The Story of DC Dan

He sits across from me. His eyes, an argent grey. They’re inviting; warm. Not cold and empty. When he speaks, I shift my focus from one to the other and back, subconsciously taking note of the minor differences. His elbow rests on the sill of the window to his right. The window is not housed by a traditional wall; it finds its home in a garage door. But this is not a garage. We are in a coffeehouse, and the garage door is a stand-in for the barrier that separates the wintry, frost-laden outside from the tepid, cozy inside where we sit.

He dons a jovial sweater, which peeks out only slightly from the unzipped portion of his coat. I take mine off, and wonder why he hasn’t done so yet. But I don’t outwardly question it.

Minutes pass, and I find that I’ve pulled my sleeves into my palms, and press my fingers against the cuffs of my shirt to hold them in place.

“Are you cold?” He asks. “You should put your coat back on.” I know now why he hasn’t removed his. Though it is stylish and suits him well, I’m curious for a better look at his physique, and outerwear tends to skew any perception of it that I may have. An unsettling breeze seeps in through the cracks of the unsealed “wall” that is the garage door, and even bundled up I am still chilly and uncomfortable. There is a lit fireplace some twenty feet away, but there is no available seating closer to it for us to move, and its warmth does not reach our section of the coffeehouse.

I notice an idle coffee cup on the table between us, pushed off to the side. Residual froth lines its interior and a used napkin has been stuffed inside it. It appears as though it hasn’t been touched in a while. Why would somebody leave their trash here, I think. Why wouldn’t he have thrown it out?

“This isn’t yours, is it?” I ask, regarding the cup.

“It was,” he says, “I just haven’t gotten up to toss it away.”

I wonder how long he’d been here before I arrived.

“How long were you here? I hope I didn’t keep you waiting. I’m sorry,” I express, concerned. He reassures me that there’s nothing to worry about. He sits with one leg stretched out; the other is crossed over and resting on his thigh. He appears anxious as he violently shakes his foot. I know many people who do this. Maybe he is just nervous, as I am. Instinctively I grab hold of his foot to slow its shaking, and lightheartedly grin. I see this as somewhat of a playful gesture; I wonder if he does, too. He doesn’t pull his foot away or ask me to stop. He doesn’t warn me against touching him.

This was an intended short story I wrote in early January regarding a man I had an immense crush on. It is more of an anecdote, as it abruptly ends at the final sentence in the above block quote. In writing it, I was describing my point of view during the first and only time that he and I met; the mental notes I was taking, both of my surroundings at the time and of him. I’d planned to keep writing as our story continued to unfurl, but sadly it didn’t go much beyond a few months past January. Things between us abruptly ended, much like the anecdote did, and I think if I were to go back and try to continue writing, it would hurt too much. That said, I believe it is better to leave it imperfect and unfinished. Since it doesn’t technically have a name, the file is saved as the first few words of the first sentence; a presumption taken by Microsoft Office Word when your document doesn’t have an official title. Even so, I’ve since gone back to title it Mamihlapinatapai- one of the hardest words to translate- derived from Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, described as ‘a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to suggest or offer themselves.’

Dan was a man I’d initially messaged in August of 2013 on one of those revered dating websites simply to pass the time. The reason being that I’d noticed he’d looked at my profile, but he was in the nation’s capital (hence the name- alliterative and clever, huh?) while I was in Buffalo. But I soon realized he offered so much more than just a time killer.

He was engaging, witty, charming, entertaining, and funny, all rolled into a single entity, all within the first week of contact. I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of anything long-distance, but I normally have apprehensions in the beginning, since there’s potential for so much to go awry. But I took the chance, and even in retrospect, I’m glad I did.

After about a week of communicating exclusively online, he offered me his phone number, along with the suggestion that we talk later on that evening. This was a pleasantly surprising and welcomed change from what I was used to; finally, someone who values the archaic art of conversing on the phone. There is so much more insight to be gained about the other person through hearing their voice rather than by texting.

I fell in love with his voice the instant I heard it for the first time; it was strangely familiar and like I imagined it might be. We spent hours on the phone together. I’d even frequently sacrificed sleep necessary for the early rising the next day in favor of hearing his voice. Over time, it put me at ease; it kept me in a consistently good mood; it kept me going. But as with many things, the initial excitement began to wear thin. Nightly phone calls became a few nights a week, which then became once a week at the very minimum. We were both busy with our respective obligations outside of each other, and life didn’t allow for us to talk as often as we once had. But we still made time.

Fast forward to December.

Dan is an elementary school librarian. He used to live in Buffalo, and had family and friends here. On Christmas night, after all the festivities had ended for the day, I optimistically asked if he might be making a trip into town during his vacation. He told me that it wasn’t likely, but that he’d let me know in anticipation if anything changed. The very next night, I received a phone call from Dan to inform me that he was in fact in town, that he’d remembered a friend had asked him to visit, and that he drove in over night. I was ecstatic. My heart was pounding out of my chest; I was finally going to meet this incredible man that I’d developed feelings for over the course of four months. And when I did, my expectations were nothing short of surpassed.

Five hours. We spent five hours of the day that we met over coffee, sitting in a single spot for the entirety of it. We talked. We laughed. We fostered a more solid connection. He was beautiful. He stood just over six feet tall, had icy grey eyes, a shaved head, and a lanky, almost carefree stature to him that I thought was adorable. I couldn’t get over how attracted I was to him. Sadly, however, the curtains slowly drew to a close on our evening. We expressed our yearning to spend more time together, hugged tightly, and parted ways.

I truly didn’t think that was going to be the last time I’d ever see him, but as fate would have it, it was. After the turn of the new year, we continued our routine of talking a few times a week, whenever we could. He reassured me on multiple occasions that we’d see each other in the summer when he would visit again for a few days. He even made mention of some things we could do when he was in town. I was still enjoying just as much the time I was able to spend speaking with him; my feelings were only growing as time passed.

Despite how I’d felt about Dan, we were never a couple, nor did we ever officially date. We’d only met one time, after all. I figured that in case things didn’t pan out further between he and I, especially because of the distance, it couldn’t hurt to keep my options open. I began to stop ruling out the prospect of going on dates with others. That’s what people do- they date. It wouldn’t necessarily mean anything, and Dan and I were not committed to one another. So, I began casually dating the guy I allude to in this post, in March.

Ironically, that’s when mine and Dan’s communication abruptly dropped off. There had been occasions when I wouldn’t hear from Dan for a week and a half, if his schedule didn’t permit it. I didn’t think much of it considering he was a lot busier than I was. The week I began casually dating, I hadn’t heard from Dan at all. That week turned into two weeks, which then turned into three. I became a bit concerned; he and I had never gone this long without talking, and everything was fine when last we spoke. I found it strange, but I tried not to let it bother me. I was preoccupied with what else I had going on in my life at the time, anyway. However, soon it had been almost a month since Dan attempted any sort of contact with me. In that span of time, I’d left a couple voice mails, sent a couple emails; I never received a response to any of them.

I was incredibly frustrated. I thought I was building a solid foundation with someone I was essentially crazy about, and at it this point, I felt that our chemistry was dissolving. Being the neurotic individual that I am, I blamed myself. I thought maybe I was in too deep. Maybe I told him that he was on my mind a few too many times. Maybe he met somebody else and was afraid to tell me. The frustration soon turned to minor depression, and in being depressed about the circumstances, I elected to send him one final ‘goodbye and good luck’ message. Despite my being hurt, I still didn’t want things to end on a sour note. I sent the message, and to my surprise, I received a reply a couple of hours later. In it, he said this:

I wanted to let you know that I’ve had some bad shit, so to speak, going on in my life the past few weeks. I’ve only just managed to get things back together.  Give me some time, and I’ll be in touch with you soon. 

That was in April, and was the last time I heard from him. I still sometimes reread the email when I’m thinking of him. Maybe you think I’m being melodramatic. Maybe my feelings are coming off as obsessive, or you don’t think I could possibly feel so strongly for someone I only met once. But there are no rules in love. Here was a man who had taken me completely by surprise; he’d turned my world around, opened my eyes, and essentially, he changed my life. Love and chemistry are felt differently per individual; nobody can tell you you’re wrong in how you feel. When you know, you just know. That’s it.

That’s not to say I was in love with Dan. But I certainly felt something I hadn’t felt before, and I was thrown completely for a loop when it slipped through my fingers. Even if he were to resurface, I don’t know that things would be the same.

I honestly don’t think about him too much these days. But just when I’ve begun to move forward with my life, he will appear in a dream, or a song that reminds me of him will come on Pandora. Despite being sad at the thought of him, the memories I have are exclusively happy ones. I am grateful for all the stimulating conversation we had, the ways in which he challenged me, and that he was a part of my life, even if only for seven months.

People come and people go. They enter your life with a predetermined allotment of time, they serve their purpose, and they leave. Some stay longer than others. Whether their purpose is to teach you, help you, hinder you, love you, or hurt you, your eyes are opened more upon each lesson. Everything happens for a reason.

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