"Where are we going??"
"Its around here. I just want to show you something I found the other day."
I had been led past the practically empty playground and into the wooded area beyond. Turning my head I glanced a teen so deeply into his phone he'd likely be useless to forensic artists here shortly.
"You're going to kill me and dispose of my body in the woods aren't you?"
In almost 5 years of dating, I'd had a lot of practice sorting through profiles and messages to successfully find every ripe jerk in the DMV. Sometimes I would be so skillful I could find them as far as Pennsylvania.
Those dating app algorithms have NOTHING on me.
Nor for me really.
I had made it through the wringer.
I'd just lost a very dear friendship I could have sworn would survive a nuclear meltdown. Walked away from one of the most toxic relationships I could have kept.
From the spot on the ground where my shattered pieces lay I decided I had spent my last shiny effort. I was a lone jagged puzzle piece.
The dating scene was a cesspool and all decent men were either married or chronically attached to women whom I was ashamed to share a chromosome with.
This guy? He had two words on his profile. Strike one.
And neither word appealed to me. Strike two.
But he had one picture of him imitating his crazy looking dog and I thought:
"That's a cute pup!"
About now he was waiting to hear me tell him I was on my way. I was going to grab dinner at Panera and he had the option to join me.
But I was dragging my feet. Twice I had told him I was moving the timeline. Twice I sat down on my bed and wondered what the point was.
'This isn't a date. It's you going to grab dinner and he either shows or he doesn't. You pay your tab like you always do and you come home.'
I grabbed my car keys and strolled out.
Almost a year ago I was at this very park with Aeva.
Before the trees swallow them up I can almost see me pushing Aeva on the swings. Her golden hair flying behind her. She leans back to look at me with that open mouthed smile and I know her little heart is full. It's her birthday and we are holding on to our tradition of spending the day as she pleases.
We had started out at the Crofton archery range I could be found at most every Sunday. 5 minutes down the road we found a bowling alley tucked away in a quiet neighborhood where Aeva reigned supreme granny bowler. When Aeva suggested a park, there was one just another few minutes drive from there. It was the kind of little town one could raise kids happily in.
The familiar tune of an ice cream truck permeated the playground chatter and Aeva pleaded: "Can I have one momma??"
The late afternoon belonged to her dad and it was quickly approaching.
"Sure thing kid."
I was dragging my feet.
He showed up.
I had nothing left in me.
We'd spent a good hour or so talking. Two kids, divorced, likes picking up heavy things and putting them back down again. Plays a guitar, speaks Spanish and is Mormon.
I suck my teeth.
"I'm Buddhist. Not a religion, but it is my spiritual lifestyle."
Smiling he tells me it's fine by him.
I spent a few years studying different religions and their sects for the purpose of interfaith discussion. My brain racks up what I learned about the Church of Latter Day Saints. It's tough. This guy? He's being real nice and I didn't even have motivation enough to shave my legs.
Panera closes at 9pm. It's a convenient way to transition into goodbyes. I'm good at those. I know the routine.
"It was great meeting you. Thank you for coming out."
To which hell say: Yea thanks, I had a good time.
He smiles, "Can I see you again?"
Wait. What? That's not in the script.
I turn and start walking away.
Before turning back around I could feel the weight of the question.
His smile was the same but his eyebrows were knit together like he was worried he was losing out on something thin and wispy.
"When can I see you again?"
I can't remember the last time I was asked that like it mattered. I can't remember *ever* being asked that like it mattered.
Years ago I read about a theory concerning atoms that link over incredibly vast distances, vibrations traveling the distance between them instantaneously. Correct me on my quantum physics but I think it's called fuzzy atom theory. Scientifically it can explain some seemingly magical correlations. Romantically it sounded to me like the physical proof of the way souls might weave into each other.
And to me at that moment it looked like a tendril of light specks speeding from Ian's heart-space to mine. The air around my face buzzed like it does sometimes right before something big happens. Like when Universe wants me to pay particular attention to something because it will matter and so each detail should be taken in. I wanted to ignore it but the feeling stole in through the air into my lungs, rattling my hollowed out chest before settling heavy in the chasm.
I met Ian in the Winter of my life. In the endless darkness my eyes had grown accostumed to the absence of light. They had learned this landscape of shadows on the wall.
He too was a jagged puzzle piece.
Clearing the last of the trees bordering the park, the merciless sun bared down at me and ignited a glen.
It was unbearably hot. We had been on our way to the zoo and I was already regretting wearing anything more than gauze. Or portable air conditioners. Or skin.
The way the sun cut across my eyes, it took me a moment to see the bench Ian was asking me to sit at.
The same atoms that pulled me by the hand now had also been dragging their feet.
We had lived and traveled to many of the same states. Missing each other by hairs.
I had spent years frequenting the range he drove by daily. We worked an exit on the highway in distance.
Nearly a year ago, Aeva and I had circled three sides of Ian's block. Driving past him to the park.
He could have had his children there that very day.
But it wasn't the right time. So they dragged their feet in the wrong relationships. In the wrong circumstances. Bidding time. All so that we would meet at precisely the moment when the orbit of our atoms could successfully reach out and say:
'There you are. I've been looking for you.'
Our jagged sides interlocking perfectly.
By that bench in the sundrenched glen he took a knee before me.
So you know....I said yes.