Back in my first quarter of my first year of college, I took a Philosophy class. The graduate student teaching the class used to yell at us, "You can't. plan. fun!" and I'd scribble down those words in my notebook every time.
Sometimes, I wish he'd told us something else. Like maybe that you can't. plan. relationships.
See, I'm thirty now (yeah, the big 3-0 that isn't supposed to be big but feels loomingly huge). But back when I was still 29, I met this guy online who seemed great. Artist. Super think-related. A little broken because his fiance had left him the year before, but that was the past and this is the now and I'm me: a pretty awesome gal who was head over heels for him. I guess he was only heels over himself for me though, and we broke up.
I decided to get out of town and make a documentary about dating in America, so I raised some money and hit the road, though not before the guy came back and dropped me like someone else's dirty dishtowel again when he heard about the project.
So my producer Megan and I get on the road and I start going on a first date, one in every state. I'm internet dating like crazy. Dating online is basically my job, and I come up with all sorts of silly titles for myself. Professional dater. Varsity level dater. Getting ready for the dating Olympics. And while I'm somewhere in the middle of North Dakota, I accidentally stumble across a guy back in Oakland, California, where I'm from.
Literally, he lives in Oakland, a mere two miles from where I was living before I left. And I can't help myself. I feel drawn to him, like the words on his dating profile were made just to lure me and only me in. I can't not write. So I do:
"Well hello there!
I'm curious about your experience teaching high school versus college. I was teaching at community college for a few years as an adjunct - there was a lot I loved and a lot I didn't. I'd love to hear the pros and cons of high school instruction (and what you didn't enjoy about college teaching).
Where are you playing soccer? I usually play at Bladium in Alameda - not particularly well, but I'm a good runner and when I lose the ball I'm happy to chase it down again. Are you indoor or outdoor inclined? Which position are you privy to?
I've peppered you with questions and perhaps should now say something about myself, but really I just want to know which part of Oakland you live in. :-) I have a love affair going on with Oakland at the moment...it's been going on for the past three years actually, and I'm not sure it'll ever end (though currently I'm traveling through all fifty states so perhaps I've spoken too soon).
Oh yeah, it's overly perky and just so...first message-y. But the next day, there's a message back from him:
"Well hello yourself, Alicia!
I actually had an email I was writing you last night that I never got around to sending. I keep too many windows open while I work. Yours was better. Thanks for writing!
...Teaching adjunct was just soul-sucking. I taught online adjunct last year and it was one of the worst things I've been through. Mostly because I care and was trying to make it work for my students and got overwhelmed. I'll take the trade down for happiness. I'd still like to have one college class adjunct to keep working with more advanced students, though. I keep telling myself I'll get on making that happen. What/where were you teaching? Something writing-ish, I'd guess. What caused your exodus? Do you miss it? I love teaching and I love photography, and I'm happy just being given a class all my own at any level.
I'd looked at your kickstarter, and it seems like a clever, well-thought out project. I would be really excited to NOT be a part of it as it seems like a date on camera is a horrible way to make a real connection (I'm looking at you, reality tv), but I bet it's going to make a great documentary. How's it going? Are you trying to make a real connection with each person or are being a little more business-like about it? Do you find yourself adopting a different persona or maybe just accentuating certain parts of your personality when you're in different states?
When are you coming back from your adventure? I would apologize for this being so long, but I like talking and emailing, so this is what just happens.
And we were off to the emailing races, Me with my "Cheers" and Adam with his "Best." This had to be something real. We tore down our walls and let each other into the minutia of our days. Him grading papers, me seeing the country. We even graduated to texting. And sending photos - me at the New York City library, him dancing around his bathroom to LCD Soundsystem. Phone calls slipped in after my dates, video-chats the few moments we had.
Anticipation loomed. We even discussed what meeting each other might be like, what touching each other might be like. We imagined together. We planned. And it all felt so right. Like we were meant to meet. I was going on dates as a job, and at the same time, I was falling for someone I'd never met. A fantasy of a person who felt more real than anyone I was meeting. No matter how good the dates were, I'd think of Adam afterward. What I'd say about the dates, about traveling America, about strangers on the road and about living with my producer for two months in a car.
And then, in mid November, it was the last day of the trip. (Continued on video)