This Is How It Feels To Fall In Love Online

After high school I had a summer of solitude. Everyone was off to their new four-year university, or preparing, or saying goodbye, and I wasn’t to be a part of any of that. I expected it and I was fine with it. What could I do, holler and complain? So, I sat in silence, hung out with a few friends, and wasted away the very little time we all have on this earth.

Somewhere in the middle of that, unbeknownst to me, something was taking hold. In late June, a cute girl with impeccable fashion sense started following me on Tumblr (yes, this is one of those stories). I followed her back and sent a message, as I do in such situations. (“I LIKE YOUR STUFF!” it said.) It was an insipid but effective catalyst. We messaged each other back and forth one night, and she was sly and she was clever and she was charming and she seemed to think all these things of me because she gave me her number. Let’s say her name was Catherine.

After that I don’t think either of us really had any control over what was to happen. It had the advantage of being completely unexpected. Naturally, it seemed, we were texting every day with phone calls dashed throughout. We were joking and sending each other pictures of our day. We were sharing ourselves because it was comfortable and we didn’t imagine there would be any consequences. There came a night, though, where we talked for hours. That was the night things changed, almost imperceptibly. We didn’t have idle chitchat, we talked about the things we didn’t usually tell anyone. It was a five hour phone call that started at 1am or something. I told her everything about me and she told me things about her.

She was half Italian, half Mexican. Like me at the time, she was learning Italian and was actually due to study there in a semester or two, I believe. It doesn’t take much to make her happy. She wasn’t into money, or status, or anything superficial – she was into personality and compassion. I saw that awfully saccharine Midnight in Paris movie and thought of her the whole way through.

It was sort of what we wanted, but in Italy.

This continued through the summer. She was stuck at home, in a small town in northern California, sleeping on an uncomfortable couch until she was due back at UCSC in September. I was concerned about that. I thought real life would come back and her fun summer hobby (me) would stop being interesting.

It did come back, but she didn’t drop me. We talked a little less because I, too, had classes and schoolwork and people, but we still talked with that same energy. I was still flirting and hooking up now and then, but it was like drinking water: I did it because my body craved it, not because I had a taste for it.

Jump to November when I had an interesting, fun, and vocal time with a girl from my Italian class in the backseat of her car. It was like ice cracking, fog lifting. She was into me and I thought maybe I could be into her. Fast forward to Christmas while she was house sitting. I was invited over. It was enjoyable and amusing. It was like playing house, but with a real house, and we could really do what mommy and daddy did. That was the mutual idea, and funny how these unspoken things come to fruition. The next thing I knew I was in bed with her, and there was every sign that I was going to have sex with her right then and there in that empty house in Santa Monica in the bed of someone I had never even met. With a redhead who lived in Manhattan Beach.

But I couldn’t. I looked down at her and felt disgust. Not toward her, but myself. It wasn’t what I wanted. Why was I there? Who was she? “She’s not Catherine,” is what I thought. And that thought vibrated through me with violent and nauseating intensity. I went to sleep soon after that. Later, she would say I was “cold” the next day, so I guess my revolt showed.

I told Catherine about it and she was upset. I felt and she felt that I had almost cheated on her. It was the first time I realized how serious things were between us. She forgave me and we were, by unspoken agreement, exclusive. That is to say, it was understood that if one of us were to hook up with another, the other would be upset.

Eventually, after all this talking and sweetness and emotional intensity, I scraped some dough out of my bank account and bought a plane ticket to Santa Cruz. Talk about young and irrational. Funnily enough, I ran into my very good friend Chris Adams in the terminal. We booked the same flight. Good times. I was to be there for three days. I was nervous. I wanted her to like me, I wanted to live up to whatever she thought I was.

We met in “downtown” Santa Cruz (lamest excuse for a city center). We went to a cafe and my eyes devoured her features as though I’d been blind. Her big brown eyes, her small hands. Her smile, her teeth. The way her hair flowed, the contours of the black dress she wore, the thinness of her lips. I thought she was divine. I drank whatever I had spastically ordered. We took the bus back to campus and I set my things down in her dorm and met her hallmates. They were interesting and of varied personality, but the only thing I could think about was how much I wanted to kiss Catherine. She seemed to have similar thoughts.

It was nearing sunset and she asked if I wanted to go for a walk and I said yes in a hurry. We bid a brief goodbye to the others and we went to a field that I remembered from the last time I had been to UCSC in the summer of ‘05 for camp. The university and all its campuses and dorms are on a big hill, so it was a field with a beautiful view of the bay and slivers of the rest of Santa Cruz. The sun was setting and we were talking. It was quite the romance and I was swooning and I think she was too. We kissed and it was magic. TC mark

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