Team Taco™. Friends. Another month has passed. Are we better for it? Unlikely. Are we stronger for having lived through it? Not so much. I really have to stop blaming my exhaustion on the weeks and instead lay the blame at late-stage capitalism's feet.
But since we're speaking of said exhaustion, I screwed up and this month's salsa will be next week. Don't worry. It'll be worth the wait. No time like the present to give me $2.
"What's her name?"
It's a simple question that I should've known the answer to — I had been talking with her for ten minutes. I'm at a surprise birthday party for a friend and a cute woman shows up with a stack of donuts. I've had a couple of expensive, mediocre beers at this point, but I'm not drunk. Just drunk on love.
"I don't know... but I did tell her that I think I love her?" I reply.
"Typical." A pause.
"Maybe go back and try again and get her name this time?"
That's the beginning of how I met my partner. A friend pushed me to go talk to her again and I did. I'm pretty good at the story now. I know the beats that'll make people laugh. The jokes to throw in, the details to weave here and there or leave out. I've told the story often enough.
But I was in love with her from the moment I saw her. She was in charge of bringing the donuts to the birthday party; the stack was up to her nose. The rest of her face revealed itself to me as more people took the boxes away. Oh god, freckles. A good smile? Nailed it. She looks grumpy. It's probably because she had to pick up the donuts. I don't blame her. She looks much less grumpy now. Someone needs to get this woman a beverage.
Today is almost exactly eight years to the day of seeing her for the very first time. I still look at her and notice new things. A new facial expression or nose twitch. A different laugh. Our internal language has developed — a single noise is enough to convey paragraphs.
I've always been a believer in love at first sight. And there I was, experiencing it firsthand. Holy shit. Leaning against the wall of a dimly lit bar, day drinking, my life is changing, and I know it. I already know how our story goes.
Her name is Jenny — Jay to her friends.
We fall in love that night at the bar and head back to my place. I cook dinner for her – something spicy. Yakisoba noodles with roasted carrots, mushrooms, and a poached egg. We walk to ice cream down the street, and have a night cap at the weird bar that looks like it was made for Kerouac. (But only the Kerouac that exists in a stoned Portlander's mind, not a place he'd actually want to go.) She's funny. She works in finance, but she's quitting soon to pursue her dream. We don't get around to talking about what her dream is. We'll come back to it later.
We don't sleep together that night. We just make out a little bit and fall asleep on my MALM bed. I'm a twenty-something in Portland. I'm not proud of the bed, but it's what I've got to work with.
I wake up before her and slip out to get us coffee from a place down the street. Pick up two bagels — one vegan, because I listened last night when she told me "I don't eat cheese." I wake her up when I come back. She sits up in bed — the sheet slips a little — and asks what's for breakfast. I feel incredible for remembering to get Jay vegan cream cheese. How is this real life?
She lives in NE Portland. Not close, but not far. We'll figure out the bus schedules later. For now, I'll just drive my comically large 1997 Suburban down the side streets of NE Portland looking for a place to park. I spend the night at her place.
I just signed the lease on my place in SE Portland. I'll move into her place eventually — it's bigger. But we have to spend the first 11 months of love traveling back and forth. Two busses and a walk. One bus and a long walk. A 14-minute, $12 Lyft. We have two apartments; we alternate which is our home.
She tells me her dream is to make jewelry. Not complicated jewelry, with a lot of twists and turns. Brass. Simple, statement pieces. My background in photography and web design is gonna come in handy. I'm going to do the branding work for her to help set her up for success. This is gonna work.
When we talk about Jay's jewelry, we use the shorthand of JJ. It eventually becomes the mark we use in the brand. This is working. She quits her finance job.
We move to the Oregon Coast because it's cheaper to have a studio out there. We set up a shop on the boardwalk in Manzanita, Oregon. I miss Portland, but Manzanita living is as good as it gets. Mornings on the beach. Afternoons in the studio. A weekend hike with friends from the city. Beers at a brewery in Astoria.
Jay and I are happy. We're not without our problems, but we lean on each other. It's a team and we're both showing up. Yes, it was love at first sight, but it's so much more than that.
I'm back in that bar. The first time we met. I'm saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name when we talked before. We can't be in love if I don't get your name — what is it?"
"What do you do?"
"I'm an international student advisor — I help kids from all over come study English and get visas."
I've always been a believer in love at first sight. And here I was, experiencing it firsthand.
Her name is Alyse — Alyse to her friends.
We don't fall in love that night. Well, I'm clearly smitten with her. But she's not so sure about me. She lives in Tacoma, Washington. It takes some time for her to come around, but we eventually start dating. Our first "we're dating, y'all" date is to a Postal Service concert. I spend a lot of time on the Amtrak between Portland and Tacoma. She moves four months later. A few years later, we're moving to Montana. Then the Netherlands. Now Mexico.
It's our story, and I know it well. It exceeded the one I wrote in my head instantly upon seeing her.
But that doesn't stop me from writing a new one for every other person I see. Because I fall in love with every single person I see. It's not a hopeless romantic thing so much as an overactive imagination thing. This happens literally with every person I meet and speak to.
Our British neighbor across the complex from us with a pregnant wife and teen? We've got too much in common to say no.
The guy who dropped off my tacos? He's been working out, I bet we'll get into couple's work-outs.
This flight attendant who keeps offering me refills? It's destiny.
Someone faved a tweet? A romance of the century.
You subscribed to Taco Report? Best get your sunglasses on because our future is bright.
I don't know when it started — maybe it's a byproduct of going to 1st through 12th grade with the same twenty people. Maybe it's just how my pansexuality manifested itself. I couldn't change it if I tried.
Every person I explain it to has a different reaction. It's weird. It sounds exhausting. That's hot. It's incredible. How unique.
But to me, it's just what happens.
TACO TOTAL — 803/2021
This Week's Taco Total — 60
April Taco Total — 194
I remember a time that I was worried about reaching my goal in time. Foolish boy.