Not long after my mid-week trip to Santa Cruz (the last I would make as a freelance writer), I accepted an offer for a tech writing job in Silicon Valley. My whole world shifted from freelance to full-time, summer came quickly, and the calendar flipped through June, July, and August at rapid pace. By the time Labor Day rolled around, I’d all but forgotten about my trip to the tea house and my encounter with the man who had the big black dog and the very nice smile.
I became occupied instead with another man. This one had thick brown hair, dark focused eyes, and a dimple that he played up whenever he could. We’d crossed paths after a concert the summer before, and as luck or fate or misfortune would have it, ended up at the same venue the following season, only this time our tickets were side by side.
We began texting most nights and made plans every few days. He drove from the South Bay to the city just to buy me ice cream on my birthday and by the end of September we were dressed up and going to dinner. Everything about the evening felt airy and polished, from the silk dress and red heels I’d picked out in advance to the delicate glasses of Viognier on the table. As we sped through the night on our way back to Oakland, I told him how much I’d enjoyed the past month. I said I wanted to date. I wanted a relationship. I told him all of the reasons I thought we’d be good and all of the reasons I thought we should try. He accepted my words with a smile and thanks.
The evening ended in an embrace, which then turned into more, which is what I had wanted since the day I set eyes on him. Yet that night I went to sleep more anxious than excited. I heard nothing from the man for several days after.
We’d already made plans to grab food the next week, which he didn’t confirm until late Monday morning. I spent most of the work day rehearsing for the conversation I assumed would be coming with dinner. I shoved a fistful of justifications in one pocket and a notebook of dreamy ideals in the other. I wanted so badly for things to work out. But I’ve learned not to trust when I want things that much.
Later that afternoon I went for a run to clear my head. I pulled out my phone to put on some music, and noticed a missed call from a 650 number, along with a voicemail.
I pressed play.
“Hi Amanda…I know it’s been a while. A few months back you met a gentleman and his black dog on Montara State Beach. I believe we had dinner plans that fell through, so…hope you’re well and give me a call when you get this.”
I have found it to be both impossible and inevitable to live in concert with the forces that be, however you want to define them. Self-determination and hard work be damned. Sometimes the best path to getting what you want is releasing the desire to have it.
Of course, this is a useless endeavor when all of your heart hopes for something to happen—be it a promotion, pregnancy, opportunity, or relationship.
To be obsessed with a dream or captivated by a possibility can be blinding. The distraction of wanting what is just out of reach keeps us from seeing what is there for the taking.
I ignored the voice message, finished my run, and drove to dinner where, despite my best efforts, the conversation did not go my way. My earnest appeals fell flat on the table between us, and as hope was stripped away, I began to see reality for what it was, and what it was not. It was not what I wanted. I was not what he wanted, and that was not my fault. He’d been playing a game of “what if?”the whole time. And in the end, the connection I’d been so certain we shared, had all been on my side.
Out of some combination of curiosity and spite, I mentioned the voicemail from the guy from the beach.
“You should follow up on that,” the man said without a sign of emotion. It made me want to punch him straight in his dimpled face.
Instead, I got up to leave for my car.
Three days later I went back to voicemail, looked at the number, and pressed “Call.”