December 30th, 2007
She had told me about him before.
But never this way.
We s p r a w l e d out in her San Diego apartment, slowly unwinding from the whirlwind holiday madness that was coming to a neat end. Coffee table conversation with the family slid into content silence as everyone sipped on their tea and gradually made moves to call it a night. Tea cups were collected, TV was clicked to black, and the mom reached for the lights only to notice Sam and I hadn’t moved. Not at all.
“Are you two going to bed soon?”
“Yeah we’ll be there soon. Just leave the lights on for now.”
It was tradition for us.
Every year my cousin and I stay up just.a.little.later than everyone else to talk about the topics left undiscussed during the family holiday parties, gift exchanges and dinner table banter. She told me about work, new places she’d discovered in the city, a couple of stories about a few of her friends and eventually it just kind of slipped off the edge of my tongue –
“And how’s Preston?”
II Pause II
Let’s go back 6 years.
She was 19 years old sitting in the cafe enjoying the daily special of vegetable soup when suddenly the door chimed and he >>>> soared through the door. He was tall. Dark. Handsome. In perfect shape. With a perfect smile. With perfect hair that was swept ever so slightly to the side. He even had a charming way with words that slid >> from his side of the register to the cashier on the latter end.
He got the vegetable soup too.
And in that moment she was very sure that she had never seen anyone. Or anything. Quite. So. nice. As the man with the matching soup.
But they didn’t talk. At least not that day.
Or the day after that.
Or the month after that.
Until one day
There she was.
Sitting in the same spot. At the same cafe. That she always went to. The cafe doors chimed with each entering customer and she glanced up subtly each time. just.in.case.
And then one day.
There he was.
The truth is she had finished her vegetable soup a long time ago. But, she pretended to watch tv for an extended 20 minutes anyway completely disregarding the 10 ft plant inside the cafe completely obstructing her view of the screen. But no one would ever notice. Right?
To her beautiful surprise he walked over to her and introduced himself and said “Hi, my name is Preston.” She introduced herself too. He complimented her on their matching soup choices and eventually pursued further conversation and said “So I see you’re watching TV. What’s on?” He glanced over.
“Wait you can’t even see anything from here.”
“Oh…what? I didn’t even notice…”
“Have you been sitting here for 20 minutes staring at a plant?”
She told me about work, new places she’d discovered in the city, a couple of stories about a few of her friends and eventually it just kind of slipped off the edge of my tongue –
“And how’s Preston?”
And eventually as the hums of our sleeping relatives drifted from room to room, she looked at me and said.
“Do you want to go for a walk? I kind of need to talk this one out.”
We quietly grabbed her keys of the kitchen counter and s l o w l y shut the front door. We walked in silence until
6 blocks later she pointed to a playground and said “Let’s go there.”
We approached the play set and began to climb. I creviced myself between the entrance of the slide and the railing. And she leaned up against the opposite side of the play set with her feet
dangling off the edge
And for a fleeting moment I reveled in the irony of investing in such an adult conversation in such a childish setting. But then again, I suppose the concept of love is never really age specific.
“So…Preston and I are fine. Same as always. We’re not…technically…together but I’m finding it a little harder to ignore.”
“Finding what harder to ignore?”
“Every guy. Every. Single. Guy. That I have tried to date outside of Preston…I like. I like a lot. But…it doesn’t even compare. Not even close. And it stresses me out because I know why I like him just.a.little.more than everyone else. I don’t want to change a damn thing about him. He inspires me. He challenges me. He’s amazing. And you know at first I thought he was just a phase…but then before I knew it 5 years had passed and…my feelings had only escalated. And the thing is I know it doesn’t make any sense for us to be together. He’s constantly traveling for his job and I’m going to be moving away soon. But. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever find anyone I like just.as.much. And if I do, if that’s okay. Or if he’ll constantly be the comparative…”one.”
And then she told me that she thought he might be the one.
And then she asked me if I thought that he was the one too.
And so I said
“Well, that depends. What do you think ‘the one’ means?”
“What do you mean? Isn’t it the one person in the universe that you’re destined to be with? Right? Isn’t that what that means?”
And then I wondered if that’s what everyone thought.
That if people were out there solely seeking out one person. Only one.
And how much was left to fate. And how much was left to selection.
That the theoretical set up, is that there is one person out there for you walking around with a golden ticket hidden in their back pocket.
And no one else.
And so you find them, and you date them, and maybe things are going fine, or maybe things don’t work out and you begin to panic and wonder if potentially this is it. Or if you let go of the person you were supposed to be with. That you needed to be with. Not realizing that
In all actuality
They never had a golden ticket to begin with.
And it’s not because they aren’t great
Or that they’re not “the one”
But actually because
You’ve been holding the ticket the whole time
And never actually gave it to them.
A few years had passed by since the day of our playground confessions, and she told me that she had thought about him often. They fell in and out of contact, sprinkling the passing months with sporadic wall posts, texts and e-mails here and there. And eventually she had moved on to someone new. Someone great. That she liked just as much.
And in those few years that had passed by, she and Preston ended up in the same place. At the same time. Once again. And what started as a catch up dinner, a glass of wine and “What have you been up to? It’s been ages! Remember when we did this that and the other thing?” ended in a toppled glass of nostalgic confessions
s p i l l i n g
from one side of the table to the other.
Confessions that were once disguised in a bottle and pinned with a bow.
She told him how she felt.
And as it turns out
He didn’t feel so differently.
But then she told him something else.
That he had 5/5 qualities she thought she ever wanted in a man. And still does, in fact. And this new guy? Well.
He only had 2/5 qualities she thought she ever wanted in a man. But. He had 7/5 of qualities she didn’t even know she wanted. But did. And they were incredible qualities.
And that if she thought about it. If she really really thought about it. She’d probably be happy either way. With either one of them. And the best part was there was no right, wrong or pre-destined answer. That the fine print on the ticket didn’t simply read
“This Ticket Only To Be Redeemed By ‘ The One’ “
“Hey, just so you know. I’m fully and completely aware that there are 63,156 possible matches out there for me in the world. And with that knowledge, I just wanted to let you know that, well, I happen to like you the best.”