Go out several times—dinner, coffee, the requisite rom-com, three beers each in a cozy artsy bar with low lighting and the smell of cigarette smoke emanating from every nook and cranny. Talk about your family. Talk about his family. Talk about your friends. Meet his friends and want to impress them but not look like you’re trying to impress them. Laugh at each other’s jokes. Send constant, unnecessary text messages like “Are you still up?” and “:)” and “Hahahahaha, okay.” Hold hands. Hold hands crossing the street for everyone to see, but hold hands secretly at first. Hold hands under the table, like the starry-eyed teenagers you morph into in one another’s presence. Allude to liking each other, come very, very close to confessing you like each other, and then, a few hours before your flight, finally admit that you like each other. Almost expect him to burst into the airport at the last minute with a bouquet of yellow roses and a banner that reads, “DON’T GO, I WILL DIE.” Be kind of relieved when he doesn’t; you want your story to be tender and poignant but real, not a ridiculous rainbow-colored Gary Marshall cliché. Hop onto the plane with a smile on your face and freeze-dried promises tucked into your carry-on bag.
Let that plane whisk you off to some secluded arts community halfway around the world, where you will stay and sleep and learn and write for two weeks or a month or a quarter of a year. Struggle to adjust to living your life a full twelve hours behind—you’re grabbing lunch while he is getting ready for bed, and when he wakes up in the morning, all lazy and bleary-eyed, you’re running on caffeine fuel and being bitchslapped left and right by a self-imposed eight PM deadline. Your heart, heart, heart is so jetlagged, and you don’t want to think about it this way, because really, Simple Plan and Natasha Bedingfield? COME ON. But that is precisely the way your heart feels, and it’s not like overplayed tacky pop songs have patents on human emotions.
Worry. Worry a lot. Worry some more. Pretend you’re not worried at all. Tell him you’re having a spectacular time, which you are, but worry that this would make him feel bad. Tell him you miss him every day, which you do, but worry that this would make you a stupid clingy whiner who leaves then clings and whines. Stalk him but always make it look like an accident, which sometimes it actually is (you swear!). Try not to gain weight; excess baggage is never a good thing. Try not to flirt with anyone, and try not to think about him flirting with anyone, and try not to keep tabs on who’s flirting with whom and who started it and why. Try not to be too disappointed when you log on to Facebook and that little green circle beside his name is MIA. Try not to call him in the middle of the night, because when it’s the middle of the night in his part of the globe, it’s high noon in yours, and pulling #dark, dramatic stunts like these when the sun is out is just pathetic. Instead, have fun at your secluded arts community halfway around the world. Meet tons of new people; keep the loneliness at bay. Most of the time, feel happy, productive, and fulfilled. And when you’re as happy, productive, and fulfilled as you can possibly be, pack your suitcase and plan to come home.
Finally come home. Go out for dinner, coffee, the requisite rom-com, three beers each in a cozy artsy bar with low lighting and the smell of cigarette smoke emanating from every nook and cranny. Talk about stuff. Unpause the relationship or ~special friendship~ or whatever-it-was you had to pause for two weeks or a month or a quarter of a year. Laugh and realize how good it feels to hear and see each other laugh again, as opposed to reading “LOL” or “ROFL” on a computer screen at one o’clock in the morning. And when you’re holding hands under the table or while crossing the street, know that if you can survive long-distance sort-of dating, you can survive absolutely anything. Know that this isn’t true, not really. But go on and try anyway.