I was 31, perpetually single, and conveniently blaming that fact on the nonexistent crop of compatible men in Guatemala.
Not that the lack of compatible men in the United States was why I’d moved away. Was it?
Throughout my twenties, I’d gone on dozens of dates in Austin and the San Francisco Bay area. I’d done the whole Match.com thing or met guys through mutual friends or even yoga, but once sex was introduced into the equation—which was always immediately—I could only sustain a relationship for a few months before the inevitable implosion.
When I was in college, I arbitrarily decided I’d get married at 28. Maybe that’s why, at 27, I spent countless hours during a 10-day, silent meditation retreat planning out every elaborate detail of my future potential wedding in my mind. The groom would be Carlos, the ex that I was so sure I was meant to get back with and marry, obviously. On day five, my monkey mind almost convinced me that we needed to leave and get a CAT scan because I had a painful, persistent neck and head ache.
At 29, I moved to Guatemala for a change of pace and culture. And that I got.
My first year here, I dated no one, kissed no one, had a crush on no one. My second year in Guate, my thirties started and the romantic drought ended, only to be replaced by a flood of stereotypically painful, fleeting relationships.
The longest was with a man almost twice my age who lived like a bachelor but was technically still married to the mother of his grown children and had a long-term, long-distance, French-Canadian girlfriend his own age. I visited him for short sexcapades that occurred once a month like orgasmic clockwork. He had been a lifeguard since before I was born and was also a talented guitarist and—well, he was offering precisely what I needed: great sex. It was easy, convenient and satisfying enough, so it went on for too long.
After three years of living in Guatemala City, I had given up on finding a partner here. I was tired of living in a big, dangerous city. I was plotting my next move.
Maybe Asia or Africa? I applied for teaching jobs from Malaysia to the Middle East. As I was mentally preparing to leave Guatemala, I was thinking, Alright, fine! I’m going to be a free-wheeling, world-traveling woman. I won’t be tied down by a relationship or kids. I’ll be sophisticated and have long-term lovers. I’ll be content to be alone.
I’d given up on love, in general. But I wasn’t bitter.
As I imagined starting all over again in a new country, I was secretly hoping something would make me stay in Guatemala. Something like an amazing yoga teaching career falling in my lap.
I was not expecting love, but I was not opposed to it, either.
I was especially drawn to the idea of living at Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands. It was a gorgeous place I’d visited countless times and had always adored, and not just because my fifty-something lover lived there.
Great as it had been, I did not want this dead-end casual sex to go on indefinitely. So when I drove to the lake for a quiet celebration of the completion of the year 2011, I did not stay with him, nor did I have a midnight kiss on my mind. I was content to be alone, surrounded only by nature and a select few friends.
Upon arrival, I stopped by my friends’ house for a visit. That’s when I met my husband, though of course I didn’t know it at the time.
For the first five days we knew each other, we had what felt like a fantasy honeymoon. We played house, and it was delightful. Thereafter, I’d drive to the lake most weekends to visit him, somehow forcing myself to drive back to the city on Sunday evenings for another hellish work week.
Just three months after we met, a late period and positive home pregnancy test caused shit to get intense fast. Yet, we weren’t officially together. Just two weeks before conception, he had told me he just wanted to be friends.
It was a moment of truth that turned into a month of truth when he hightailed it for the jungle. Would he stay or leave? I braced myself for the latter, persuaded myself that I could be a single mother even though that’s the last thing I wanted.
I realized anything could happen.
He could come back, or not. He could die, or I could, or the baby could. Pregnancy gave me no choice but to stop trying to control the universe.
What did happen was this: on the evening of my 32nd birthday, he emerged from the jungle just in time to help prep food for my dinner party and assure me that we would support each other through this and raise our child together.
My 32 years of solitude were finally over.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Bassi Baba/Flickr