January 23- January 29
This is a confessional about modern love hang-ups. It starts with a guy named Mark.
I saw Mark again. He’s got short, wavy hair and I usually see him in a gingham button-up under a dark jacket. It doesn’t matter what bus I usually see him on but today it’s the 3 Jackson line. He tries to sit towards the back in one of the four seats that face each other; I’m lucky enough to sit towards the front. I’m sure he’s seen me. There’s no animosity or past between us. We just happen to get off at the same stop, there on Gough and Sutter. We only talked once.
The only reason I’d want to avoid talking to Mark is just because I think he thinks there could have been something. Maybe at one point, maybe in that one evening ride when we first made small talk about some debacle that just happened on the bus around Polk Street, something that got us laughing at the absurd happenstance of any Muni ride. He was new to the city, getting a Master’s at USF and gleefully I spoke up on how proud of an alma mater I was. He made a great choice. He could have been a choice for me. But there were decisions I was already making– already committed to a second date to someone else, somewhere else. Someone who now isn’t anyone other than the love of my life.
But there are times where I still think, if Mark was the way things should have been. Here you have a young woman whose whole life revolved around the stories of fate and chance encounters that turned into greater stories, and after many of not-so-great encounters, resigned herself to the new world of modern dating. And it worked for her, the way that her chances faired better than her colleagues and friends who’d been on apps for months, a year– six months later, here she was, head over heels with the second man she matched with. And then out of the blue, Mark was on the bus again.
It’s been about three times since our first meeting, and the second time he came up to me and asked how I was. Thank God I remembered his name to save me from just an awkward reunion. He seemed really glad to see me again, and I won’t lie that it felt good to have a stranger’s face seem so satisfied to say “hey.” But the guilt came over me as I talked as politely as I could trying to brush him off, to get off the bus and head in the direction that I needed (it didn’t help we got off at the same stop, but at least turned into different directions). There was a brief moment of rejoice in seeing each other, and nothing more. I didn’t want him to think there was more. And by the time I saw him the third time, he got the hint.
I still can’t help but think, as in love and happy a relationship that I am in now, the way that my love life happened still gets me. I hate saying it, but it was inauthentic. The hopeless romantic in me still thinks about the ways I might have met boys or in the case of my boyfriend, if we would have ever met on the street by chance, no swipes involved. Would it ever have happened? What bars might we have nudged shoulders at? Whose car would we possibly have shared in an Uber Pool together? Could there ever have been some fluke accident that would take my boyfriend onto the very bus I ride, far away from his own work and route? Would this city have given us a chance on our own? Still sitting and thinking about the ways I could have met my lover in countless scenarios I’ll never have, I wonder if this is still all how it should be.
But Fate is Fate, no matter how you plug it into your life– it doesn’t just stop once you’ve signed up for the League or Bumble. From there, it’s still up to Fate on who you meet. And count my lucky starts, but friends who’ve been on the scene longer than I have are still there, looking, waiting, waiting for Fate to finally work itself out. My fate was decidedly more unique. It was easy. It was easy the moment I gave in to dating apps and let go of my ideals of an organic romantic encounter. And that’s the way it was supposed to be. If Mark was meant to be given any chance, then I would have met him a week before I’d signed up for CMB, weeks before I started feeling those butterflies for someone I had still yet to meet up with for a date but couldn’t wait to get a message from. Mark would have happened sooner if it was meant to be anything. If I was meant to meet my One and Only on the street, I wouldn’t have hit so many dead ends walking around this goddamn city.
I start thinking about everything that’s happened in those six months since I started dating someone. Think about those things, and replace his face with another and perhaps everything else about him. Put Mark in his place. In the place of the movie dates at the Castro or meeting my friends at the office on a Friday night for cheap drinks or by his side as I plan his hypothetical birthday out to John’s Grill. Would he have given even a shit about coming to hear my live reading revivals? I’d be looking up from the mic in the dimly-lit basement tearoom of the community center there in the Haight, right next to the Church of 8 Wheels roller disco, there in the small crowd and I’d look in his face, forget my own words in my mind for a second to reassure myself that he is there for me and wishing for my success up on the tiny stage. I think about these moments in my life where someone else might have been, and it kills me. Because when I start thinking about “what if,” there is no more what if, there is only now the sobering thought of can you imagine? I cannot– I will not, I will not forget any of the happiness that’s been brought to me on my own terms and fate designed for me. I am happy now, meant to be happy in this way with these memories with someone who everyday I thank God for not passing up that second day of matching in that first week on the dating app. Whose face I look into every day and comfortably associate with all those memories and moments I don’t have to hypothetically think about because they were real– and know that this was how it’s all supposed to go.
As an overthinking, anxiety-ridden person, I don’t feel ashamed wondering this as I see a familiar stranger’s face again. I think about everything, and then I remember that everything is good as it is. So simply put, I saw a guy on the bus again. A guy whose name is Mark and is a student at USF and who could have potentially been the love of my life. But he is not. That is life, and that is the life I love right now.