[Note from ~m. : this is a guest post by an intrepid & open hearted friend I met while travelling through Beijing. Her optimism is the perfect antidote to my cynicism, and I adore her. Thank you for sharing, darling Ebba.]
You met at the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce’s crayfish party. It was the month of August and a cold, damp night typical of San Francisco summers. You could sense his presence as he entered the downstairs bar and your eyes met over the first glass of Blanc de Blancs. Wearing cone-shaped shellfish-patterned paper hats, you asked what brought him there. “Looking for single women, any nationality”. You flashed a smile, raised a hand and said, “That would be me”. He passed over a business card that read Director, Personal Mobile Devices. You gave him yours with the simple inscription, You Look Great, even though great was an understatement for this irresistible combination of dark beauty, handsome stature and boyish charm.
Crayfish, vodka, meatballs, and music ensued. The evening was still young when you decided to leave the party and get to know each other better, possibly due to the fact that he was a terrible dancer. In the cab he put a hand on your bare knee, pointing out that his $6.75 Caltrain return fare to Palo Alto would go unused. You assured him that that was a bargain for the golden ticket he had just picked up.
Back in your apartment, black and blonde curls tousled together in the glow of the Transamerica Pyramid. The arguments would not even be worthy of a Palin-esque debate, yet you knew that two old souls had been reunited. It was not rare that you would bring home a man on the first night. What was unusual was that this fellow looked deep into your eyes and said, “We should stay like this forever” and you agreed.
The following morning, he was leaving for Paris on business. As the two of you awoke, you recapped your impressions so far: he enjoyed cricket in his youth in northern India but didn’t see any point in sports, would like to learn how to paint, preferred older women since they had more interesting stories to tell, went to San Francisco mainly for the Opera, had a beard in college, lived two blocks from Starbucks and ordered grande drip coffee. He asked how old you were. You said that you were eight years younger than he. “So, you’re twenty-eight, and already know more about me than people I have known for years”. You added that after Paris there were trips scheduled to Los Angeles, New York and Kansas City. “They would love you in Kansas City”, he said, and offered that you stay in his apartment when he was away. Instead, you suggested that you’d go to Mel’s Diner for a real American date with milkshakes when he got back. Peanut butter-chocolate-banana milkshakes, specifically.
“Do you have a blog?” he continued. “Sort of”, you say, “it’s called I wanna make out with you all the time”. “That we can make happen.” He smiled and gave you the name of his blog, encouraging you to read it. In the grey haze of San Francisco dawn you found this rather silly. You looked forward to getting to know him in real time, not in the blogosphere. As you parted, he left you with a “This was fun”. Three words followed by the slow realization that in spite of one hundred and fifty seven previous infatuations, you had never before been in love. Really in love.
When you went to pick up your bike from the party, it wasn’t there. Like your heart, it had changed owners in the course of the night. In spite of being a firm believer that the best things in life are free, you did not mind trading a second-hand mountain bike for the love of your life.
You wrote an e-mail to your best friend, admitting that you usually fall in love left and right, but that this time it was as if your entire stomach knew that you would be together forever. This was evidence, mixed with blind determination. It made you god-damned serene just to think about him, the kind of person who shines light and beauty on you, making you sparkle all the more. Someone who shares your slightly more insightful way of looking at the world.
You wanted to write your mother, simply to assure her that you wouldn’t be single for another three decades. Even though you didn’t really speak of these things, it felt natural to tell her. Yet this same feeling of clarity also made it unnecessary to let her know. It would all unfold naturally.
The next couple of days were characterized by a sense of calm and fascination. The comfort of knowing that whatever this was, it was real. There was no need to rush, none at all. You were in San Francisco on a scholarship for Swedish graduate students with the goal to immerse yourselves in the Bay Area start-up scene and the remaining month seemed like eons of time.
A week had passed when you sent him an e-mail asking if you could take him out on a date with either margaritas and tacos or the promised milkshakes and burgers. You also included that he made your heart beat faster. In truth, he made your heart beat delightfully slower, but that would not have conveyed the same message.
Five days later, you wrote a second time. “When would he be back in Palo Alto? Would he then like to meet for a drink?” You counted off another hundred hours. No response. If he had hurt his fingers which hindered him from dialing phone numbers or typing on key boards, you wished him a swift recovery. If he was suffering from memory loss, you’d be happy to share an account of your evening together so as to help his rehabilitation.
Yes, you were old enough to have learnt and accepted that sometimes guys just aren’t that into you. Even Hollywood has recognized this phenomenon. But this was different. Like every individual who has ever been in love, you were experiencing something unique. Surely, the mind registered that not responding was a universal, albeit rude, way of rejection. Yet, the body and soul knew with every fibre that this was it, and it was not something you would shrug off without a proper fight.
You remembered the past New Year’s Eve, walking around in a Stockholm sparkling with snow. You were laughing, knowing that somewhere there was a man completely unaware of what was about to hit him. And, having switched to pen and paper in the continuing correspondence, you wrote him “I did not know who that guy was, until I met you”. You saw what you believed to be destiny’s chosen narrative and what you wanted from him was nothing less than a lifetime. However, you would be happy to start with a cup of coffee.
While waiting for a reply, you started reading his blog and found what you had suspected all along: a thoughtful mind; a curious (and, at times pretentious) approach to life and a subtle, slightly ironic sense of humor. His heroes ranged from Leonardo da Vinci to Gandhi and Charlie Munger. His favourite piece of music was Beethoven’s #9. On Vimeo, you found a talk he gave on innovations at MIT. You preferred to watch it on mute since chatter about gigabits and bandwidth were not nearly as endearing as his awkward body language. Innately optimistic, the blues did strike at points and you found yourself crying over several of his thirty-nine recommendations on LinkedIn. You adored the fact that he was a “highly motivated and passionate professional, a strategic and pragmatic thinker.” You too, knew that he was “a pleasure to work with, open-minded and really likeable.”
Seeing that drawing was one quality where you really outdid him, a pencil collection of tigers and city halls followed in his mail box. You drew the anatomy of a heart, pointing out the parts where trust, kindness and passion resided. The pulmonary arteries that wanted to sit next to him at dinner parties, with his arm resting on the back of your chair. The aorta that feared being misunderstood. You wrote poems, acknowledging that love cannot be forced, persuaded or begged to appear, but the blind can still feel the warmth of sunlight, and the deaf senses a rhythm of music she cannot hear.
You wrote Charlie Munger. Calling on the higher forces of Warren Buffett’s vice-chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, the letter started with “I met the man of my dreams and I need you to ensure the future happiness of two young souls”. You doubt that he took any action, and you do not hold that against him. The communiqué was too long, with a distinct bouquet of desperation.
The eyes of friends suggested that your behaviour was out of proportion. But in relation to what? A one-night encounter? Maybe. The workings of a cosmos sprinkled with stardust? Certainly not.
You knew that the reason he didn’t respond was the one significant proof that he was mentally retarded. It was the same piece of information that made you determine that he was worth fighting for, putting yourself on the brink of mental distortion. Your defense towards the cynical word was that what appears to be crazy is in fact actually the sanest thing to do when it comes to matters of the heart.
You could see no apparent reason why he would not want to meet again. It seemed illogical that you could feel this way unless there had been a similar chemical reaction in him. Unfortunately, charm and wit do have a tendency to be overshadowed by stalker behaviour… but the impossibility to change direction, that Titanic of allurement came later. At first, you had been drowning in each others eyes.
Another mystery to you was that the recipe to all your other achievements, to dream big, follow your intuition and work persistently, was now a cause for misery and completely undermining your success with relationships.
It was at this point a very small, but indisputable sign of recognition appeared. A blog post titled Love. The first new entry since your serendipitous encounter at the crayfish party. It consisted of merely three questions: How do you learn to love? Is it possible to love truly if you have never been loved? Can you sustain love if it is not reciprocated?
As a testament to your ignorance regarding the concept, you had to look up the word “reciprocated”. That spoke quite clearly. But you were unsure as what to make of the first part. Perhaps it was referring to his own ability to love, or suggesting that you yourself sober up and stop drinking cocktails of unrealistic visions.
The subsequent blog entry was one-sentence long, stating that people usually become more pragmatic with age. Pragmatic. In your ears the word sounded like a deserted town in the former Soviet Union. To him, this was a casual affair followed by a flattering, hopefully entertaining, undeniably pathetic, monologue via various media. To you, a great love story.
Not often do you meet people who inspire the core of your being; someone who spills you over into a realm of higher wisdom, greater love, and beauty in abundance. Even if he did not think as highly of you, a new standard had been set for yourself and the world as you would come to see it. What you felt was not dependent on being returned.
Unconditional love sounds grand, but what he left in your heart was an unknown joy; the bliss of what life is truly like, once you realize that love is infinite and eternal. Not being a practitioner of letting things go, or knowing that he would always reappear, you now keep him in the most light and sunny place of your chest. There, he is sailing along the Adriatic coast line. Sometimes you join him in the soft turquoise waters, or lay next to him on the warm pebbles. Most of all, you delight in seeing him happy.
There are vast spaces of oceans for new expeditions, stormy lovers and tranquil harbours. Finding one over-all slightly magical man ought to suggest several more great love stories to come. There are innumerable soft hands, splendid souls and curly heads that encompass thoughts of similar character. You know that the world is full of beautiful men. Besides, bikes get stolen all the time in San Francisco.
~ Ebba Åkerman