Follow your heart and work relentlessly. (Not.)
We met at the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce’s crayfish party. It was the month of August and a cold, damp night typical of San Francisco summers. I could sense his presence as he entered the downstairs bar and our eyes met over the first glass of champagne. Once seated, wearing cone-shaped, shellfish-patterned paper hats, I asked what brought him there. “Looking for single women, any nationality”. I flashed a smile, raised a hand and said, “That would be me”. He passed a business card that read Director, Personal Mobile Devices. I gave him mine, with the simple inscription You Look Great. Although, great was an understatement for this dark beauty. He was an irresistible combination of handsome stature and boyish charm.
Crayfish, vodka, meatballs and music ensued. Possibly due to the fact that he was a terrible dancer, but the evening was still young when we decided to leave the party and get to know each other better. Outside the fog was thick, occasional pierced through by passing headlights and in the cab he put his hand on my bare knee, pointing out that his $6.75 Caltrain return ticket to Palo Alto would go unused. I assured him that that was a bargain for the golden ticket he had just picked up.
Back in my apartment, blond and black curls were tousled together in the glow of the Transamerica Pyramid. Without any scientific proof, I knew that two old souls had been reunited. It was not rare that I would bring home a man on the first night. What was unusual was that this man looked deep into my eyes and said “We should stay like this forever”, with my full approval.
The following morning, he was leaving for Paris on business. As we awoke, I recapped my impressions so far: he enjoyed cricket in his youth in northern India but didn’t see any point in sports, would like to learn how to paint and preferred older women since they had more stories to tell. He went to San Francisco mainly for the Opera, had a beard in college, lived two blocks from Starbucks and ordered grande drip coffee. He asked how old I was. I said that I was eight years younger than he. “So, you’re twenty-eight, and already know me better than people I have known for years”. I added that, after Paris, there were trips scheduled to Los Angeles, New York and Kansas City. “They would love you in Kansas City”, he said while offering that I stay in his apartment when he was away. Instead, I suggested we go to Mel’s Diner for a real American date with milkshakes when he got back.
“Do you have a blog?”, he continued. “Sort of, it’s called I wanna make out with you all the time”. “That we can make happen” was his reply. He smiled and gave me the name of his blog, suggesting I read it. In the blue light of dawn I found it rather silly. I looked forward to getting to know him in real time, not in the blogosphere.
As we parted, he left me with a “This was fun”. Three words, and the slow realization, that out of the one hundred and fifty seven previous infatuations, I had never been in love before. When I went to pick up the bike I rode to the party, it wasn’t there. Like my heart, it had changed owners in the course of the night. Although, a firm believer that the best things in life are free, I did not mind trading a second-hand mountain bike for the love of my life.
The next couple of days were characterized by a sense of calm and fascination. The clarity and ease of knowing that whatever this was, it was real. There was no need to rush, none at all. I was in San Francisco on a scholarship for Swedish graduate students with the goal to immerse ourselves in the Bay Area start-up scene and the remaining month seemed like eons of time. The sea lions, basking in the sun, told me to just relax.
A week had passed when I sent him an e-mail asking if I could take him out on a date with either margaritas and tacos or promised milkshake and burgers. I also included that he made my heart beat faster. In truth, he made my heart beat delightfully slower, but that would not have conveyed the same message.
Five days later, I wrote a second time. Now, a “translation from Swedish” in case enthusiasm had overshadowed my honorable intentions. “When would he be back in Palo Alto? Would he then like to meet for a drink?”. I counted another hundreds of hours. No response. If he had hurt his fingers which hindered him from dialing phone numbers or typing on key boards, I wished him a swift recovery. If he was suffering from memory loss, I’d be happy to share an account of the evening.
Yes, I was old enough to have learnt and accepted that sometimes guys just aren’t that into you. But this was different. Surely, the mind registered that not responding is a universal, albeit rude, way of rejection. Yet, the body and soul knew with every fibre that this was it. And it was not something I would shrug off without a proper fight.
I remembered the past New Year’s Eve, walking around in a Stockholm that sparkled from the snow. I was laughing, knowing that somewhere there was a guy completely unaware of what was about to hit him. And, having switched to pen and paper in the continuing correspondence, I wrote him “I did not know who that guy was, until I met you”. I saw what I believed to be destiny’s chosen narrative and what I wanted from him was nothing less than a lifetime. However, I would be happy to start with a cup of coffee.
Without any replies, I started reading his blog and found what I had suspected all along: a brilliant, thoughtful mind, a curious approach to life and a subtle, slightly ironic sense of humor. His heroes ranged from Leonardo da Vinci and Gandhi to Charlie Munger, his favourite piece of music was Beethoven’s #9. Slightly pretentious, yes. On Vimeo, I found a talk he gave on innovations at MIT. I preferred to watch it in mute since bandwidth and gigabits were not nearly as endearing as his awkward body language. Innately optimistic, the blues did strike at points and I found myself crying to several of his thirty-nine recommendations on LinkedIn.
Knowing that drawing was one quality where I really outdid him, a pencil collection of tigers and city halls followed in his mail box. I drew the anatomy of a heart, pointing out the parts where trust, kindness and passion resides. The pulmonary arteries that want to sit next to him at dinner parties, with his arm resting on the back of my chair. The aorta that fears being misunderstood. I wrote poems, acknowledging that love cannot be forced, persuaded or begged to appear, but the blind can still feel the warmth of sunlight, and the deaf senses a rhythm of music it cannot hear.
I wrote Charlie Munger. Calling on the higher forces of Warren Buffett’s vice-chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, the letter started with “I met the man of my dreams and I need you to ensure the future happiness of two young souls”. I doubt that he took any action, and do not hold that against him. It was too long, with a distinct bouquet of desperation.
The eyes of friends suggested that my behaviour was out of proportion. But in relation to what? A one-night encounter? Maybe. The workings of a cosmos sprinkled with stardust? Certainly not. What appears to be crazy is sometimes the most sane thing to do when it comes to matters of the heart. And I could see no apparent reason why he would not want to see me again. It seemed illogical that I could feel this way unless there had been a similar chemical reaction in him. Unfortunately, charm and wit have a tendency to be overshadowed be stalking-like behaviour. But the impossibility to change direction, that Titanic of allurement came later. At first, we had been drowning in each others eyes.
Another mystery to me was that the recipe to all my other achievements: dream big, follow your intuition and work persistently, was now a cause for misery and completely undermining my success with relationships.
It was at this point a very small, but indisputable sign of recognition appeared. A blog post titled Love, the first new entry since we met. It consisted of merely three questions: How do you learn to love? Is it possible to love truly if you have never been loved? Can you sustain love if it is not reciprocated?
As a testament to my ignorance regarding the concept, I had to look up the word “reciprocated”. the dictionary told me: to be equivalent, correspond, feel in return. That spoke quite clearly. But I was unsure as what to make of the first part. Perhaps referring to his own ability to love or suggesting that I sober up from cocktails of unrealistic visions.
To him, this was a casual affair followed by a flattering, hopefully entertaining, undeniably pathetic, monologue via various media. To me, a great love story. Not often do you meet people who inspire the core of your being. Someone who tip you over, into a realm of higher wisdom, greater love and beauty in abundance. Even if he did not think as highly of me, a new standard had been set for myself and the world as I would come to see it. What I felt was not dependent on being returned. Unconditional love may sound grand, but what he left in my heart was an unknown joy and bliss of what life is truly like, once you realize that love is infinite and eternal.
The subsequent blog entry was one-sentence long, stating that people usually become more pragmatic with age. Pragmatic. Rational, to me the word sounds like a deserted town in the former Soviet Union.
Finding one over-all slightly magical man, ought to suggest several to come. That there are innumerable soft hands, splendid souls and curly heads that encompass thoughts of similar character. You know that the world is full of beautiful men. Besides, bikes get stolen all the time in San Francisco.