#27 First Encounter — An Unforgettable Date

We exchanged messages for a month, talked on the phone once, and pretty much followed the cliche protocols that one assumes with online dating. Today was the day. Expectations were ruled out because I’ve been here before. You know, the same monotonous conversations about career, past dating history, horoscopes, hobbies, etc. Everyone talks about the proverbial spark of when you meet someone. I call it bullshit because science will tell you that chemicals can do some amazing things. Sometimes it’s fucking great and most of the time, not so much. Although I may seem down, it was quite the contrary as a remnant of hope flickered dimly somewhere within.

She was 20 minutes away and I had just gotten out of the shower. I cleaned my apartment the day prior because I believe in good hygiene and you never know, she might want coffee afterward, and who doesn’t love a little late-night coffee.

I didn’t have a knack for impeccable style but wasn’t completely tacky either. A burgundy checkered shirt, freshly ironed khakis, and some Chuck Taylors were the ensemble for the evening. I reeked SF Techie. My threads were versatile enough for the beach, casual enough for dinner, and cozy enough for late-night coffee. I packed a bag with white wine, an umbrella — because it was March in the city — and a blanket. I had a good feeling about her but knew not to judge my inner voice. Whether it was positive or negative, I made it a virtue to let the present moment be and let things happen organically.

I went outside and waited for a few minutes. She texted me and was still 10 minutes away. I had to go to the bathroom. It was my third time. Might have been nerves. The optimist in me was feeling good, as I do about most first dates, but I needed to check this part of me, and remain present, go with the flow, and leave room for the story to be told instead of telling it.

I went back downstairs and she was here.

“‘Hey, handsome.’” Those were her first words. She said it with such conviction that it made me feel almost handsome. It also made my brown ass blush. I was nervous but told that inner voice to chill the fuck out.

She was drop-dead gorgeous. She was the type of woman to make you fall in love and also take your soul in the same breath. She was powerful, soft, strong and carried an angelic smile that made the Richmond District feel alive. She took my heart to a million miles and back in a second. Her porcelain skin with just a touch of olive accompanied by the sun made her complexion almost cream-like. Her dimples were like craters, deep crevices that I could get lost in and wouldn’t care to be found. Her wavy black hair gently bounced and caressed her shoulder blades. I could see a few tattoos which were intriguing in the best way possible. I had never felt this way about a woman, let alone a woman that up until 5 minutes ago was a stranger. The what if’s started to flourish in the mind but I brought myself back to this moment so I can let the story be told, rather than telling it.

She rolled up in her drop top Mazda Miata. It was a beautiful Saturday in SF. The spotless burgundy roadster was an appropriate compadre for the beautiful woman, even though most of the date wouldn’t need 4 wheels. It was our first physical encounter, and although not completely blind, it still felt like it was.

“‘What’s the plan?’” She said with enthusiasm. Her soul radiated innocence. I could tell she’s been hurt before, but still hopeful about love. She wasn’t sure about me yet, which is warranted, but I was sure about her.

I told her, “‘Let’s go to Baker Beach. It’s 4 blocks away. You gotta nice car, so let’s park it in the Sea Cliff district. Your ride will be safe there.’” The way she drove her car and kept it clean was an obvious sign it was important. The Sea Cliff district was the affluent area in the neighborhood regularly patrolled by the boys in blue.

We parked and started walking to the beach. It was the first time I saw her full body. Her hips moved in unison with the crashing waves. She walked with a certain elegant grace. It was a walk of a woman that knew where she was going and what she wanted. I was mesmerized, but not in a sexual way — well not entirely.

“‘I know a secret pathway to get to the beach. It’s a better way to get there,’” I said. I felt certain confidence that I didn’t know existed. Perhaps it was the feeling that a man gets when he wants to show someone special, something special.

We had to duck under a tree. I felt bad since she had high heels on and we had to walk down a steep hill, but knew the path would make up for it.

“‘You can hold onto my shoulders so you don’t fall,’” I said. It was my excuse to be touched and it worked. I’m as clumsy as they come, but at the moment with her hands my shoulders I felt like I could move Everest.

We took our shoes off after coming down the hill. The rest of the walk to the beach was draped in cool, silky sand. The ocean was louder now, but we still couldn’t see the Pacific. The Amazon-like forest that separated us from the water brought wonder to both our eyes. The redwoods smiled down at us and little sharp rays of the sun penetrated through the small slits that the lush green plans let in.

She smiled with amazement, “‘This is beautiful, Anand.’”

Her joy touched my heart. It was also the first time she said my name. She said it as if she’s known it for a while. I veered off and gave her space to enjoy this portion of SF that many will never see. I would often gaze her way to see if she would notice things I did when I first came here. I felt something about this woman. Was it mutual? I was confused but looked forward to the next moment.

When we got to the beach, she locked arms with me and smiled. It started to drizzle and I had an umbrella. We found a log to sit against where I placed the blanket on the sand. As we sat down, the sunset coated the ocean with an orange-reddish sheen. The horizon shared the same color profile and for the first time, I couldn’t see where the ocean ended and where the sky began. The language to describe what was felt at that moment has yet to be invented. The bewilderment of what my future held with her slowly dissipated because my heart interrupted and started to beat melodiously to a tune that I could only decipher.

I put my arm around her. All this was sudden but so familiar. I had just met her a half hour ago and here we were, holding hands and watching the sunset. I lost the capacity to truly think at that moment because I knew something was different about her, about me, and about us.

Would you like some wine? I picked up a bottle at the local grocery store the day prior. Hector, the resident wine connoisseur of the establishment recommended it. It was a white wine, dry in nature, but carried a hint of vanilla, and reminded me of spring. Wine was special, but not just because it was intoxicating, but more so about the process. It takes time to cultivate good wine. It takes sacrifice but most importantly, it takes patience.

“‘Im okay, thank you though,’” she said. I could hear it in her voice that she didn’t care for alcohol. It didn’t matter as I felt somewhat intoxicated already.

She looked at me and said, “‘Anand, I don’t get close to people this fast, but I feel so comfortable around you.’”

“‘I’m glad you said something because it’s exactly how I feel as well.’” Some of my confusion lay at rest because the feeling was mutual.

Words didn’t suffice to capture what we felt on the beach. Silence spoke to us better than any language could have at that moment. Familiarity then isn’t bound by time, it’s bound by something deeper. Something so deep that our human intellect doesn’t have the slightest clue on how to comprehend. At least, that’s how I felt.

Logic is the anthesis love, but who really knows what love is. Is love dictated by time? A quote from Rumi that I never understood before, started to make sense.

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,
they’re in each other all along…”

— Rumi

The rain started to come down a little harder. I suggested we have dinner at Paagan. She had mentioned she loved Asian food during our first conversation and was excited we were having Burmese. During our walk, I regaled her with pointless facts that would never serve a useful purpose in life. I told her that Pagan was once the Kingdom that reigned supreme and was responsible for what is present-day Myanmar.

During our walk to the restaurant, we saw a dog with shoes on being walked by its owner. We both looked at each other are started crying and laughing in hysterics. I was raised Hindu, and am not completely sold on the theory of reincarnation, but I will say many of the dogs in our neighborhood must have had good Karma because they were treated better than most humans.

We got to the restaurant and I suggested we order a few of the items that never disappoint. She was game. We sat across each other and observed one another for 20 seconds for what seemed like 20 years.

“‘You look different than in your pictures,’” she said in a pleasing tone.

“‘I take that to be a good thing, I hope.’”

“‘Yes, silly. You know you’re handsome’”

I smiled, still in slight disbelief when I hear those words associated with me.

During dinner, we talked about our families, what we studied in college, hobbies, etc. It was your classic questions to get to know another better. The food arrived and we were both famished. The samosa soup, tea leaf salad, and the egg curry with okra didn’t disappoint. The date was going well. I paid the tab and we went outside.

While walking towards the direction of her car, I asked her if she wanted to watch a movie at my place. She smiled and looked at me, and said something that was both alarming and incredibly cute.

“‘That sounds good, but I have to warn you, I know Krav Maga, so don’t get any ideas buddy.’”

“‘I wouldn’t dream of it,’” I said with a laughing smile. She was definitely a woman that could hold her own in a street fight, but I found her comment endearing and it only ended up me liking her more.

We got home. While I had some hibiscus tea brewing. I gave her the grand tour of my little humble abode. It was a second-floor flat that once used to be a mansion in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong, it was an adequate dwelling, but it’s wasn’t Buckingham Palace either. The walls were thin and the outside patio had a view of other high rise apartment buildings. The days the sun wanted to come out, I’d go on the roof to a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. That was probably the best thing about the place.

Anyways, after the tour, we sat on the couch and watched, The Shape of Water. It was an odd movie, to say the least, and how it won an Academy Award was beyond us, but I didn’t care about what we were watching because I was sitting next to a goddess of a woman. When the movie started we were sitting next to each other, and by the time it was over she was resting in my arms. It all felt natural and oddly familiar. I turned off the TV and we shared a kiss in my dimly lit living room. The sparks they talk about were real.

We laid next to the window. I held her from the back and whispered numerous facts about the universe. The night was clear, and the moon was behind the apartment which left a great view of the stars.

I told her many of the stars in the night sky have been dead for millions of years, but their light is just getting to us, so it begs the question, where does time begin and where does it end?

We talked about life, our fears, worries, our families, and other vulnerable topics that you might shy away from on a first date. She was different. I trusted her and fell deep into her sorrow with her, and she fell in mine. I didn’t want the night to end. I never wish for anything but that night, I wished she could have stayed longer. Still, I knew it was late and she should be getting home.

When we approached her car, we noticed she left her dome light on. Her battery was dead. It was about 2:00 AM at this point.

“‘You can stay with me. I’ll sleep on the couch. I can call AAA in the morning.’” I was eager for her to stay, but I came across as it not being a big deal.

“‘Okay,’” she said. She had a flicker in her eye of relief because she didn’t want the night to end either.

We got back to the apartment and she put on my sweatpants and a sweater. I was setting up the couch for myself. She came into the living room and with a mildly innocent grin, she said, “‘You don’t have to sleep on the couch.’”

I had no objections. I climbed into bed and we held each other in a warm embrace and fell asleep. The feeling was innocent, beautiful, and intimate without being physical. Rumi’s words spoke even more boldly. She had my heart and I was ready to leave it with her after that night. I’m not sure about lots of things in life, but I knew I wanted to see her and no one else from that point on. Still, I had to remind myself to let the story be told, rather than telling it.

I knew that if I wanted this love to last, I had to let life flow like the river it is. I couldn’t push the current or go against it — I just had to ride the current. I made a vow to myself, that if I was to win her heart, I would do just that.

Two years later, she became Mrs. Swamy.

With Love,

Anand Swamy

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