I just got off the phone with Stacy. I haven’t named her before, but it's time I did. She’s not an intial from my past, but a growing part of my life. You see we were talking about marriage.

Marriage. The M-word, the point that all the fairy tales lead to when Snow White meets Prince Charming and they spend eternity ‘happily-ever-after" without a word about pre-nuptial agreements, mortgages or fellatio. And this was no academic discussion full of professional dispassion. We were talking about a particular marriage, namely our own.

Marriage. I have a hard time getting my mind around that. I may end the week transformed from the guy without a girlfriend to the betrothed of a woman who dumped me 15 years ago.

I know it doesn’t make sense. But then nothing about romance makes sense. Maybe the good old days had it right with their arranged marriages—he’s got money, she’s got baby-bearing hips and after a decade or so of sanctified sex maybe they’ll discover they love each other. Or find a place where they both can live, provided they both really want to.

And that’s the big thing about the M-word, you both have to really want to, even when you’re pissed off and the girl in shipping is giving you free looks down her shirt. You gotta think I married this woman, she loved me once and this is something we need to get through, and we can get through this.

But Westerners don't do romance that way. We don’t logically choose our partner for his or her ability to throw out a mean zygote or enhance the family fortune. We want passion. We fall in love with the person how makes the blood flow to our loins, who makes us laugh, who puts us in touch with the hidden dream we didn't even know we had.

Our own passion leads us to ignore our lover’s flaws. We pretend they’ll change. We cling to the best parts of them hoping that we don’t wake up one day and find out we’re married to Charles Manson, Susan Smith or Adam Sandler. Or maybe worst of all, married to someone who just doesn’t know how to love.

By all rights I ought to stay far away from this woman. After all, she was my hot and cold running girlfriend, the one who told me she loved me then wouldn't return my phone calls. The one who told me how sex didn’t mean much, (and by implication that included sex with me). She’s the one I hadn’t seen in years who decided it would be more fun to ride with her other friends than me.

Oh, how she pissed me off. The nights I spent boiling with anger and frustration. The time I carefully erased every hint of her from my address book and didn’t put it back until after she called me.

But the thing is, when Stacy’s good, she’s very, very good. She’s got a mind like a steel trap, she’s read even more than I have, wit quick as cat with a taste for the outrageous but a real hunger for what is good and right. She’s moody, emotional, passionate, and her lips carry a hunger no food can satisfy. She’s full of laughter, ideas and she wraps her legs around you with the ferocity of a starving panther. She's hunger and fire, and drama, and she loves her cats and her corgi like innocent children.

But in that passion there is fear, always has been, fear she was still a plain, skinny teenager fear that this romance would end up like all the rest, confined to the dark bowl of Cupid's toilet, refusing to cry her eyes out because in this world you gotta get tough or die. Stacy’s no character from a Sandra Bullock movie. No sirree, people aren’t there for you to dump on, dumping is weakness, suck it all in.

Don't let them know how much it hurts. Don’t let them see that inside this tough, brilliant, competent woman is an innocent girl, a romantic who dreams of something a bit more than mortal.

It seems that for the past seventeen years she hasn't been able to get me out her mind any more than I’ve been able to keep her out of mine. One might argue she certainly tried hard enough to get me out of it. But women just don’t call their ex-boyfriend’s ten years later and ask them for a visit because of something they read in Cosmo. Something made her call, and it wasn’t seeing my name at reunion dot com.

And so for the past two years we've been sparring, communicating. growing closer. She returns my phone calls now and initiates her own. For the first time, maybe ever, we’re talking about feelings, and what was really going on in her head. Turns out that I never was the boy toy I thought. Turns out that from day one it was about love, that I got to her in a way that makes the smart and freshly divorced nervous. Turns out all the hot and cold was the cycling of a human being caught in a cycle of terror versus passion.

She loves me. She says it often and openly without pulling away in the next minute. After all the years, she loves me. I have become her best friend, displacing even her girlfriend from high school. She wants to marry me, and the only thing holding her back is the fear that if she does, she’ll lose me.

Time might get her past that fear.