Nicholas Sparks wrote my life. Well, okay, he didn’t but he should have. I would’ve preferred a happy ending filled with kisses in the pouring rain, a romantic canoe date on a lake, or even just a house built for me with his bare hands. Instead I got slapped in the face by reality. Instead I got five nights of raw emotional connection, an eight-hour plane ride back home, and months of desperate attempts to maintain contact.
It was late October when we met. I had been visiting a friend at Sarah Lawrence when Sandy hit New York. Faster than you can say “snowpocalypse”, the dorm buildings were put on lockdown until the storm passed and it was safe to leave. As my friend and I watched Downton Abbey on the projector in the conference room, I got to talking with a boy who was the closest thing to perfect I’d ever encountered in my wilting love life. His smile radiated and stretched up to his squared glasses. His eyes were kind and disarming in a way that made it almost impossible not to stare deep into them. His stylishly cropped brown hair was combed perfectly and his teeth were white and straight. I remember his impeccable fashion sense and penchant for short shorts that highlighted his perfectly toned legs. As I’d find out later, he was a runner, swimmer, and extreme health food advocate. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with some shortcoming that would make me feel like I had some semblance of a chance but it never came. In my eyes, he was perfect.
That first night of the lockdown, we laid together on a blanket on the conference room roundtable and just talked. We talked for hours about everything and anything. In that moment, with the trees and rain lashing at the windows, I felt a legitimate emotional connection that I hadn’t felt with any of my past relationships. As drowsiness began to overcome us, I desperately thought of ways to extend the night forever. I wanted to freeze the moment and learn everything about him. Instead, with my heart pounding in my chest, I seized the moment in fit of bravery that I never knew I possessed.
“I’m getting tired. Want me to sleep in your bed tonight or in my friend’s?” I sheepishly asked while suffering a minor heart attack.
As I lay in his bed that first night, I felt his body radiate heat and comfort in a way that was completely new to me. We kissed that night in the dark but it wasn’t out of lust. Wrapped in his warm arms, I felt safety in his lips. I felt security as I laid my head on his chest and counted his heartbeats. Waking up intertwined in his limbs, I felt like I’d just won the lottery. This was what I’d been missing in all my previous relationships. This was how a relationship was supposed to feel. Only… I didn’t know what this was. I was only sure of two things: that he had the perfect amount of chest hair and that a fallen tree had crushed a van five feet outside of his window. I probably should have taken the tree falling and crashing into a van as some metaphor for my impending romantic doom, but I was too busy looking at him sleeping next to me.
On the first day, he lent me his coat to protect me from the cold I had been woefully unprepared for. It was the most romantic thing anyone’s ever done for me even though it was too big on me and not my color. The second day was a jumbled mess of longing glances at him in his cute reindeer sweater. He could have modeled for LL Bean in that sweater but instead, he was there holding my hand as we walked around the campus. Day three was Halloween, which meant costumes, cuddling, and passionate kissing. Finally, on the fourth day, I decided he was the perfect man. It was in an aisle at the grocery store when he grabbed my hand and I teased him for liking all the weird health foods there. It seems trivial and silly now, but at that moment, with his fingers between mine, I felt invincible.
I cried a little night as I lay in his arms for the last time. We promised to keep in touch and Skype occasionally and it filled me with hope. Hope for something that could last. I should’ve known it would be too good to be true. After all, life isn’t a romance novel or a romantic comedy. I replay the morning I left in my head more than I care to admit. I remember lying in his bed struggling to convince myself to get up. I remember how he looked when I drowsily kissed his head. I remember seeing the taxi pull up and feeling my heart sink into my chest. I didn’t kiss him goodbye as I walked to the taxi that would take me back to reality. I didn’t feel the safety of his lips and I regret it every day.
He broke off almost all contact after that. We talked occasionally for a few brief spurts of conversation but it was trivial and fleeting. I tried desperately to hold on to some form of connection but eventually I gave up. I stopped myself from texting him on those lonely (drunken) nights when I longed for the safety of his bed. Despite my best efforts to block him out in the same way he had with me, I couldn’t let go of that last remaining shard of hope –no matter how much it cut into me. It’s been nearly a year and we haven’t spoken for more than five minutes over texting and I haven’t seen his face since the day I left. Still, I sometimes find myself liking his Instagram posts in a desperate plea to be noticed. It’s my way of yelling “remember me” into the void in a vain attempt to be on his mind in the same way he occupies mine.
Nicholas Sparks didn’t write my life. I didn’t get a happily ever after. I didn’t even get closure. I’m not asking for a kiss in the pouring rain anymore, I just want to know I mattered. I’m moving to New York next month and I can’t help but think of him. Maybe I’ll see him again. Maybe he’ll acknowledge me. Maybe we’ll even hold hands and smile and know that this is a new beginning. I don’t know what life has in store for me; I just know that no matter what happens, I’ll always have those five days of budding love. I’ll always have Sandy.