About two months ago, I was swiping through OKcupid profiles (swiping! swiping, like Tinder! such is dating in 2017, I suppose) when I came across this gorgeous, gorgeous Canadian girl. Her profile didn’t have much; three pictures, barely a scrawled paragraph or two. Not a lot to go on, but there was something about it…
I almost didn’t message her.
A girl like that, with barely a profile? I probably wouldn’t even get a response. Well, and what if she did? She was probably just visiting, and I wasn’t interested in one night stands. I’m sure she’s busy with whatever she’s here for, anyway. And then, there was that nagging feeling I couldn’t shake …
what if you fall for her?
Right, and this assumes she’d even be into you. Mmhm.
Probably safe there, Yankee.
I rarely send (or respond to) messages on dating apps, even with promising matches, and meeting girls at bars just… wasn’t me. And in a way, I had accepted that I might never find her in this life. Maybe the next? Better luck next time. I wasn’t going to stop looking, but I certainly wasn’t the type to send the first message to errant Canadians.
I messaged her anyway. I don’t know why, given everything I just mentioned.
We had a noncommittal conversation for a couple of days. Her time here was short, after all, and soon she would return to the frozen North, far beyond the Wall. We were just having a friendly chat, a casual Canada-USA cultural exchange. Even if we did arrange a tryst of some kind, it wasn’t like I would suddenly discover love at first sight or anything; I didn’t believe in that sort of nonsense. Never have.
What is love at first sight, anyway? I used to think it went something like this:
One bright summer day, you’re walking back from the post on autopilot, mindlessly staring downwards at a 45-degree angle as you rifle through glossy postcard ads, car magazines you forgot you’d subscribed to, bills, more bills. Then, you accidentally bump into her, and the two of you drop to your knees in a maelstrom of fluttering white envelopes and stuttered apologies, hastily sweeping up dusty wads of paper from cracked gray cement.
You accidentally brush her soft, warm hand with yours, and the two of you freeze, wordlessly look up in tandem (this is when the camera does a slow, circular pan around the two of you for the buildup) and your eyes lock, her wide-brimmed sun hat tumbles away, freeing her perfect locks to billow in the wind (nice job with the fan, filming assistant!) and her face is radiant, glowing in the warm gold bloom of the sun … and now, it’s too late for you to resist.
You’ll do anything and everything for each other, you’re each other’s better half, you finish each other’s sentences and go on dates every week and wipe ice cream smudges off each other’s lips, you run off together and get married in the desert and the sunshine, buy a little house and live happy, peaceful lives, hold hands as you grow old together under thirty thousand sunsets and starfalls —
That kind of thing? Fairy tales and happy endings? Ridiculous. Doesn’t happen.
Not for someone like me, anyway.
But I digress. In another of those rare moments, I felt my ghost whispering to me, and I found my fingers tapping out this gem of a message and hitting “Send” before I could stop myself:
She said yes.
And so, Monday evening found me pacing outside the Bear vs Bull bar on Mission Street, nervously air-tapping out a lazy beat as That Girl twinkled from my earbuds and a clove cigarette slowly burned itself out from between my fingertips, leaving traces of cherry-scented ash I hoped she wouldn’t notice.
I don’t know why I was so nervous, really.
It was just a drink, right?
my darling raptor,
mon soleil, mes étoiles,
I am in love with you.
I have been in love with you since the evening of May 8, 2017. I have been in love with you, I think, since that moment when our elbows not-so-accidentally touched, after hours of wandering conversation, of quietly exposing my battered scales inch by inch, hesitantly edging closer and closer to you as if hypnotized…
now, I think, I know what this ‘love at first sight’ business is.
We drank and laughed and talked of inconsequential things, but when you mentioned your plan to move to Australia, my heart became lead and sank, sank so fast I don’t think I even knew how to process why I felt this way. I suppose some part of me had foolishly thought, “if she liked you, she wouldn’t say such things”; as if someone I had just met would change their course for me. As if I would have done such a thing for them.
… except I knew that for you, I would. Somehow, deep down in my bones and the quiet of my ghost, I knew that you were the kind of soul I had been waiting for these past thirty-four years, that I was at last who I needed to be and that maybe, just maybe, I had finally found you.
When the barsweeps finally kicked us out, we paused to dig through bargain bins full of forgotten DVDs; and when we ran out of those, we stalled some more by attempting to co-op an Asteroid arcade cabinet. We eventually emerged from that dim, cavernous theater, the two of us, and we continued to dance that quiet dance as we waited for the cabs that would finally separate us, perhaps forever. And then we were apart — in a way, for the first time in our lives.
I felt acutely your absence the moment I stepped into that cab.
I couldn’t bear the thought that I would never see you again, so I fumbled with my phone in the dark of the car, struggled to come up with the words to explain this madness… but this time, it was you who messaged me first.
And since that evening, you have been on my mind every day from the moment my eyes flutter open to the moment they reluctantly close, and I find you laced into hazy dreams that finally do not haunt me.
All my life I have scoffed at the idea of soulmates. What a ridiculous concept, that there is someone out there, a bespoke partner, placed on this senselessly spinning hunk of rock just for you. That somewhere exists your moitié, and you will know straight away when your souls meet that there is a future waiting for the two of you, if you are just willing to fight for it, together—
but I didn’t believe in love at first sight, in any definition, either.
So maybe, it’s just.. a little different,
but the way I feel about you is the way I feel about you and I don’t know any other words…
I have been wrestling with this piece on and off for two weeks now, always dissatisfied, these poor words inadequate to give sense and form to these feelings. And I had promised myself I would give this to you before I headed back to San Francisco, so I suppose it will have to do... but my letters always feel childishly written, overwrought, so ~*dramatic*~.
I would write about how you make me feel — how every cell, every fiber of my being responds to you like a tidal wave, how just the thought of you makes them shiver with anticipation, how your touch gathers them into a frenzy of quiet ecstasy as they clamor for your touch, vie for your attention —
But my words are not enough, never enough, so I will lean once more on the words of a greater writer than I.
“It was love I craved, approval, forgiveness for being what I could not help being.”
I realized recently that you make me feel like I have finally been forgiven,
like I am finally home.