He always rolled in with the summers. Or so it seemed. As peaches ripened to a swollen sweet, as the streets began to flood with the scent of barbeque and sugar lemonade, that’s when he appeared.
The first summer, I met Alexander at a bonfire party. I gave him my number. He called. I didn’t answer. And a few weeks later as I ran into him on a warm July evening, he laughed when I said hello, calling me out as the girl who stood him up.
Then autumn set in and I started a relationship with another man and forgot all about Alexander until time stretched its hands out to summer solstice, when our social circles once again Venn diagrammed and we got caught in the middle. I was single again, so he took me on a date where we ate curried potpies and deconstructed bruschetta. Later we sipped white wine over a game of community bingo. Then the evening ended the way every date should: whiskey poolside, and a quiet 3 am summer swim.
I continued to date Alexander. I continued to date other men too. And after a couple of months of this as we nibbled on brie and apple baguettes in a sun-soaked courtyard, he asked if I would stop seeing the others. As the question lodged itself in the back of my throat I should have known right then. No. These sorts of things are supposed to make women swoon; instead I felt a smack of panic, which led to a nauseating aftershock—like wobbling off of a sailboat after several hours in rough waters. But after an hour monologue where he made bullet points listing all the reasons he was good for me, I went against instincts and meekly agreed, attempting to convince myself that it would be good for my schedule, and my soul, to settle down a bit.
I lasted 24 hours.
In that time I cancelled a date with another man. Alexander asked if I could join him for dinner and I found myself lying to him about having other plans that evening. Then I drove home with a loaf of La Brea Bakery’s rosemary olive oil bread. In the solitude of my kitchen I methodically built a braised short rib truffle grilled cheese, fried it in butter, and ate it in silence at my dinner table.
With a comforted stomach as my guide I reached clarity. If you’d rather be at home with a grilled cheese sandwich than the guy you’re seeing, he’s not the one. And if you’re content with dating several guys at once, none of them are the one. Falling in love isn’t the process of selecting and settling. It’s not just the inevitable next step or the result of other options dwindling away. Falling in love is the unavoidable. Like gravity. And time passing. Or that’s what it’s like for me anyway. If there is anything I’ve learned about falling in love it’s that it never makes sense, because we don’t choose who we love.
After I consumed the last bite of grilled cheese I called Alexander and ended everything. Maybe we need to slow things down? That’s not the problem. Why don’t we just continue to date casually? We’ll just end up back where we are now. So this is it then? I’m sorry, yes.
I hung up the phone, walk to my fridge and yanked the door open, feeling the cool wisps of vapor dance along my skin. I grabbed the wedge of truffle cheese and the rosemary loaf. Then I made myself another grilled cheese.