I feel like it’s finally been long enough since this happened that I can blog about it. So there was that one time I fell in love with a stranger on the internet.
I don’t mean I met someone on OK Cupid and we mutually bonded over bands and books in common and hit it off; No, I do not.
This was weird.
We’ll call him Leon.
I think I found a link to Leon’s blog via a mutual friend’s blog – a riveting love affair from the start, doomed to be entirely one-sided. He was a screenwriter in LA who had recently moved from Chicago. Before that, he lived in Ohio and went to college with my friend.
I quietly stalked his blog from afar, reading about everything from his clever diatribes on pop culture phenomena to his extremely well-articulated observations of the 2008 Presidential election, at which I nodded my head vigorously in agreement in the hazy glow of my computer screen.
He had just moved out there; he sounded lonely, and he sounded honest. His writing was full of beautiful turns of phrase and poignant, sometimes painful, observations. He was probably a hipster before I knew what a hipster was, with his blog entries documenting overheard coffee shop conversations and his Photo Booth self-portraits he took on his MacBook Pro. He wrote in a way that made me think we were really sharing something meaningful with one another, when really, he alone was doing the sharing, and it was with all of the internet, not just with me. But you couldn’t have convinced me of that.
After weeks of reading back entries like the world’s biggest creep, I finally emailed him. I have no idea what I said in that initial email, but it must have sounded less crazy than it should have because he emailed me back. We came to be pseudo-peers and read one another’s scripts and gave notes. His were far more beneficial to my work than I suspect mine were to his.
When I made my plans to move to Chicago, it was Leon I emailed for advice on which neighborhoods to scope out. He wrote back with helpful tips, such as stay away from Wrigleyville, which he described as the “ex-frat boy neighborhood,” and thereby giving me my earliest glimpse into the stereotypes surrounding various Northside neighborhoods.
The summer before I moved here, I offered to travel across the country via minivan with my friend Eileen help her move out to San Diego to live with her boyfriend. A few weeks before our departure, I asked a favor of her.
I wanted to take a day trip to LA. Until very recently I had felt little to no desire to see LA, but now – now, there was Leon. I was sure that if I could somehow find my way to LA, the stars would align, and so would begin The Great Love Story that would inevitably tower over all other Great Love Stories. It would put them to shame and laugh about it later. It was absolutely clear to me that God was nudging me out to California, where I would help a friend solidify her own long-distance relationship and absolutely start one of my own. I myself would be moving to the west coast soon enough, I was sure of it.
My frame of reference for the geography of the state of California was also very much skewed by my concept of the state of Ohio’s easy accessibility from one corner to another: Four hours, tops! From any part of the state to another.
California, it turns out, is a long state.
I didn’t tell Eileen these thoughts about Leon and how we were clearly destined to be together. It’s probably because those were the thoughts of an insane person and the minimally-sane part of me knew it. Despite my withholding of information and my misunderstanding of the distance between San Diego and LA, Eileen agreed to take me to meet Leon in person for the first time, should such a plan work out on his end.
I emailed him and waited ages for him to respond (or at least I probably did; I don’t totally remember). He told me he would be happy to meet up with the three of us for lunch on the day I mentioned, and sent along his phone number.
Eileen and I set out for California with our friend Liz, who we picked up in Indiana on the way, After we got to San Diego and moved Eileen in, we got a good night’s sleep before our LA adventure. It was supposed to take two hours, but it turns out LA traffic is formidable regardless of time of day. We sat in standstill traffic while I was sweating bullets in the back seat. Liz asked me what was wrong, and I found I could keep the crazy contained no longer.
“You guys, I am crazy in love with this guy,” I confessed.
They looked at me, Eileen’s eyes behind sunglasses finding mine in the rearview mirror, eyebrows suddenly cocked. To their immense credit, my friends did not say the things they were thinking out loud.
“With Leon?” said Eileen. “The guy we are meeting for lunch?”
“Yes,” I sighed, finally able to breathe once more, having unloaded this humiliating, all-consuming secret.
“I thought you hadn’t actually met him yet,” said Liz.
I shook my head sadly, hopelessly, at her.
“Well, we will do whatever we can to say awesome things about you to him at lunch,” Liz reassured me.
“You look really pretty today,” added Eileen, fully supportive.
This is what friends are for: to not only refrain from telling you how crazy you’re being, but to say nice things to strangers about you over lunch.
We waited for him at the restaurant and I felt more nervous than I’ve ever felt before any kind of job interview. This probably means I should start taking job interviews more seriously.
I had a very clear idea of how this meeting was going to go down. He would get there and see me, and something in his brain would click and he would think, wouldn’t it be crazy if I just completely hit it off with this girl from Ohio?
Yes, Leon. Yes, it would be crazy.
We’d fall for each other over sandwiches and diet Coke, telling each other hilarious anecdotes and the rest of the world would just fall away and there would be only us.
We met Leon for an approximately two-hour lunch at a place he suggested. He was just as smart and funny in person as he was in writing.
Lunch was not the cosmic occurrence I felt it was destined to be. Lunch was lunch, and he gave me a hug before we left to go see Venice Beach and many more miles of late evening traffic.
Nothing came of it. That’s because that is how these things go in real life.
A few months later, either right before or right after I got my job in Chicago, I emailed him to tell him how things were going but never heard back. I am too afraid to go back and read that email to try to decipher why that might be because inevitably the answer is that I said something weird.
That is what I do.
Last I heard, he’s getting married, and I met a smart, witty writer who not only lives in my city, but as of late, in my apartment. Things are looking up, I say.
It was exciting, but it was super weird. It feels much weirder in retrospect, two years later. At least I have the comfort of knowing that, after this entry, I should have no fear that anyone will read this blog and fall hopelessly in love with me and try to arrange a road trip to Chicago to make me in turn, organically fall in love with them.
This confession will certainly spare me that.