It takes time for some things to develop: Good wine is cellared. Fruit is at its best when given the time to ripen. Cheese is aged. I needed more time with Liam to figure out if anything could develop between us, so I invited him to dinner. He had a lot of questions about shamanism. By the end of dinner, I felt I’d given him a better sense of shamanism, but I didn’t feel I had a better sense of who he was. His modus operandi seemed to be to get his partner to talk so he didn’t have to. The only thing I did have a sense of was whether I perceived any chemistry on my part developing. I didn’t.
Liam wanted to help with things I needed having done around the house but couldn’t do myself, and I was delighted to have the support. But I wanted him to know that I didn’t think there was going to be any chemistry between us. I didn’t want to take advantage of the man. His response was, “That’s okay. I need friends.”
What a refreshing response.
A few days later, I contemplated taking a drive to Rocky Mountain National Park, a place I loved but hadn’t been to in a long time. I didn’t really want to go alone; I wanted a playmate. Since Liam had only lived in Colorado for a year and a half, I thought he possibly hadn’t been there yet and might want to go with me. He hadn’t and did.
So on a Sunday morning, he met me at my home and we set off on a little adventure to Rocky Mountain National Park. Once through Boulder and past Lyons, the drive towards Estes Park becomes progressively more scenic, and I always feel myself relaxing as the number of trees and rocky crags begins to overtake the number of houses. As the road hits a high spot and then begins to dip down toward town, that first glimpse of Estes Park and Lake Estes always elicits a happy sigh. I thought Liam would like it.
I could only guess that he did because he was his usual quiet self.
Rocky Mountain National Park was the busiest I had ever seen it. I pointed out spots where I’d previously seen elk and other wildlife while driving through the park, and we stopped for a short hike on our way up Trail Ridge Road. We discovered that we couldn’t even stop at the Alpine Visitor Center at Fall River Pass (11,789 feet) because the parking lot was full, so we headed back down the road, made our way through the continuing glut of cars, and left the park, heading for Estes Park. I was disappointed that Rocky Mountain National Park had been so full of visitors but was confident that I had at least shown Liam enough to lure him back later, when most of the summer visitors would be gone.
Estes Park was not only full of cars, it was jammed with people on foot. El Santuario de Chimayo in Chimayo, New Mexico, has its pilgrims during Holy Week. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, draws tens of thousands during the twelve-day festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Was there a religious festival I didn’t know about with its epicenter in Estes Park, Colorado? The number of people in town was mindboggling. Still, I thought Liam should see the main drag, from one end to the other, so we made our way through the mob. At one point, I took his hand, wanting to make sure we stayed together. Then I thought to ask if taking his hand was okay. It was.
The number of couples around us was not lost on me. Liam and I were not a couple. That was not lost on me either. We lunched on the veranda of Mama Rose’s restaurant, overlooking the Big Thompson River. And while I managed to nudge Liam into talking about himself a bit, it became clearer and clearer to me that I was not with a man I could engage as I watched couples waking hand-in-hand and families strolling along the river walk next to us. I wondered what it would take to engage him, or if anything could.
I wanted Liam to see The Chapel on the Rock (formally named the Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel) on the grounds of Camp Saint Malo. The Saint Malo retreat and conference center had been seriously damaged by fire in 2011. Then a mudslide in 2013 wreaked havoc on the property. But the chapel had survived both. I wasn’t trying to expose Liam to something religious. I’m not Catholic myself, or even Christian, for that matter. But the tiny chapel, perched on rock and built of stone, is a beautiful, unique structure. For me, The Chapel on the Rock is also a holy place. I didn’t expect him to feel that way about it, but I also couldn’t imagine him not appreciating it.
Getting to the chapel also held the advantage of taking us on Highway 7, which is a small part of the Peak to Peak Highway, arguably one of the most scenic routes in Colorado. We could take Highway 7 to The Chapel on the Rock, then go on to tiny Allenspark, and finally loop around back to Lyons on our way back home.
A family was in the parking lot at the chapel when we arrived and a motorcyclist with a rider pulled in directly after us. A girl from the family told us that the chapel had just been closed for the day. We would not be able to go inside, but since I thought Liam would appreciate the structure itself more than anything else, that wasn’t really a problem. We could still walk the perimeter of the building.
There was a path I thought went all the way around the building, but I realized that it actually terminated at one end as I led the way and almost came upon the motorcycle couple, who had stopped at the end and were just initiating an embrace. I stopped in my tracks and began to back away.
Then I stopped in my tracks again and craned my neck towards them. Was it? Could it be? Was the motorcyclist Derek? I turned to look at the motorcycle. It was a black Harley. Derek’s motorcycle was a black Harley. I tried to get a closer look, but the couple was in a serious clinch at that point, and I could not see the motorcyclist’s face. He was wearing a ball cap, not a Buff, which was Derek’s usual choice in headgear. Still . . .
Was I looking at Derek in the midst of an embrace with another woman?
Note: The names Liam and Derek are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.
Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall
Tags: Allenspark, Alpine Visitor's Center, Big Thompson River, Camp Saint Malo, couple, dating past fitfty, developing a relationship, El Santuario de Chimayo, Estes Park, Fall River Pass, Highway 7 in Colorado, Lyons, Mama Rose's restaurant, online dating, Peak to Peak Highway, Puesto Vallarta, relationship chemistry, Rocky Mountain National Park, Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel, Saint Malo retreat and conference center, The Chapel on the Rock, The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe