Today I found this, sorting through the electronic trash on my laptop. It’s dated about three years ago, a kind of love letter I wrote to remember…
I’m not exactly sure how it happened.
I was sitting with a friend, at a bar. She said, “So why aren’t you seeing anyone?”
Anyone else and I would have left the room. But this was Sarah, and she loves me. So I repressed the immediate urge to change the subject, sipped my beer, and thought about this.
“I hate dating,” I finally replied. “I hate feeling like produce at the supermarket; everyone wants to cop a feel and try to decide if I’m worth taking home.”
Sarah looked at me, somewhat cross-eyed. And I laughed, and I changed the subject–we’re all good, right? No cause for alarm: How are your kids, congrats on Alex getting into UC Davis...
But the question lingered, in the darkest recesses of my mind.
Why wasn’t I dating?
It actually wasn’t that difficult a question.
I wasn’t dating because it was too big a risk, to let someone know me. It’s like telling someone your true name, except I’m not Native American or a vampire. But it’s still very much the same kind of thing.
I fell in love, once. It was all-consuming and tempestuous and oh so glorious. And after that, there was…nothing. I was left hollowed out, and everything in life tasted like ash and soot.
I was twenty-one, then.
Life goes on. That’s the part no one tells you, when you are young and dreaming that Juliet has finally found her Romeo, dreaming that there can actually be a happily ever after, until suddenly there isn’t.
Life goes on–regardless of your personal relationship outcomes.
And so it did.
Through my twenties and now my thirties, I walked through life like the cat who walks alone, because all places are alike to her, because nothing could touch that deep emptiness. I laughed and worked and ate and went to movies and slept and pretended to be a person, but inside was an empty void.
And so it was, until now when I met my friend Sarah for a beer on a sunny afternoon and it had been too, too long since we had spoken in person.
Why wasn’t I dating?
The question festered. I began to assess want versus need. After all, my life was fine, my career was good, everything seemed in order.
Did I really need anything?
Did I really want anything?
Alone, at night, in the dark…yes.
I missed being someone’s someone special. It hurt to acknowledge that; it hurt to root around in the open cavity where my heart used to be.
So I began looking, mostly online through a dating site because maintaining eye contact with actual live strangers was too much for me. Too personal, too intimate, too much–how in the world did this work, again? It had been too long and I had forgotten all the nuances of how girl meets boy.
Then there was him.
It started with text messages.
Of course it did–no one writes love letters, anymore.
But the art of the quick witted mini message is not to be discounted, especially for someone who is always attracted to words, whether it be written page or tiny cell phone screen.
The first date was as awkward as you can imagine; I laughed a little too late and had trouble following a linear track in our conversation. Once again, I had forgotten how to just be a person.
But he was sweet and relaxed, a good conversationalist, clever enough to make me smile without covering the same old tired ground new people always seem to tread–What do you do? Do you like your job? Blah blah blah.
Instead we talked about Star Wars, exchanged odd movie quotes, remarked about people we had seen or met or knew that were unusual or strange in an interesting way.
Lo and behold, I was having fun. It was something too new to process right away, but as I watched him walk away, after escorting me to my car, I realized that I wanted to try that again.
It was at the end of our second date that he kissed me.
First it was an uncertain brush against my lips, then he pressed in, closer, as my hands found a will of their own and pulled him to me.
He tasted like summer, like those long ago carefree, endless days when adventure awaited around ever corner. His arms wrapped around me and the world blurred into nothing but feeling his body against mine and this kiss that seemed to go on forever.
I showed him to the door and we smiled at each other, both a little dazed from the intensity of that first intimate moment. I watched him leave and, lo and behold, I felt my heart beating again, and I felt hope, and joy.
Perhaps, perhaps someday I might even find love.
I remember him now, years later. It didn’t work out; there was some terrible philosophical difference on the third date. I believe he said, “Science fiction as a genre is generally stupid,” and that was all it took to break my delicate illusions.
But it was the first encounter to give me hope of finding someone special, after so long alone.
And I am still looking, and still hopeful.