You may want to sit down for this week’s [highly embellished, wildly edited] episode:
One-sentence summary: Successfully tolerated the first week of parasite medication; booked a flight to Montana; went ALL-IN to fall in love; and today I am standing here in the smoldering wonder, broken and wide open.
Right Now: Making salted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in Missoula.
Expression of the Week: “Emotional whiplash” is kinda like when you are cruising along at altitude and realize you are –whoops– actually underwater, looking to see which way the bubbles go up.
Week 38. Plot twists ahead.
Here’s the synopsis: I had to sign up for Peace Corps, move to Peru, cause a bridge collapse, contract a serious parasitic disease, and then get evacuated to find the freaking love of my life. In Montana.
Turns out in high-risk situations (hosting scary bugs in South America) induce a stress behavior of taking more risks. Somewhere back in Service Week 34, at the medical escalation of “Does Mike exist?” and “What is Mike?” (“Mike” is the nickname of my unwanted pet, Leishmania) I decided to get some Tinder Therapy.
(Tinder is a dating app. Have someone else explain it to you.)
I swapped the adrenaline of fear with the adrenaline of being brave, crazy, and maybe just a smidgen of reckless. This past time ultimately lead me to making a potential love connection, matching online with an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who lives in Missoula, Montana.
Over the handful of rollercoaster days in Lima of parasite testing, biopsy scrapes, scary diagnosis and the news of my medical evacuation, Mr. Micronesia Archipelago (as he is titled in my phone) messaged me with opening line of a grammar question.
Game. Effing. On, Sir.
At first it was purely fun. Fun as hell, actually. I could binge watch Netflix and a bottle of wine or exchange messages with someone who gets the PCV life and doesn’t need me to caretake his feelings about my evacuation. Delightful, low-risk, disposable distraction.
And, holy unicorns, I rarely match with anyone I think is worth the effort or who has the time, interest, and energy to keep up with me.
Turns out I met my match.
After we exchanged phone numbers, I dropped the hilarious series of fatalistic deal breakers (such as, there is no “R” in this PCV, geographically I am in Peru, not finishing service until June 2020, and possibly being diagnosed with a rare and deadly jungle disease) and he didn’t scare off.
In fact, he asked: “So where are the deal breakers?” Plus thinks my vocabulary is hot. Which goes a long way when it has been one year of wearing “Service Goggles” and speaking Spanish at the level of a five-year-old.
Mr. Archipelago kept me nicely distracted and twitter-pated from the crushing reality of Mike and our adventures ahead. I refocused my energy on getting to know this person, being raw, direct, and open from the safe and sound digital shield of 7000 kilometers away.
And, yes, I have been here before, falling into the [idea of] romance through long distance correspondence without the benefit of the day-to-day quirks and stretch marks of real human personality.
Real life is ugly and full of moving compromise. Eyes wide open, I knew we were exchanging our neatly manicured and curated identities whilst enjoying each other’s attention and company. The butterfly stuff is forever fleeting and I wanted to know if this man had a backbone in real life.
By the time we logged multiple hours of video calls in the States, I told him I wanted to meet him before returning to Peru. The feeling was mutual.
I was falling hard and needed to check reality. And fast.
I texted: “What if we don’t like each other this much in person?” and his response was “Only one way to find out.”
So I booked a one-way ticket to Montana.
And estamos aquí. Here we are.
NO ONE PANIC. There were hemispheres of thought and caution and reason and checkpoints and safety nets built-in. I have two very dear and understanding friends in Missoula and secured warm and welcome landings. I made sure my medical teams cleared me to travel and waited until we knew I would tolerate the meds. And then me and Mr. Tinder Guy had some serious discussions and clarification of expectations and re-re-re-confirmations about meeting.
I was not about to mess up a potentially amazing relationship by forcing 1.5 years of dating into a five-night stand between medical tests at the NIH before returning to South America. I would remain light, open, and smart.
(And hey. It is freaking Montana. Sure beats holing up in a hotel room in DC with Mike and another sad med-evac roommate for 28 days.)
Tuesday I flew from Baltimore to Denver and learned all the flights into Montana were cancelled. I texted Mr. Archipelago and said he didn’t need to pick me up curbside anymore for our super-normal flavored boring lunch & errands First Date. I was running late, at the very bottom of the standby list.
I was in the Denver airport all day waiting for flights I would never get on. Trying not to take it as a sign. I had been up since 3:30am and hadn’t slept in two days and the floor wasn’t looking so great for a much needed nap. I was running on dopamine and butterflies-turned-pterodactyls in my stomach.
But I was still doing this. The thing. Being brave and vulnerable and one giant meteor super nova of light.
And waiting for me at the airport curb with heated seats and a winter hat and a hot tub of whiskey was one of the best humans I have ever met.
And that is this week’s punchline, Folks.
After only forty-eight hours, this seemingly great, highly talented, intelligent, funny man is also demonstrably self-absorbed, only arbitrarily kind, self-aggrandizing, not into me, and somehow “forgot” to mention he does not want to start a long-distance relationship while messaging me every single day the last 28 days?
Don’t be fooled by my bravado. This morning I feel like a swallowed battery acid. My heart feels broken but it is probably just sprained from collapsing a cement bridge of all text and no action. I have to update an audience of Team Jess the shame-loaded texts of “he’s not into me nor wants a long distance relationship.” I am going to eat cookie dough for two meals and not eat last night’s Rejection Elk* Dinner he drove roundtrip 1.5 hours to make for me on our second date in Amy’s kitchen (he personally hauled 16 miles last Fall because he is the Best Hunter in All the World — just ask Reddit.)
The hardest part is next: To keep bright, open, hopeful, and vulnerable and not stuffing this hot ungulate-innards mess into the stale, overdone narrative that it “never works out, I have terrible taste in men, I am not worthy of love.”
Nope, not this time. Boring. I am writing this plot twist as he was nowhere near my match and I scalpeled my way out of this situation evidently faster than I can escape Mike.
You know who is actually the best in all the world for me and the true love of my life?
Here I am Universe: Breaking wide open.
Vamos a ver.
Leaderboard: Site Mate B secured a tower of awesome from Serpost and everyone is waiting for me back in Oxapampa.
No later than 3/19:
c/o Cynthia Belt
5 Carvel Road
Annapolis, MD 21409