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Michelle Cacciatore Headshot

The Charm of the Unexpected

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"Let's go out," said my dear friend Mark. After working all day, I really wasn't in the mood, and while begrudgingly getting ready, I thought about canceling a few times.

"We don't have any plans though," I said to him.

"I know, but it's Friday night! Let's just see where we end up and call people as the night goes on." I figured this night would end as most do with my gay friends: dancing to Lady Gaga in a bar full of beautiful half naked men.

So there we were, aimlessly walking in the West Village making calls and piecing together our night. The plan was to go meet some friends of ours in Brooklyn, who had already been at the bar for a while. "We ought to have a couple drinks and catch up," Mark said to me while still on the phone. "Just pick a bar here and I'll be in to meet you in a minute." I pointed to the first bar on my left, and meandered in by myself. Little did I know the adventure that was in store for me... or that we'd never in fact make it to Brooklyn that night.

I went around the bar and found two stools empty near the corner. Before I could even look around, an arm reached out to move the neatly folded brown leather jacket off the chair next to me. I looked up and saw a gorgeous guy with big brown eyes, and light brown hair. I assured him he could leave his coat there because my friend and I wouldn't be staying long. "No, no it's okay," he said with a smile. I noticed an accent right away, which only made him more attractive, but it didn't matter. This was just going to be gay night after all. I wasn't prepared to meet handsome men, having barely brushed my hair for the outing. Right after I ordered a drink, one of the guys in the group with my jacket-grabbing-crush introduced himself. Before I knew it, Mark and I were hanging out with four guys who were visiting New York City, having just met at the hostel at which they were all staying. I learned the man with the coat was named Max, and while the others were visiting New York from Arkansas, Max was from Augsburg, Germany. While all hanging out, Max and I kept making eye contact with each other. Even though I was talking to the group, I found myself really talking to him. After asking us to take them somewhere because they didn't know any New Yorkers, Mark and I realized our night was about to take a very random turn. We all left the bar together, and behind the group were Max and I linking arms.

It had now been a few hours and we'd been bar hopping. Max and I were sitting alone at the bar. Mark had gone off with some guy he met, and the others decided to go back to the hostel to sleep. I was laughing and talking endlessly with a guy from Germany who I barely knew anything about, except for that he was getting his MBA, he was a deejay back home, and he had a younger sister. As you might have guessed, time seemed to fly by, and it was getting terribly late. I suppose neither of us wanted to leave, but as I looked at my phone and realized it was almost four, we decided it'd be best if we headed out. His hostel was in my direction, so we decided to share a cab together. I don't know if all Germans are as excellent kissers as Max was, but if they are, I might be living in the wrong city. Before I stepped out, he quietly said, "I'm leaving Monday morning. Will you have dinner with me before then?" I realized this was completely crazy. Why have a date with a guy you'll likely never see again? But I found myself quickly saying yes. "Promise?" he said before I shut the cab door. "Promise."

On Sunday night, I was putting my shoes on after making sure my hair was properly brushed this time around, and I felt far more calm than I ever had when meeting a guy for dinner. It was this pleasant feeling of having nothing to lose--whether this would be a disaster or not, knowing there isn't a future in store has its perks. As I walked down the street to his hostel and saw him waiting outside, I knew this wasn't just an alcohol induced bar crush. I was genuinely happy to see him.

We broke every date rule you could imagine. We talked about our annoying habits, our past failed relationships, and what we did wrong when in them. For hours we laughed about our family, talked about where we saw ourselves in the future, and even joked, at length, about marrying each other. I warned about how I didn't want a big wedding, and insisted we had to stay in New York. He agreed, and after a few glasses of wine, we pondered what we'd do about rings. I went into my bag and grabbed a pen. There, in that small restaurant on Spring Street, we jokingly drew wedding bands on each other and made it official.

With my new German husband in tow, I led us to the train to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I thought it would be a nice touristy way to end his last night in New York without being too cliché. The night was gorgeous. As we approached the middle of the bridge, he grabbed my hand, and it hit me; this was the best date I've been on all year. We looked back at Manhattan, his arm around me, with my face now against the jacket that started it all. We didn't say anything; we didn't have to. We knew it was a bit sad that we live where we do, but it seemed foolish to waste the little time we had.

The rules were simple; we were going to keep in touch, but nothing crazy. There was no point in exchanging lengthy letters only to break our own hearts over what could never be. We acknowledged that had we been 18, we would've whimsically tried to figure out a way to be together. But being older we knew that just wasn't possible for us. We agreed if we were ever near each other's cities again, we'd let the other know. Other than that, I knew my kissing him goodbye back near his hostel was the end of this unexpected romance.

It's now been a couple months since that memorable weekend. The only proof that remains of all this is a couple of pictures and a memory. Now and then when I'm waiting for a train or coffee, I think of him and smile. Some might think it's sad that things ended the way they did, but I don't mind at all. While situations like this are certainly rare, this story only reminds me of the magical possibilities that exist here in this city. As for Max, whatever he's been up to, I can only hope he looks back on that night with the same affectionate sentiment as I do.