And I didn’t even expect it.
I know it’s all I’ve been writing about for the past two years (well, year and nine months, but who’s counting?) but I still didn’t expect it to happen when it did. When the medium told me I’d meet him about two and a half years from August 2018, I had my focus solidly fixed on February 2021. So imagine my surprise when I met him in late January.
It was on Hinge of all places. In the midst of my dating like a champion and getting to know people, he was one of them. After Scruff, I had learned to not take men too seriously so I didn’t think too much about it when we matched. I just thought he was cute and seemed like a decent person.
The first time we spoke was over Hinge video call. From his profile, I knew he was handsome with a goatee, big smile and stylish glasses but I was completely taken aback by his deep voice and our easy conversation. After what felt like fifteen minutes, I checked the time and realized two hours had passed. I was stunned. How in the world did I talk to an utter stranger for two hours and not realize it? When our second conversation lasted three hours, I began to wonder. Was he…? Nah, I told myself. I couldn’t even let myself finish the thought. There were so many unknowns. I hadn’t even met him in person yet. His profile said he was 6'4", but what if he was actually short? Or smelly? What if there was no physical attraction? Or he was just completely different in person? The chance of disappointment was too great. Yet, my gut nagged me knowingly: There is something about this man.
The first time we met in person was in my car. I had been rushing to get ready right after work and didn’t realize that I was devoid of nerves until I pulled up to his apartment. He didn’t drive and our plan was to pick up food and go to the marina — the same one where I’d broken it off with Peanut — to smoke and gaze at San Francisco from across the bay. Half his face was covered with a mask initially so I didn’t get a good look at him, but from what I’d seen in pictures he appeared to look the same from the eyes up. We abandoned the masks to pig out on lumpia and talk nonstop and laugh ‘til our stomachs hurt while sharing a joint in the darkness of my car. Our first date ended up not feeling like a first date at all. There was none of that fresh awkwardness that came with meeting someone new. I simply felt like I was hanging out with a long lost friend. I kept having the strangest feeling around him, like my brain, my body and my gut were at odds. You don’t know this man, my brain kept telling me. You don’t know this man, my body kept telling me. But my gut felt like I did. Once I got home, my usual exhaustion from socializing with strangers was nowhere to be found. For the first time in my life, interacting with someone gave me energy instead of taking it away. I had an overwhelming urge to see him again. I’m trying to see you as soon as possible, he’d texted me and I realized he felt the same. It was the first time I believed he could be it.
The first time I went to his apartment was on our second date. I got there at 7 p.m., bracing myself for an unkempt man cave devoid of any kind of ambience (which from my experience had been typical of the men I’d dated who lived alone). I was surprised to be greeted by the earthy scents of incense and sage, ambient lighting, and art tastefully hung. Oh yeah, this is my type of person, I thought, as he asked me to take my shoes off at the door. We fell right into effortless conversation and talked up until 1 a.m. (minus a brief pause to watch an episode of Euphoria). I couldn’t believe the time when I checked it, and swore that I needed to leave since it was a Sunday night. We kept talking until 3 a.m. instead. We talked about everything and nothing: family dynamics, COVID birthdays, hopes and dreams, relationship flaws and fails. Even though I had just met him, I had no problem being as open and as vulnerable as possible. It was the first time I’d spent almost all night with a man I was dating and barely touched him.
The first time we kissed was when he walked me to my car at 3:30 a.m. I hugged him tightly, hoping that I could kiss him after when he asked, “Is it the right time to ask for a kiss goodnight?”. I pulled away to give him one when suddenly, neither of us could remember how kissing worked. The result was one of the most awkward kisses of my life, with hesitant lips and clashing teeth. Afterwards, he made me promise to let him know when I got home stating, “I’ll be up thinking about what just happened.”
The first time we kissed for real happened two days later, when I had every intention to spend a normal amount of time with him and still ended up leaving his apartment after 1 a.m. after another night of nonstop talking. I figured our first kiss was a fluke and wanted to give it another shot, but I didn’t realize just how much I would enjoy kissing him until I found myself pressing my body against his on the side of the street and not wanting to go home after all.
The first time I told people about him was on a Zoom call catching up with my friends. “I think I met my soulmate!” I exclaimed. Some were joyful, some were dubious. The skepticism made me hesitant. Was he really my soulmate? Or was I sinking into my old patterns of placing all my hopes on someone while ignoring red flags? The same medium who told me when I’d meet my soulmate had told a different friend she’d already met hers. “It just feels like you’re catching up with an old friend, right?” she’d asked, “Like he’s the male version of you.” I was stunned. That’s exactly how it felt.
The first time I thought that I loved him was a week after we met. We were at a different lookout, one up in the hills of Berkeley, looking out over the cities of Oakland and San Francisco under a velvety night. We talked about how the earth was moving at that very second even though it didn’t feel like it and then fell into a rare silence. In that moment, underneath the twinkling stars, before the jewel-like cities, surrounded by the stillness of nature and enclosed in his arms, I felt totally in alignment. Like I was where I needed to be with who I needed to be with. I love this man — the thought popped up before I could totally register it and I crushed it down immediately. There’s no way I could love him already, I countered dismissively.
The first time I knew that I loved him was a few days later. We had almost gotten into accident when we were leaving the lookout and it left me shaken for a few days. No matter how many times I told myself that it was okay, I was okay and he was okay, I still couldn’t shrug it off. What if he wasn’t — my thought process always stopped there. It wasn’t that we were okay, it was the fact that I’d put him in danger. It was the fact that now I had him in my life, I never wanted to lose him. Fuck, I thought, I do love him.
The first time I spent the night at his apartment, I woke up ridiculously happy. We did all the things I usually hated: we cuddled all night, woke up early and and jumped right into conversation first thing in the morning. If it were anyone else, I would have been annoyed and tried to escape but I didn’t mind it with him. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much, I stayed until the early afternoon to lay in his bed and talk. We fell into bad habits like ignoring sleep, food and other people just to talk to each other more and more. In hindsight it was both terrible and totally worth it.
The first time we clashed was after I’d gone on a date with someone else. After Scruff, I vowed to myself that I’d stop putting all my eggs in one basket and I’d keep seeing other men up until the moment I got into a relationship. On the date, all I could think about was him and how I couldn’t wait to see him. I realized that dating other people made no sense. How could they compete when they couldn’t compare? I broke it off with the date and went straight to his apartment. In the interest of transparency, I told him I was on a date. He reassured me that it was fine but then fell silent. When we talked about it some more the next day, he said he was ‘concerned about safety’ but I knew he really meant he just wanted to be with me (okay, maybe his concern was also valid). It was okay because I just wanted to be with him too. So we became exclusive.
The first time I wanted to tell him I thought he was my soulmate was actually right after our first date. We’d talked about reincarnation and he theorized that maybe we were our ancestors who’d met in a past life. I screamed internally and changed the subject. The first time I actually told him was early one morning while we were laying in bed. The subject came up again and I decided it would be now or never. I was sure he’d think I was crazy or look at me differently. His face brightened instead. “That really affirms how I feel,” he’d said. “Thank you for telling me.” I fell in love with him a little bit more.
The first time he gave me flowers was after I’d told him my whole sordid history with flowers. We usually talked about everything so I told him in order to be transparent and to low key make fun of my dating life. I insisted that he not feel obligated to get me any. He gave me some pink tulips the next time I saw him. “You deserve flowers and more,” he said. “These niggas trippin’.” he added.
The first time he cooked for me was on Valentine’s Day. He greeted me with a dozen roses and a wide smile. It was the first time he’d been a little more quiet than usual and he later revealed that it was because he was nervous. I had no idea why: the food was spectacular. I’d been expecting something too dry or too spicy or too salty and got a carefully curated, wonderfully homemade, vegetarian meal instead. He asked what else we could do to make the day memorable and maybe repeat year after year. I suggested dancing to slow jazz and so we did. I couldn’t help but smile the whole time, not only because I felt our future looked bright, but also because he was thinking about the future too.
The first time we tried to have sex, we both ended up convulsing with laughter. Initially, we had been intentionally waiting for the right time, and then impatiently waiting for my period to be over. When the day came, it was on. Our clothes melted off and our hands caressed every crevice. When the time came to do the deed, he suddenly stopped, his eyes wide and distant. “I think I’m out of condoms,” he’d said. He rummaged around in one of his drawers to confirm. “Yeah, I’m out.” I couldn’t help but start giggling. “Our first kiss was awkward,” I said, “It makes sense that our first time would be too.” He started chuckling too and before we knew it, we were both uncontrollably laughing at ourselves. It was so us.
The first time I knew I wanted to be with him was one time when we were just sitting on his couch watching a show. I looked at him and thought, this is it. This is what I want. The first time I told him was one time in bed. It just slipped out in our usual morning sentimentality and he never let me forget it. He said he felt the same. It felt like we were consistently on the same page.
The first time I was disappointed was when he wrote me a letter. He’d been teasing about sending me a letter for a while and had finally left it for me one day before he went to work. I almost tore it open hungrily, scanning the words quickly to see if he was finally asking me to be his girlfriend. He didn’t. And while it was a wonderful letter filled with all the words of affirmation that I usually craved, I couldn’t get over the tinge of disappointment at the back of my mind. It was the first time I realized just how much I wanted to be with him.
The first time I really missed him was when I went to Portland for the weekend to be a witness in my friend’s wedding. While I was no stranger to alone time and genuinely enjoyed my own company, I couldn’t help but recognize all the moments where he’d fit right in. I re-read his letter and appreciated that not only was he a wonderful writer, but also a wonderful man.
The first time he told me he loved me, he wasn’t even aware of it. He had a tendency to tell me things in the middle of the night as I shifted in my sleep. He’d say things like ‘I appreciate you’ or ‘I’m so happy you’re here’ or ‘anything for you babe’ when I asked for more of the blanket. But he never remembered saying anything in the morning. One time, after I rolled over and began to fall back to sleep, I heard him whisper, ‘I love you.’ My eyes opened wide as I wondered whether I really heard that or if it was a trick of the mind. I turned back to him. He was fast asleep. But it was definitely his voice. I shrugged it off as my own imagination.
The first time he told me he loved me deliberately was a few hours later, right before the sun started to rise. “Can I tell you something?” He asked. “Sure,” I replied, thinking he was going to tell me something either really deep or really embarrassing. “I think I love you.” He said. My mouth opened wide. The cold blue morning light that gently lit up his features contrasted the warm, joyous feeling that was spreading throughout my chest. I couldn’t believe the man I knew I loved for over a month was telling me he loved me. “I love you too.” I blurted back. “Actually, I don’t think I love you,” he corrected, “I know I do.”
The first time I chose myself over him was when I reset my boundaries. Going back into dating, I decided that my boundaries were going to be no sleepovers in the work week and no coming to my apartment until I was in a relationship. Really, I was trying to guard my energy and my time against men (like Peanut) who had no problem acting like they were in a relationship without actually making it official. While seeing him, the only boundary that held strong was not coming to my apartment. Even though I genuinely enjoyed spending time with him constantly, I began to resent the fact that we weren’t in a relationship. But instead of pulling away and acting aloof, I spoke to him about it like an adult. Not only did he understand, he encouraged me to take care of myself. He reassured me that he loved me and he wanted to be with me, and he explained that he was really enjoying the dating process with me. It was the first time he was dating intentionally, and he couldn’t believe how well it was going. He had his moments where he couldn’t believe it was real. I felt the exact same. It was like the Universe knew what I’d been asking for and placed everything into one man then sent him my way with a swipe. So I decided I would hang tight to my boundaries but wouldn’t press him anymore. Instead of forcing my way like I usually did, I decided I would be patient. I knew I wanted him and only him, and he wanted me and only me, and that was good enough for me.
A few days later, he wanted to do something special to bring in the new moon together (how could this man not be made for me?). After giving me sunflowers, we picked up food and made our way down to the marina, back to the scene of our first date for the familiar view of San Francisco. It was there he asked me to be his girlfriend.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I don’t want you to ask because you feel pressured.”
“I’m sure.” He said. “I don’t want to lose you.”
It was the first time I entered a healthy relationship as an adult.
I remember a lot more firsts:
The first time we held hands.
The first time I played with his beard.
The first time I saw him without glasses.
The first time he read to me.
The first time I noticed his body, not out of lust but appreciation.
The first time we journaled together.
The first time we went to the grocery store together.
So many usually mundane things became spectacular. So many usually hard things became easy. So many things I thought I didn’t care for became precious. So many things I thought would bother me seemed trivial. Time did weird things, like both speeding up and slowing down when we were with each other. We’d talk forever about everything. We’d sit and stare at each other, thinking about nothing. I would find myself missing him terribly after only a few short hours, just to look at my phone and see an I miss you text from him moments before. We’ve only known each other a short while, but there is this inherent understanding that we will always be in each other’s lives. That both life before and after meeting just didn’t seem real. I discovered that’s what it’s like, being with your soulmate.
If you’d told me that I had to do it all over again — that I would have to endure disappointment after disappointment and heartbreak after heartbreak, that I’d have to spend hours on reflection and therapy, that I’d have to hit my lowest point just to build myself back up — in order to meet my soulmate, I’d do it in a heartbeat. The medium was right. It would take two and a half years for me to meet my soulmate and it was worth every second.
As for now, this is where this story ends, but our story is just beginning.
Let’s hope I don’t fuck it up.