On a snowy weeknight in January 2009, bored and sitting in front of my TV, I chain smoked Marlboro Lights and curiously perused the Craigslist Missed Connections. It had become a habit. TV on in the background and glass of wine in hand, I let myself get sucked into the black hole of the Internet.
I’m not a Craigslist weirdo trolling for casual sex or anything. I just liked reading the Missed Connections. They were sweet. The idea of making a fleeting connection on the subway, at the grocery store, or in line at Starbucks seemed so romantic.
I stumbled upon an especially well-written post that evening. To be honest, I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but one hilarious line stuck with me: “When you offered to show me your outer labia, I knew I could take you home to mom.” I nearly fell out of my beanbag chair from laughing so hard. I immediately sent the writer an email of appreciation. I said something like, “Thanks for making my night.” I didn’t expect him to respond.
A few hours later, his gracious reply landed in my inbox. He seemed so nice! Almost like a real human being. I wasn’t prepared for that. I soon found out that we were about the same age. Me, 23. He, 24. Let’s call him "J."
As soon as I crafted my second email to him, I began to feel guilty. I had been in a relationship with another man for four years. What was I doing emailing flirtatious missives to someone else? But I couldn’t help myself.
After a few emails, we developed a playful banter that I’d never experienced with anyone else. We had a lot in common. We were both liberals drawn to living in Washington to be closer to the political world. We both liked indie rock music. We both had a sardonic sense of humor.
After a few weeks, J sent an email that made my heart leap. He had just been offered a new job and wanted to meet me in person to celebrate. I knew it was dangerous but I agreed. I figured I could do the right thing: Go a crowded bar, have a drink or two, shake his hand and go home.
We met at a bar unfamiliar to both of us in a weird part of town. I remember thinking he looked endearing in his thrift store suit. I liked the way his blue eyes glimmered in the candlelight. The chemistry was instant.
Polite, banal conversation quickly faded and soon we were talking as if we were old friends. Hour after hour passed. I drank my weight in Miller Light. I sat closer and closer to him in my barstool until our knees started to touch as we talked. I felt a jolt of electricity course through my body with each accidental brushing of our hands. As much as I tried to be “good,” a sinking realization crept over me. I was going to fall for J. I knew it within the first hour of meeting him.
At the end of the night, he walked me to my car. Our eyes met. With one look it was all over and we were in the backseat ripping each other’s clothes off while The Black Keys played in the background.
I was never the same. Sometimes we try men on like dresses and hope they’ll fit. That night, I found my perfect one and realized I’d been wearing a dress in the wrong size all along.
J and I began sneaking away from work to call each other and texting all day long. I never felt so alive. But then there was the guilt. I was cheating. It would have been easier if our connection was purely physical. But I was in deep. It became clear to me that I would eventually have to make a very difficult decision.
After a few weeks of flirtatious conversation and electric dates, I got sick and had to spend some time in the hospital. Alone, I finally confronted myself. After much internal debate, I chose my ex. How could I leave someone I’d been with for four years for someone I'd just met...on Craigslist? The night we cut ties, I cried myself to sleep because deep down I knew I'd made the wrong decision.
A few months later, J contacted me one last time. He’d realized something and wished he could tell me over a Jumbo pizza slice, but it looked like email was the only way. He loved me. I read the email at my desk at work and went home sobbing and sick because I knew I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t tell him that I loved him too.
In the years after our brief romance, I often imagined what our lives would be like together. In my fantasy, we’d have a one-bedroom apartment decorated with relics of concerts past. I could see us dancing around the living room to old Dylan records after making dinner together. I even wondered what beer we’d keep in the fridge. I hoped we would have graduated from Miller Lite.
I imagined us lying side by side in a big bed (me on the soft side, of course), tangled up in the sheets, reading the newspaper, not saying a word. The silence would be punctuated by the periodic exchange of a section or a hand lightly caressing a thigh.
I pictured concerts. Throwing darts at a seedy dive bar. Bowling with a giant pitcher of beer. Baseball games. Singing our favorite karaoke songs. Brushing our teeth next to each other in the mornings. All the things I couldn’t have.
The sadness of losing him dulled over time, but never completely left. I sometimes had hallucinations in the metro while waiting for my train. I’d squint across the platform and swear I could see him on the other size. I’d fantasize about running into him on the street. But it never happened.
The morning I moved away from DC, the only thought in my head was that my chances of running into J on the street were now gone. That was a particularly cold morning.
But in 2012, I was newly single and in Nashville on a weekend trip when I saw a J doppelganger in a piano bar. I had deleted his number from my phone but decided to DM him on Twitter to tell him I was staring at his twin. That initial exchange opened the floodgates.
After a few months of correspondence, he invited me to visit him in San Diego where he had just moved. Our connection was instant and magical all over again. Soon after, we were living the life I’d always dreamed we would, in that one bedroom apartment.
After we started dating, I found out that my dream of having a Craigslist Missed Connection posted about me came true. He'd written something about me right after I left him. It read:
"In a good movie there's a point where the protagonist realizes he's fallen for the girl. It usually turns on a line of dialogue that induces a wide swath of smiles across the viewing audience. It's a perfectly crafted line, one that the writer probably agonized in his Hollywood office for weeks about, the waste basket filled to the brim with crumpled up miscues. "You had me at hello" comes to mind or "Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time." Lines that people wait their whole lives to hear.
My line was a little different.
"What country do they speak Farsi in?" she said.
Romantic to many? Probably not. And yes, she already knew the answer. She wanted to know if I did. Typical conversation at a bar at a Friday night? Probably not, but then again nothing was typical about us. It was a perfect line because our story was the beginning of a perfect movie.
When you look back at nights in your life it's rare you remember every second of any one of them in particular. I remember everything about that night. What you were wearing, what your hair was like, what you were drinking (Miller Lite, our beer of choice). I remember going outside so you could smoke ("I don't usually smoke" you told me) hour after hour. It was January and I didn't smoke. I didn't care. I would have stood outside all night if it meant more time with you. You were so different from anyone I have ever met. You had a confidence and strength about you that I'd never seen in a girl. You were up front, sarcastic and strong willed. You were perfect.
We talked all night, tripping over each other to speak. There was barely time for a breath, let alone an awkward silence. At one point I said "I've never felt like I wanted to say so much to anyone." You agreed, wholeheartedly. We drank, you smoked, we talked, you looked beautiful. You asked me about Farsi. I said Iran. You gave me that crooked smile. I didn't just fall hard, I fell off a cliff.
A few hours earlier you had been this smart, strong and mature woman. Now, as you started into my eyes with a look that couldn't be replicated, you showed me you were so much more. You became this emotional, open and delicate girl who could kill me with a word or a look.
Our movie continued into the night, turning again on a single line.
"You're beautiful," you told me. I had never been called beautiful before, what guy has?
"No, I mean it," you reassured me.
"I may lose some hair." I said.
"It's OK, a lot of guys do," you replied.
"We are going to fight," I said.
"Everyone does," you responded.
I wish I had said something meaningful back. I wish that I had a line waiting that everyone waits to hear but I didn't. I just sat back in a stunned silence. What can you say to a girl who's perfect? Instead I kissed her. It was our movie.
I guess I was the first one to lie, technically. I said the only way this ends is with you and me together. Instead I sit here alone writing this. I should have realized that life sometimes doesn't imitate art. Now a line comes to mind. "Sometimes I wish I had never met you, because then I could go to sleep at night not knowing there was someone like you out there."
Our movie didn't end as planned."
But that was just the beginning of our movie. Now, more than five years after we first met and almost two years together, we get to have our happy ending.