It was the stuff of romantic comedies—we were both just having fun and recovering from respective heartbreaks when we met.
We hit it off from the first date and were soon exchanging private jokes and Spotify playlists, the currency of courtship and dating in these days of abbreviated relationships.
It was great meeting someone with whom I had so much in common. On most days, we were on the same wavelength and I could, with just a look, have her deliver the punch line to whatever joke I was building up.
We were also different enough that we could spend hours—entire days at some point—in bed just talking and laughing and getting to know more about each other.
That's what I’ll always remember, that we laughed often and a lot.
I was in love and so was she. At least, she said she was the handful of times that she said it.
Record scratch, freeze frame. There is that risk, when dating someone just a few months from heartbreak and several months from another thing that didn’t quite happen as expected, of having to deal with baggage that has yet to be worked out.
Or of the other person agreeing to a relationship because the alternative is loneliness and another failed thing in a series of failed things.
It was, of course, about the laughter and getting each other, but there was always that undercurrent of sadness and caution.
We talked about the past sometimes and how things had not worked out. I thought it was her processing things and acknowledging that things were better and I may have been right.
I didn’t know that it was still an ongoing process and that better was relative.
She once called me by a term of endearment she used for her ex and then only ever referred to me by name after that.
There were times when she would lapse into silence or look into the distance or do other clichéd things that are, in movies, either red flags or prompts for grand gestures from our matinee idol hero.
We were never Facebook official. It was too soon for that and anyway, she said, we both knew the score between us. She said she’d been embarrassed before by being too open on social media about who she was seeing and wanted to keep things low key for a while.
But none of those things mattered because we were having fun and it was great being with someone again after around a year of casual dating.
These were just details and the important thing was that we were in love. I knew this from the handful of times that she said so.
At this point, it was really on me for not leaving and for thinking that the solution for when someone not going all in is to go all out. But you tend to hang on to hope when someone is awesome enough. It was a rare connection and was worth the effort, I felt.
I picked up the slack until the day she told me she wasn’t holding on anymore. I was fun and, just as importantly, funny, but I was not the crazy love that she was looking for and had hoped to find.
“What about what I want?” she said one time that I told her that I felt unappreciated.
There is really no argument and no joke that can get past something like that. No grand gesture could cover up the truth that she was settling and that I could never measure up to the guy who came before and the other who, in her mind, was yet to come.
We tried to keep it going for a while after that but it was clear that we wanted different things. Never mind that what I wanted was for her to want me and not some ideal.
It was a long disengagement and I held on for longer than was smart or healthy or kind but, in the end, I had to recognize that sometimes our role is to move a scene forward and, often involuntarily and grudgingly, to disappear before that grand movie ending with random dancing and appropriately quirky music.
It was necessary and, in hindsight, I am glad that it ended when it did because people can love each other, even briefly, and resent each other for longer than they were in love.
It was the stuff of romantic comedies—we were both just having fun and recovering from respective heartbreaks when we stopped talking altogether.