Kate, the first time that I meet her, is packing her bags. She is living with a friend of mine. Well friend is not the right word. She is living with this person that I know from work, and for some reason that I cannot even remember anymore, I had to take him home one night. But there she is in the front room of the apartment jamming jeans and boots into a faded canvas duffle bag that is already too full.

She is going camping and I make small talk with her about her weekend. She doesn't know it yet but I am already falling in love with her. This is Kate before she knows what she is doing. This is me before I know what is happening.

I am all giggles and yesses and nos because I don't want to make myself out to be stupid. I say the least that I can get away with and hope it is the best thing to say in the moment.

I tell her I have never been camping and she looks at me in horrid shock. Surely she believes no one can live in this day and age and not have been camping, especially if you were in girl scouts and even if it was one of those "getting back to nature" work retreats that all of the big companies are sending their employees on nowadays.

I repeat, "Nope, I have never ever been camping."

And she asks me if I want to go, just pack a bag and jump in the jeep and in an hour, she promises, we will be in the woods, getting back to basics.

She doesn't even know me and she is already promising me the wide open world.

I regret that I cannot go because I have to sit at a desk all day on Saturdays and answer phones and type useless reports. I tell her to bring me back a souvenir, something to remind me that one day I will need to venture out into the woods, and sleep on the cold, wet ground, and be thankful.

She says she will.

She brought me back a pinecone.

I said, "Kate, what am I supposed to do with this?"

She said, "Keep it. Don't break it."

It is a week later and here we are in the coffee shop, all leaned over the table and mouth to ear, whispering.

She sits back and sighs, a heavy breath of relief and joy and comfort and tells me all about her trip.

She is all, oh-you-musts and surely-nots, and smiles wide with perfect white teeth all in a row. She is rocking back and forth in her chair and I am all wide brimmed eyes of interests. I don't know it yet but she is already falling in love.

I tell her I am leaving for a week in Las Vegas for a conference and she is welcome to come with me, to keep me from losing all my money at the slot machines. She is all downcast eyes and pretend sad lips that she cannot come.

She tells me to bring her back a shot glass or something.

I brought her back a shot glass that said "Black Jack, Baby" and my heart.

She said, "The glass I get, but what am I supposed to do with this?"

I said, "Keep it. Don't break it."

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