At the beginning of January, I prepared to go on my first date in many months. I’d been working full time, and pouring myself into that role with abandon, trying to convince myself that it was healthy. But I knew it wasn’t.
My therapist and I began to talk about healthy adjustments, things that I could do to make my life work for me. I was pushing against the life I was leading, desperate for change and not sure how to begin to get there.
She knows me well by now, and she knows that I would like to fall in love. “Is it time to try dating online again?” she asked, gently.
It was a while before I plopped down on her lime green couch and agreed. It was time.
I was scared to venture back into the world of first dates and casual conversations. I hated the feeling of being looked at but not seen. I never knew what to wear.
I took a deep breath and put myself out there, a profile for everyone to see.
I started chatting with someone who sounded interesting. Let’s call him Noah. He was from Seattle, recently moved back from California, in Spokane for just a short time. He was a writer, a musician, a reader.
We agreed to meet at a bookshop and wander the stacks.
Many of you may know that I’m a great fan of Noah Gundersen. Certain songs have been like friends to me over the past couple of years, ever since I heard him open for Over the Rhine in Seattle, in the fragile days after I’d put myself out there, truly myself, and been rejected. He might not know it, but we have a bond.
Do you ever get a feeling that you’ve met someone before, even if you’re meeting them for the first time? That was my experience with Noah, from the moment he walked up to me, as I flipped through a book at Barnes and Noble, waiting for him nervously.
We walked and talked, warming up to each other as we pointed out our favorite Dr. Seuss books. It didn’t take me too long to put my finger on it. It felt like I was on a date with Noah Gundersen.
Like one of those familiar songs about love and loss, hope and sorrow, I was calmed by Noah’s very presence. He listened and he talked, he smiled, and he looked serious. He wrapped himself closely in his jacket before we went outside, the faint scent of cigarette smoke clinging to him.
Although part of me hoped that we might have a chance to date, a deeper part of me knew that wasn’t why we connected. After that first meeting, I saw him just once more, after a terrible date. He drank tequila and listened to me vent, while I became more at ease with every breath.
That night, I played Noah Gundersen music for him in my car, while he leaned against it and smoked a cigarette. “This is sad,” he said, leaning into my car for a moment. “But it’s beautiful.”
He kissed my cheek just before he vanished into the night. I drove home with a sense of comfort and peace I hadn’t felt in a long time, if at all.
Weeks later, after I’d taken a hopeful chance on a relationship, and had to let it go, I texted Noah. “I just want to say thank you,” I said. “You helped me to hope again.”
He texted back a few minutes later. “That makes me feel really nice.”
I’ve thought about those moments many times since January. It’s still surreal the way his presence evoked a Noah Gundersen song. A soundtrack was always playing in the back of my mind.
Now, as I walk forward into conversations, revealing pieces of my true self a little at a time, I’m holding hands with hope, feeling her kiss brush lightly against my cheek.
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