The following excerpt is completely and embarrassingly true. Don’t judge me. Or park next to me.
There comes a point in your late twenties when it dawns on you that, most likely, the chances of finding love at the local bar are growing increasingly slim and all too awkward. Looking back, it’s like the scene in Independence Day when the triangle of escape is closing as you hurdle through warp speed wrinkled space to reach it.
Speaking of Independence Day, now is probably a good time to point out, through years of scientific experimentation, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are essentially two kinds of people in this world. There are those that are absolutely ok with being alone if that’s what circumstances require. We amuse ourselves and find ways to pass time. We park far away from other cars, choose a bathroom stall with at least two empty berths between the next set of feet, and, finally, we show up at movies and sit smack dab in the middle of any empty swath of velvet.
Then there are the others. The ones that can’t be alone too long. The ones that park right next to us in an empty parking lot or row of bathroom stalls. And the ones who, no matter how empty the theater is, seem to feel compelled to thump into the seats directly in front of us. God bless them. I’ve tried to understand it, but none of the equations compute. Maybe it’s the yin and yang of humanity.
So back to the late twenties alone thing. I was ok with it. Sincerely. Mostly. Maybe? Until other people got involved and tried to diagnose and solve the loneliest number problem. My younger sister suggested I try eHarmony because they were having one of their free promo weekends. Out of sheer curiosity (and the annoying habit of always needing to try something once before I make fun of it), I sat down at a not-so-lonely keyboard and delved into a 45-minute interrogation that probably rivals any prison in any place ever. Once I finally finished the psychic pounding, I hit send and headed to my favorite local bar.
The next day I got an email saying that I did not have any local matches. EHarmony wanted to know if I’d like to expand my search. I thought…well…why the hell not? Spread that net far and wide yo. After a couple of hours I got another email. I had 2 matches. In the world. Of all of the people signing on for a free promo of love finding on this planet, I had two matches. One was a sculptor in Brazil. The other was a self described shepherd in New Zealand. The email asked if I wanted to sign up and pay x amount to get their contact information. I opted out. Not that they weren’t intriguing, but, honestly, the worm only stayed on the hook when it was free and promotional. It seemed like a good time to find a parking space away from the others.
Match.com? No interrogation or personality profile? Check. No obligation to pay for anything? Check check. At the time, I was in grad school working on a thesis about (don’t laugh) a comparative study between Taoism, Nihilism, and Quantum Physics. I could explain that further but I won’t because mostly I was writing a paper about the importance of Nothing. So naturally when I got matched with a quantum physics professor from UCD, I thought, well alrighty then. Let’s do this.
We met at a local Border’s because I honestly couldn’t bear to bring cyber dates into real time bars. He seemed like a nice enough guy. Little quirky but nice. He poo-pooed the idea of marrying philosophy and science, but I sipped my Chai and listened and nodded and pretended I knew wtf he was talking about when he spouted names and equations in the field.
Then it happened. He decided he felt comfortable enough to kick off his scientific shoes and tell me secrets. Secrets about leprechauns, mind control, and fire. Hand to God. I don’t remember how it came up or in what order they were unleashed into the book store. He told me that he had a leprechaun friend that had followed him all throughout his childhood. He pointed out the window and said it had just run past. He told me he knew what I was thinking and I gave him 3 guesses. The first two were so completely off kilter and bizarre, I gave him a slight hint that the third was within the county of the ballpark just to stop yet another interrogation. And then the fire. Once I’d semi somewhat ceded that maybe he kinda knew a little bit about a thought that may have passed through my mind at some point in life, he told me he could set things on fire with his mind.
He could set things on fire with his mind.
At that point, I’d already checked out and was planning on heading back to my local bar where the weirdness was predictable. Like old stinky socks that, no matter how often you wash them, mold to the shapes of your toes.
I sipped my Chai and tried to contain myself and nodded. He wasn’t sure if I believed him and asked if he could show me. Then he offered to set me on fire (with his mind) while I was sitting across from him. Honestly? I told him yes. Whatever got the night moving or got me out of the situation. Skin grows back. Time doesn’t.
He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Then he looked out the window where the leprechaun had run past ten minutes before. Then he looked at me wide and crazy eyed.
Nothing. No fire. No red cheeks from embarrassment even. When the intense googly eyed séance ended, he said he was tired from grading papers and maybe we could revisit it another time. We walked out into the parking lot. It didn’t escape me that he had parked in a group of others. I told him I was in the group and pointed at a random sedan. He waved and drove off.
I walked alone to the back of the parking lot where there was only one car.