The entry to this comedy club reeks of bad 90s design with checkered wallpaper plastering the entryway. The remaining walls near what resembles a stage in this hole-in-the-wall joint are smeared with black painting. You stand behind a wooden table near the door, collecting tickets with a large smile, as if this was the best comedy club in the entire city, even though it’s situated on the corner of the sketchiest street in this neighborhood. Just when I was about to ask myself why I agreed to watch terrible standup with my friend, you ask for our names to validate the tickets. I ask myself, why haven’t I seen you before?
There are approximately fifteen people attending this standup, and ten of those are the comedians. It starts to feel more like a family here, and I am that odd person who happened to crash a family party. Everyone is laughing at jokes that aren’t memorable, and you stay in the back, adjusting the lights whenever a new comedian hops on stage. I try to keep myself from staring back at you. For an entire hour, I ask myself one thousand questions that I know I won’t ask you. Are you married? Are you dating someone? What do you do here? Are these your friends? Will you marry me because you are so damn beautiful?
At the end of the show, my friend and I throw away empty beer cans we consumed throughout the last hour. Just as I could have prayed for, you walk over to us and ask my friend how we liked the show and if we live around here. She doesn’t, but I do. I haven’t been this speechless in months, so I don’t reply. She does all the talking, and as I’m about to ask you what your name is, her Uber arrives, and we leave. I’m too afraid of staying back to ask you more.
I don’t dance salsa, but my friend asked me to come to this bar with him so he could dance his night away. I hold no expectations. We enter the bar, and there aren’t many people the farther down the stairs we step. The main room of the salsa bar is in a basement, and while this would normally not be my kind of scene, I appreciate the underground feel of this Latin bar. We immediately saunter towards the bar and shoot back two tequila shots. He needs alcohol, and I need the confidence to be standing in a room of well-trained dancers, which I am not.
He dances off with at least three girls before you ask me, “Do you dance?”
I’m still leaning against the bar, one arm resting on the bar and the other hanging against my side. My eyes follow the direction where the voice came from and see you. I can’t completely see all of you — the bar is dark and my eyesight isn’t the clearest at night — but I can see your blue shorts and a white shirt. You wear a fedora, and normally I’m not interested in someone with a hat, but your green eyes shine through the dark against your tan skin. Where on earth are you from? Because you’re certainly too tropical to be from around here.
You tell me you don’t like salsa or dancing really either, but you’re here to morally support your friend. I tell you that I am, too. The more I talk to you, the more nervous I am because I feel like I could fall way too deep in love with you. Both of our friends are sliding across the dancefloor as we stare and laugh. My friend dances his way back to me, asking if I’m ready to take another shot. This isn’t what it looks like. Just as we’re about to do another shot, I turn to you, but you’ve already left. I kick myself for not asking for your information sooner.
I take the same route on the train every single day, at the same time. I’m used to seeing the same people. Usually, everyone is on their phones, refusing to engage with the world around them. I read a book every morning on my phone.
Today, I see you — who are you? You don’t usually ride this route at this time. You don’t look lost, either. You wear a business suit and carry a small, light green professional backpack on your side. The train becomes more and more crammed with people the closer to downtown we get. You started to inch closer to me and I start to inch closer to you to keep myself from being slammed into the train doors. You apologize for your bag continually attacking my side. I reply that the train is always this close and personal. You laugh. I want to continue the conversation, but it’s my stop.
Since my last relationship, I’ve become more comfortable with being alone. Small conversations, missed connections, moving on with life. Maybe this is the space I need, the time I need to grow and recall who I once was before the relationship. My friends gossip about the people in our circle who are dating or sleeping around. I stay quiet. I don’t want to talk about my dating life. Also because it’s nonexistent and full of numbers I never collected.
You bring your friend to one of our parties, but I’ve never seen him before. I’m leaving tomorrow for the next few months, and I wonder why, out of all these months, you never introduced us before. I pace around the thought of asking you this, but my nerves jump through my spine again and remind me to keep silent instead of ruining a good evening. He’s funny, keeping everyone entertained with his stories, until I find out that he, too, also doesn’t live here and is leaving soon. Why does everyone I fall for have to leave as quickly as I do?
I call you to tell you my failed dating stories. We talk every few weeks about our lives. You usually tell me about your girlfriend, who I always secretly hope you break up with, and I tell you about my life being single again. To be perfectly honest, it’s not what I thought it would be. I can’t remember how dating works, and I can’t understand why everyone I meet just ends up being a missed connection. Why couldn’t it be like the movies, where I’d run into them again somewhere? I only stumble into the people I wished to never see again.
This time, you tell me you broke up with your girlfriend. Finally, I tell myself. I would never admit that to you. We are silent for a few moments on the phone. I scrunch my eyebrows together, wondering where this silence came from. You’re never quiet. You talk excessively. I break the silence and ask you why. You say there was someone else on your mind. You don’t tell me who.
The pit of my stomach turns into knots. Is this who I think it is? Out of all the times I didn’t speak when I should have, every single conversation that didn’t happen, would I really miss the chance this time? I connect the pieces together as you talk, not listening to a word you say, and count each time you dropped a hint that I missed. I don’t have enough fingers to keep track.
Just when I think you’re about to admit to all of the moments I counted on my fingers, you tell me you have to get going. Do I love you? I realize I don’t know. But I think back to all of the people who I met briefly, wondering if I could have loved them, too, even if it was for a brief second of time. I think you can love someone even if you don’t know them because they evoke feelings out of you that take a lifetime to evolve — feelings that arise from the mystery of not knowing about someone, but then disappear within seconds. It’s magical the way the heart yearns for what it doesn’t know.
You hang up the phone, and I’m at home, alone again. Instead of being disappointed, I have a weight lifting off of my heart, removing all of the regrets that built up over the last few missed connections. When I didn’t think I could love again after my last relationship, I’ve learned to love everything and everyone that I’ve met. Maybe that was the healing I needed.