A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away—at least that’s how it feels today—a young man signed up for an account on an online journaling website. This was his first foray into blogging, a term that had been coined just a few years earlier.
He wrote mostly about the minutiae of daily life. His wife, his kids, his work. He wrote of his passion for writing and his desire to one day become a published author.
Along the way, he made friends with other bloggers. People from all over the world.
One of them was a young woman living on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park. In a small town called Island Park, Idaho.
The two read each other’s blogs. They exchanged observations and comments. Doled out advice. Offered encouragement and sympathy depending on the circumstances. Unlike WordPress, this was a members-only site. Cloaked beneath a veil of anonymity, people tended to share more openly and honestly. If you connected with another person, you might find yourself privy to their deepest, darkest secrets.
These two connected.
Over the course of several years, their friendship blossomed, even as the not-quite-as-young-now man’s marriage fell apart and he found himself single for the first time since high school.
Our story might end here, were it not for The Dream.
One night in October 2009, the man had a dream about his blogging friend, who had since moved to Ely, Nevada. It was a dream filled with rich detail: they stood together on a beach, the Pacific Ocean surf swirling around their ankles. He could smell the saltwater, hear the crashing waves. Feel the warm sun on his neck. They kissed, tenderly and deliberately, and he felt his heart race.
And then he woke up, disappointed at having done so.
Most dreams dissipate within minutes of waking, but this one lingered. As much as he tried to put it out of his mind, the passion and intensity of it all were impossible to forget.
He debated saying anything to her. What would be the point? They were mere friends, and long-distance ones at that. She was married. He was dating somebody. Bringing up the dream would accomplish nothing.
But it gnawed at him for days, occupying every waking thought. So, he threw caution to the wind, and told her all about it.
When Mark told me about the dream, I was sitting at my desk at work. I was stunned, flattered, and almost giddy. The first thing I did was run to my friend/co-worker to tell her all about it. And after that I thought about it. A lot.
Chris and I had separated briefly earlier that summer and things were not looking good on the marriage front. In fact, less than three months after Mark shared his dream with me, I would declare my intention to get a divorce and two months later it would be official.
Did the thought of pursuing Mark occur to me once I was a single woman on the prowl? Not entirely. Instead, I wanted his life. He was a couple years into his divorce and despite some dating mishaps, he was living the single life in PDX. After so many years living in very small, very rural towns, I too wanted to wander city streets, shop at local farmers markets, explore new eateries, and travel to places near and far. I was married at eighteen years old, just five months after meeting Chris. I had my own wild oats to sow and I was gonna have a lot of fun while doing so.
I did value his opinion and after so many years of reading him, there was a curious fascination for this man whom I was edging closer and closer to knowing in real life.
Sigmund Freud believed dreams reflect the dreamer’s unconscious desires. Mark thought they were nothing more than fanciful abstract tales spun by a hyperactive brain. He did not believe they portended the future, but was nevertheless glad he shared his with Tara, for it brought them closer together.
A few months later, he called her on the phone for dating advice.
“Run for the hills,” she said.
He did not. But oh, how he should have. The lesson learned? Never doubt a woman’s intuition.
They occasionally spoke by phone. More often, there were emails and texts. But these remained innocent(ish).
In March 2011, Tara traveled to Oregon to visit an aunt.
“We should get together for lunch or something,” she suggested.
Mark was down for lunch while secretly hoping for or something. By then, Tara’s marriage was over, too. On March 9, he drove to her aunt’s house in Tigard. They went to a restaurant called Salvador Molly’s, chosen because both were Man v. Food fans, and Adam Richman had once tackled the Great Balls of Fire challenge there.
(Sidenote: To win the challenge, you must consume five habanero fritters. On a return visit, Mark would try one fritter. The results were predictably disastrous.)
During that lunch, Mark and Tara opened up to one another, sharing things that hadn’t even made it to their respective blogs. They lingered for hours, enjoying the conversation, in no hurry for their get-together to end. But eventually, as with all things, it did. Mark drove Tara back to her aunt’s house, where they parted ways after a hug.
My memories of that lunch are a little fuzzy. I was incredibly hungover, so while trying to focus on the conversation with Mark I was also trying to keep my food down, ignore my pounding head, and hope that he didn’t think I was a total lush.
I was surprised at how quickly the time passed and was disappointed when he declared it was time to go so that he could avoid rush hour traffic. I can’t say there were any romantic notions at that point, but I truly enjoyed his company and saw him as a very dear friend that knew all my dirty secrets. Maybe there would be future phone calls to share dating advice and opinions about the latest Built to Spill album. Sorry, babe. I bet you had no idea how close you were to being stuck in the dreaded Friend Zone.
The Friend Zone? Really?! Look at all we would have missed out on, babe!!
Oh. Wait. I’m still writing in third person. Ahem…
Mark figured he’d never see Tara again, but five months later, she knocked on the door of his townhouse. Twice that summer, they’d planned to meet up; once in Twin Falls, Idaho, and another time in Vancouver, WA. A flooded interstate scuttled their Idaho plans and an unexpected gallbladder surgery in Seattle forced Tara to miss out on the AWOLNATION concert they’d planned to see together. After a week spent recuperating at her mom’s place in Bothell, she stopped by on her way home to Nevada. Her intention was to have dinner with Mark, stay over in a motel room, and then hit the road for Ely bright and early the next day.
Or was it…?!
WAS IT? My head was in such a weird space that I can’t say for certain. Did I think about the possibility of something happening with Mark that night? Absolutely. But I was also a week post-surgery, so I wasn’t even sure if I could physically do anything. I had also had a pretty crappy dating experience in Boise at the very beginning of that vacation. I was very close to just swearing off men completely. I had been divorced for over a year and was ready to move away from Ely, so I needed to focus on that.
They drove to a Mexican restaurant a few miles from Mark’s townhouse for dinner. The food was great, and both the conversation and margaritas flowed. When they returned to Mark’s townhouse, Tara asked for a glass of water. Somehow, that turned into a kiss. Which turned into several more. And that turned into a memorable night.
After grabbing coffee and a bite to eat the next morning, Tara drove away, beginning the long trek home. Once again, Mark assumed he would never see her again.
And once again, he was wrong.
Twelve days later, Mark knocked on Tara’s door in Ely, Nevada. After a magical four-day visit, he asked her to be his girlfriend.
“Lemme think about it,” she said, leaving him hanging during the 840-mile journey back to Washington. And for three days afterward.
Ten years later and he’s still not letting me live that one down.
I get that it sounds like a dick move, but I swear that wasn’t my intention. That first night spent with Mark really threw me for a loop. And then this guy drove all that way to see little ol’ me. But he had also been unemployed for months and there was baggage with his on-again-off-again relationship. Those online dating experiences had me hyper aware of any and all red flags. Things were starting to get complicated and I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to deal with that. My job was demanding, we were 13 hours apart, and I still thought of him as a close friend. He was such a dear friend that I was deathly afraid of losing that friendship if an LDR didn’t work out.
The day after he drove back to Washington, I left for a work trip to southern Nevada. Thankfully, those hours on the road gave me all the time I needed to work through my doubts. At least he didn’t mention that long-ass Facebook message where I listed all the reasons why we shouldn’t be a couple, but then the very last sentence was something about giving it a try. In case y’all haven’t figured it out yet, he’s definitely the hopeless romantic in this relationship.
OK. Now I’ll slip into first-person mode.
Three agonizing days later, Tara finally said yes. Despite a million obstacles—not the least being all those miles that separated us—we decided to give a relationship a try. And thus, MarTar (a nickname coined by a friend) was born. I like to think of us as the Bennifer of the Blogging World.
As far as LDRs go, we really nailed ours. It sucked that I was unemployed at the time (a stretch that would last an agonizing 20 months), but that also really helped ignite our relationship. We made multiple visits back and forth. I met her mom. She met my parents, and on a separate visit, my kids. Over Thanksgiving, my own gallbladder failed me, and I found myself in the hospital. What are the odds? Tara was visiting at the time, which really put a damper on her trip, but we bonded over that. How could we not?
In April 2012, seven months after my first visit to Ely and 13 months after we met in person for the first time, she left her old life behind and moved to Washington to be with me.
Ten months later, I proposed. She said yes.
Seven months after that, we were married. On the deck of a beach house high on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Afterward, we walked along the sandy beach, feeling the tide swirling at our feet. We kissed. Our hearts raced.
Who says dreams don’t come true?