Sunday, June 9, 2013

lightning can strike twice

ph: Sophie Van der Perre

I wrote in to Le Love over two and a half years ago after finding out a month after our anniversary that my long-distance first love had never been faithful. Over the years, I've glanced back at that story, but only on my way to re-read the comments at the bottom of the page. All those readers were right. Although it took me two more years almost to the day after that essay appeared on Le Love, I did finally move on with my life; kicking him out of it once and for all. And now I'm as happy as I was in grade school, just as carefree, with the added bonus of meeting the most amazing, influential man in my herstory (no offense, da Vinci, Hemingway, and Gosling).

Devon and I met over a year ago at a hookah bar when his then-girlfriend was in town visiting, and a friend of a friend of mine who knew her from high school agreed to round up people to entertain her, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend's brother at the Sweet Shop right off campus. My closest gal pal, her friend who made the plans, the then-girlfriend, and I sat in a booth laughing at an ex hook up three-fourths of us had in common from years before.

Sitting across the table from this girl I'd overheard about when people who go to parties but don't blow dudes at parties talked about the girls who did, I was impressed he'd made her a girlfriend. She's a girl you FWB not FBO, raspberry bob and daisy dukes giving off a slutty Clementine-from-Eternal-Sunshine vibe; a loose, hyper-intentional hipster of the southwest Florida suburbs where we all went to high school.

Then he walked in. I don't remember what he was wearing or even how he looked, now I project old pictures I've seen of him on the blank space where his face is in my memory, but as soon as we started talking the DVR started recording in my brain. He wanted to study mycology, which he spent the next hour explaining to me as the study of mushrooms and other organisms in that family, including the largest living thing that's actually mycelium grown miles wide in Oregon.

Maybe to you love-hungry hopefuls out there, this doesn't sound like a romantic scene, but I rarely find someone talking to me about something I don't know anything about. It doesn't hurt that he's an impossibly perfect 50/50 split, over six feet of "Top 5 most attractive I've ever seen in real life" material and brainiac first inspired to pursue this field by a TED talk. We were both dating other people at the time, my glances to my texts and his arm around her shoulders as she texted someone else made it obvious we weren't about to do anything untoward. After the conversation widened to include everyone else and we started playing Apples to Apples, I wondered at his nose-pierced Americana princess' lack of interest in his interests. I realized he deserved better.

I had no idea that could be me. A year later he friend requested me, and this time both conveniently single, I messaged him. A couple days later, the same night he accidentally slept through our first date plans and after profuse apologies, he off-handedly compared me to Pocahontas. That's when I decided it had to happen. Tonight.

I drove over to his house and picked him up to eat donuts on the top of the highest parking garage in Tallahassee; talking for three hours about our pasts, war, politics, and relationships. We went back to his house to smoke and watch a movie, putting on one of my favorites, Jet Li's Hero. For a while we sat side by side, till I mentioned I'd rather lay down. He settled into big spoon with a huge grin on his face. He put his arm around my waist and one between the curve of my neck and the couch cushion. Though I was prepared to pretend I was comfortable, I found that I actually was completely relaxed. He'd said it had been such a long time since meeting someone who seemed worth it. I imagined him tilting my head back and kissing me...

I woke up during the credits, still in the circle of his arms, and obviously I acted embarrassed. But we both sensed it meant something that the girl who'd told him a few hours earlier she didn't want a boyfriend until grad school had fallen asleep in his arms on their first date.

We've spent every day together since then, with the exception of the past three weeks, during which he traveled to South Dakota and I to Zimbabwe. We're falling in love. My counselor told me to watch out, that the chemicals released by your brain during this infatuation period are as intense as cocaine, but the problem isn't falling to far too fast.

It's my scars. It's the trust-no-one insanity that seeds from my mom traveling a lot when I was a kid, getting yelled at too much for sneaking out in middle school, my first love cheating on me, best friends calling it quits when we get too close.

But I've come so far, and I'm conquering. Devon helps me, he's always patient when I find creative ways to express my little anxieties, comparing the topless drunkettes I imagine flirting with him at every party to paralyzed midgets trying to hop a moat on a pogo stick.

He loves me, I can see it in how he looks at me. We've all heard that phrase before but now I actually know what it means to have someone regard you with respect, admiration, attraction, and gratitude all at once. He reads my poetry, has made a conspiracy theorist out of me, and he comes with me to church when I ask him to. We both independently discovered the Grateful Dead about a week before meeting each other, and lyrics from the song Scarlet Begonias were his Facebook status after we first started talking. "Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places when you look at it right."

It doesn't hurt that he also redefined orgasm for me. That old adage, "If you want something done right, do it yourself," is no longer applicable to my sex life. For the first time. That thing I thought was an orgasm was just the orchestra tuning. The man's a genius, super perceptive, sensitive to the power of tiny touches and uses my senses like a sex palate.

We debate constantly, while cuddling or sitting at the dinner table with our knees touching. He took me to New Orleans for the weekend over Spring Break, we stayed with his dad and Julie. We'd been officially boyfriend and girlfriend for about a week then.

I could write a sickening novel about how I feel overwhelmingly loved and cared for, about the cute things he does and how he takes care of me (that week I had the UTI and couldn't get out of bed!), but long story short is this: lightning can strike twice. And the happier you are with yourself, the better it will be when love finally does (because it will) find you again.

If I've learned anything in the time it took to get on my own two feet, it's that no matter how broken you are, you're not too broken to rebuild yourself. The closer you are to who you want to be, the closer the people along the way will be to what you really always wanted all along. The Love I glimpsed in the first love, and the second and third love, the Love I've been waiting for, I have found. He says this is just the tip of the ice burg for us, and I know he's right.
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