvous.

Our schedules were so packed with conference activities that I didn’t have a free moment until Sunday afternoon. Frank and his family were at the Princeton Record Exchange, and I agreed to stop by with Serena for a little bit.

While Serena understood the magnitude of the situation (at least in my head), Meg really wanted to get back to DC—she had a lot of work to do. She also reeeeeeally didn’t want to waste time on this overhyped get-together with the guy I liked but who supposedly had a girlfriend (and meeting his family too??). She was right—it did seem like a silly waste of time.

Finally she said, “I’m going to Panera. I’m going to grab coffee and some lunch, and I’ll be back in my car in ten minutes. Please meet me at the car then, and don’t be late!”

Serena and I jumped out of the car. As we hurried toward the Record Exchange, I saw Frank walking toward us.

This is one of those memories I hope to never forget. I’m not sure I can capture it for you, but I’ll try.

Frank is Mr. Autumn Man and he never looks better or happier than in the fall. That November day he looked so cute in his red beard and sweater. The afternoon light bathed everything in a soft gold, like an old-time movie. As he came toward us down the street, I thought I’d never seen a handsomer man in my life. Serena even whispered affirmingly, “He is cute!” when I muttered, “That’s him!”

Frank gave me a big hug and I introduced him to Serena. Then we went to meet his family—mom, dad, and both siblings. We awkwardly chatted with them for several minutes in the alley outside the Record Exchange—Serena remembers talking to Frank's sister about the TV show “Pan Am”—before we went back to meet Meg.

As we got in the car, I said to Serena, “Well, I guess that was kind of dumb. I’ll probably never see those people again in my life.”


  1. Seriously, Tess, this story is getting better and better! *smiles* Also, I've met Helen Alvare several times too - perks Catholic friend connections in the VA/DC area...

  2. Gah, this is turning into a novel...I want to know how we finally arrive at the happy ending! :)

    1. I know ... Sorry! I feel like I'm never going to finish the darn story at this rate. But things are wrapping up to a close, I promise. :)

  3. Always finishing with such CLIFF HANGERS. :O :O :O :O

  4. ahh i love reading these! can't wait for the next part.

  5. The world keeps getting smaller and smaller! I know Alex!!! :) We did DVUSA together. I'm enjoying reading your love story!

    1. Wow, that's so crazy! I love it! She is one of my best friends—it really is such a small world. :)