I spent my 20s in complete solitude. Even when I was in relationship or around friends, I was impossible to reach and might as well have been by myself. It was a decade spent mostly alone, and I think there were many times when I felt like this was just how life was going to play out. I watched as my little brother married his high-school sweetheart, and in the 10 years since, I've had the great pleasure of holding their babies as they joined us in the world. Loving these beautiful creatures has in many ways made my own as-of-yet-unrealized dream of building a family an easier pill to swallow -- but I have always hoped that some great love would make its way to me, as well.
In October 2010, after spending the better part of two years in single-man lockdown mode recovering from a long-winded, ugly breakup, I went to celebrate my 31st birthday with my dear friend at a local Portland patisserie. We sat and chatted about life for a while, and then I noticed this man walk through the door and sit at a table just to the right of the dessert counter. He was wearing a tight, white, v-neck t-shirt, and I found myself unable to stop staring at him. It may have been his big arms, his dark chest hair, his thick-framed Dita glasses, his pretty face -- I'm not sure -- but something clicked in that moment.
At one point my friend stepped out to take a call, and I took that as my cue to undress him with my mind and get down to fantasy business. (I'm not a sex maniac, but I had sworn off men and had been celibate for over a year, and my fantasy life had become both really involved and easily accessible during that time). So I imagined us getting freaky on the dessert counter until my friend's return jolted me back to my sad, clothed, birthday reality. From across the room, I kept hearing my pretend boyfriend laughing this enormous, joyful, shameless laugh with his friend, and I tried not to stare. As we were leaving, I pointed out my exotic find to my friend and said, "I gotta get me one like that," which, in retrospect, is a bit crass and actually isn't all that romantic-sounding, but I figure the story's no good if I don't just tell it like it happened, and that's how it happened. It may not have been poetry, but it came from a very real place.
Over the next two months I thought about this mystery man a lot, which was not a common thing for me to do when it came to random people from coffee shops whom I had never spoken to. Often, the thoughts were naked ones, but sometimes they were not. At times I was awake when he was there; other times he would appear in my dreams. What had happened to me there amongst the candy and cakes? I couldn't figure out if I had been possessed or if I was just really horny from swearing off sex. Maybe I just needed to get manhandled on a dessert counter somewhere. Either way, I hoped I would run into him again and promised myself that I would speak to him if I did.
One afternoon in early December I looked up from my desk at Portland's Q Center, and there he was, standing in the door of my office, picking up promotional materials for an event he was holding there. He told me his name. I introduced myself but could not stop looking down at my feet. We shook hands. His were soft but strong -- like they were in my dream. I'm sure I turned all sorts of red in the face, and I remember being kind of frozen there for a minute. I came off as rude and uninterested, and he went to talk with my colleague across the hall. Once again, I found myself compelled to stare at him, completely drawn in by his presence, his look, his chemicals, but I was somehow rendered unable to speak or be friendly.
When he left I probed my colleagues for details about who this most recent star of my rich fantasy life actually was in the real world. After hearing only good reviews from the handful of people I asked, I decided to attend the event he was hosting. I was determined to push through the shyness and try talking to him again when it was over, and I would try even harder not to come off like a total dick this time. Out of nowhere, at the end of the event, he came up to me and asked if I'd like to grab a coffee with him sometime. (I later found out that my colleague had let him in on my having expressed interest, so the miracle-love-story factor here is a little diminished, but it was a magical moment nonetheless.) I said yes and had him call my phone so that I could save his number.
As he was walking away, I noticed that it had not saved, and I said, "Wait! It didn't work!" He turned and walked back over to me, still with those sweet eyes, still with that handsome face, and in a fleeting moment of sheer bravery, I let out the words, "How am I supposed to get you into my life if I don't have your phone number?" My boldness made him smile. I entered the number again manually, saved it, and left the event feeling over the moon. To my surprise, he called me the next day to go to dinner instead of coffee, which we did the following evening. It was one of those nights where everything was easy and real. We talked about our lives, our families, our struggles, our deepest regrets, our hopes, our true selves; it was perfect. He gave me the most passionate kiss as he dropped me off that night, and we have been together ever since.
I'm not sure if our meeting was destiny or chance, as I am not sure I believe in either of those things, but I think I may have experienced what others for centuries have been referring to as "love at first sight" that day in the patisserie. I'm pretty sure I don't believe in that, but it was like the minute I laid eyes on this man, I just knew he was going to change my life forever -- and he has. I like to think that all those dreams and imagined escapades involving him in the months prior to our meeting were ways in which the universe was preparing me for the very real arrival of love and intimacy in my life. I might not have recognized either of them had I not already been turned on and tuned in on some level, and both might have frightened me had I not been practicing a bit on my own in advance of their arrival. It was some sort of cosmic conditioning process, and it left me brave and open enough for this man to occupy a space in my heart that no other man had prior.
Maybe the moral of this in-progress love story is that even the coldest hand can be warmed. I am living proof of this. I wake up every morning to a face on the pillow next to me that I hope I am lucky enough to get to roll over and look at for 100 more years. Something has come alive in me that was asleep before, and I will share that awakening with him forever, however our story builds out from here.
I believe that all of us deserve love and are fully capable of loving, no matter what our experience in and around relationships has been in the past. I continue to work on staying bold and listening to my dreams and fantasies when they are speaking to me. I am convinced that therein lies the roadmap to my bliss. My guess is that your bliss is trying to tell you something too, so pay attention. You never know when that patisserie door will open.
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