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Author’s note: this article is based on events from 2020.
I was three days into a hinge conversation with a possible suitor.
We were creeping up on the phone number exchange, and it was time to do some recon. As I swirled down the social media vortex, a mutual friend popped up on Facebook, “Zander X. Who is this?” I thought.
I opened up his profile. “Wow, he is really cute. How do I know this person?” I swiftly switched over to Instagram and noticed he followed my account. I marinated, ran through the memory catalogue in my brain, and all of a sudden, I realized this was a guy I met four years ago.
What happened? We had the most whimsical, memorable night that we will both remember for years to come. We met at the Mandrake bar on La Cienega. Later we backtracked to the exact date. It was May 14th, my late grandma’s and my great aunt’s birthday (they are twins). I was out with my cousins that night, right after a birthday celebration for my great auntie Annie.
He came up to me, and we started chatting. The rest of my cousins decided to call it a night, except for me and my cousin Evan. I mentioned to Evan this cool local bar by me, called Blue Collar on Fairfax and 3rd—a “classic cocktail den with a noir vibe” as per Google.
I invited Zander to continue the evening with us. That night we became friends with the bartenders. Evan was in alcohol sales and realized that he was one of their suppliers. As the night started winding down, Evan came up to me and whispered, “When they kick everyone out, we are going to stay.”
The lights dimmed and last call was announced. Shortly, everyone exited the bar, and they closed. The bartenders, Evan, Zander, and I, were the only ones left. They turned on some music and the three of us looked at each other and realized we just got invited to secret after hours. What a once in a lifetime opportunity! We were getting served free drinks, laughing, playing behind the bar (Zander even found a video of me on the ladder by the alcohol shelf).
As 4 a.m. approached, we decided to call it a night. Evan and Zander walked me home, and we bid adieu. Fast forward to the present, I couldn’t find his number on my phone, so I messaged him on Instagram, “You came up as a mutual friend when I was searching for someone….made me think of Blue Collar night. How are you?”
As Zander and I reminisced about our past, he remembered that we also had a date at El Carmen. I started recalling that evening and said, “I think I was starving and you didn’t want to eat, so I felt uncomfortable ordering food.” He insisted it was the other way around. Being a blunt lady, I texted, “We had a really bad date!”
His perspective was that we seemed to be on different wavelengths that evening, as I apparently got back from a Monopoly bar crawl in Santa Monica, and he was energized and ready for an evening out. He walked me home, and I silently decided—that would be our last date.
Four years later, here we are, in the middle of a pandemic. We continued to argue about the date being awful versus neutral and eventually said, “Would you give me another chance to make it up to you?” I said. He had to recommend three new songs for me to listen to, and if I approved of his music taste, I would accept his invitation.
Eventually, I was satisfied with his choices to venture out again. We decided to get tea at Comoncy, a block away from my place. We shared in laughter, recalling the details of our past. The date was over, and he asked if I was hungry. He explained that he was on a strict diet of 4,000 calories, as he was trying to gain 20 lbs and needed to eat every few hours.
I was hungry myself—with the opposite problem. I wanted to lose 10 lbs with minimal meals. My plan that evening was to go home and cook ground turkey meat and vegetables. I was caught off guard and tried to think of a place to eat that was COVID-19 safe and easy. After a lot of humming and hawing, I said, “I was just going to cook at home and I am happy to whip something up for us.” He accepted and was excited to be my sous-chef.
At the end of the night, we decided next time to find a proper restaurant—his treat. From the first date, I felt calm, grounded, relaxed, and every moment together was organic and effortless. A few days later, we landed at Electric Karma on 3rd street. Before we ordered, Zander had to get something off his chest. “Remember I mentioned the other day that I had wanted to leave the states since Covid started and applied for jobs in Singapore? Well, I had an interview with a company in March, but they ended up ghosting me until yesterday, and…they offered me the job. I know this is inconvenient, but I could be leaving anytime within a week to a month. It might not even happen…,” he explained.
I laughed at the timing of this event, and we talked about if it was even worth continuing to see each other. I metaphorically tossed my hands up and said, “Well, you know what, screw it, I am going to treat this situation like we are strangers, on vacation, at a bar, and we will never see each other again.”
I sarcastically said, “Get ready because I am going to tell you all my potential deal breakers, so at least you can exit the country not feeling like you missed out on anything.” We sat at Electric Karma for at least three hours divulging all of our skeletons (well, all my skeletons). After I overshared literally every traumatic event in my life, from my parents’ divorce to my mental health stories, he smiled and said that nothing I said was a deal breaker, and he found it cool how interesting I was.
At the end of the night, he asked if I’ve ever done VR (Virtual Reality). He mentioned he had VR at this house and asked if I wanted to come over on the weekend and play. I was in! The next few weeks were filled with dressing up in onesies, virtual soup parties, playing video games in colorful bathrobes, watching 3D movies, silly dances, passionate kisses, and lots of snuggles—even a FaceTime Thanksgiving with my family because he just wanted to meet the people who made me.
I was forced to live in the moment, embrace the unknown, and lean into this new budding relationship—fearlessly. As the first week of December came, Zander called me and said that the job was on, and he would be moving to Singapore, indefinitely. The relationship was obviously too new to have a conversation about him staying. I also did not want to be someone to hold anyone back from an experience of a lifetime.
I got off the phone and sobbed, but I also felt a sense of peace.
Whatever happens, I’m going to be okay. I have been to the depths of hell multiple times in my life, and this was a cakewalk. His flight was booked for December 16th. We decided that the weekend before he left that we were going to have a 24-hour party, celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, his birthday (which is on Christmas Eve), and New Year since he was going to be in quarantine for two weeks, alone, and would be missing all of those holidays.
At the end of the night, we were in bed, and he said, “I love you; is that okay?” He said he knew it was reckless to say, and it felt unfair. I said I loved him too. We were both dumbfounded that we had just fallen in love and what a cosmic joke this entire situation was. Can you believe all past relationship pain we could have skipped over if we got together four years ago? I learned what it meant to love someone unconditionally.
“Love creates an us without destroying a me.” ~ Unknown
I reflected back on my past loves, crushes, short and long-term romances, and the majority felt conditional. Perhaps some were immature, and many I lost myself in the relationship, while others were purely chemical, hormonal reactions, and fantasies that were not realistic. This time, I felt nothing but joy and love for this being who had entered my life.
I genuinely wanted him to be happy—with or without me. I adored him, and he adored me. I didn’t feel as sad that he was moving, as I was grateful I had met one of my romantic soul mates in this world. I went to bed that night, smiling and in gratitude that I even got to know him for a short while. Some people go their entire lives not getting that chance.
We agreed that a long-distance relationship with an unclear return date was not a good idea for either of us. A few hours before his flight, we cuddled, looked into each other’s eyes and spoke about all the things we loved about each other.
“My list is too long; it wouldn’t fill a scroll or the Torah from your Bat Mitzvah,” he said. I teased him about the girls he will meet in Singapore and how he should say “yes” to all experiences. He said, “Morgan, I am not going to Singapore to find the one; I found my one right here.”
“Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full acceptance, even celebration of another’s personhood.” ~ Karen Casey
The last couple of hours were bittersweet for both of us. We do not know where the future will lead—if that will be the last time we share a bed, hug, kiss, or even see each other. Yet, we both agreed, this has been the greatest love we have experienced in our lifetime, thus far—even though it was short.
I do not believe we have only one soul mate, and while I do know Zander is one of them, that does not mean he will be the one I spend the rest of my life with. Heck, I already have mapped out a plan of life—alone.
Solo or coupled, either side of the grass looks pretty spectacular!