Last night, I sat with my iPhone out on my bedside table. I was staring at it waiting for the text box to light up. It was an hour before my second (damn) date with Mark*, the best date-asker-outer known to woman. Although Mark had confirmed our date, even told me what time he would text me and offered to pick me up at my place, I couldn’t stop the dark cloud from approaching overhead.
I recalled all the other times I had been staring at my phone waiting for a guy. The memories played like a tragic montage. Me, 19 years old, sitting in my dorm room, waiting all night for a guy — who asked me to hang out! — to call. He never did. Me, 21 years old, waiting for the man who I thought was my boyfriend to come over to my place. He never showed up. I never spoke to him again. I still don’t know what happened. Me, 26 years old, staring at the phone knowing that the only guy who had ever truly loved me would never call me again because I had just broken his heart by falling for someone else. Me, 29 years old, waiting for a dude I had been dating for a month to tell me where we were meeting for dinner. He forgot about our date altogether.
My mind returned to the present. I began to imagine the worst. Mark never texting. Mark never showing to pick me up. Mark calling and canceling. Mark deciding suddenly he didn’t want to see me again and not having the decency to tell me. Mark using me for some godforsaken reason I couldn’t dream of. Mark blindsiding me. My mouth started to get dry. My palms started to sweat. I felt like I might throw up.
I can’t do this. I can’t go through this again. Maybe I should just call and and cancel on him. I’m ashamed that these thoughts were my own. Mark had done nothing to deserve them.
I think I suffer from post traumatic dating disorder. Dating can be very traumatic, as many of us know. Not as traumatic as fighting in a war or being violently attacked, of course. But love is a war that enacts violence on your heart. After so many years, I’ve ceased to be able to imagine peace. I am ruled by fear. My heart exists in a state of panic.
I started to tear up longing to be 19 again and never being able to imagine that a guy I met in my dorm’s dining hall would ask me to hang out on Saturday night with no intention of doing so. I wished I was the kind of woman who thought relationships just worked out because you loved someone. I wanted so badly to go back to being able to expect the best of my potential love interests, to not have these awful thoughts accompany what should be a joyful exploration. I just want simplicity and hope.
At that moment, Mark texted me.
“I’ll be there in 10! Can’t wait to see you!”
He was right on time. So sweet and so unassuming. He expected the best of me. He knocked on my door holding a red rose and kissed me gently on the lips.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Much better now that I’m with you,” Mark replied.
After war comes peace. At least that’s what I’ll try to keep reminding myself.