inder, Zoosk, eHarmony. These are a few of the dating sites I’ve tried — and left. Bored out of my mind. I never met anyone through them and the “conversations” I had were less than thrilling.
Living alone in the country doesn’t mean hiding away. I socialize. But now and then I’m seized by the nagging thought that I should “make myself available,” “find the right person,” and “live my life with someone as a couple.” I like the idea of sharing but it’s the actual practice of it I’m not sure I want. Nor am I scared of being alone: I rarely feel lonely and I have enough going on in my head that I’m never at a loss for things to do.
Still, a few weeks ago, I took a look at the personals on the local Craigslist site. As some of you probably know, the relationship prospects on Craigslist are pretty low: it’s for hookups and hookers. Skimming through them, though, one ad stood out. It was dated — maybe a month had passed since its posting. The writer was a widower with professional experience in the world of food, wine and art, now based in Tuscany, seeking friendship, and perhaps something more.
I wrote. He replied. We exchanged a few emails, photos, and looked at each other’s Linkedin profiles. We made a date.
When I went to meet him for the first time I was late. I am never late. It made me think of my sister who always suggested keeping dates waiting a bit, advice I’ve never been able to follow.
I had also forgotten what he looked like. So when I pulled up at the Arezzo train station and saw a handsome man, I was hopeful.
“Are you Peter?” I asked wishfully.
“No, sorry. Mistaken identity.” Indeed.
Thankfully, Peter recognized me.
We strolled and chatted. We visited city sights I knew well. I tried making some jokes, but it was too early for my wry sense of humor. I apologized for this and that; he held doors open for me; we made our way to a restaurant, and some clunky conversation followed.
Toward the end of the meal, after a few glasses of wine, we talked about why we were really there. He told me about his wife, who had died after a long illness, and about the depth of their relationship. How they played scrabble, shopped, and cooked together. How they gave each other room. I told him about my freedom, my love of laughter, the joy of being with friends and the peace I find at home, where I decide my work and writing schedule on a daily basis.
He told me how he was looking for a reason to stop moving. I told him that I wanted to be swept off my feet. Then it was time to leave. We paid the lunch bill and left.
In recent days I’ve thought a lot about Peter. As kind as he was, I don’t think I’ll see him again. The shadow of his deceased wife is one reason. But there’s more. I know that I’ll never stop moving, I’ll never be still. It’s the way my mind and heart work. It’s something that people who know me well come to understand.
The American poet Mark Strand, whom I had the fortune of spending some time with in the early 2000s (and who died recently), said it best in his poem, “Keeping Things Whole.”
In a field
I am the absence
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
to keep things whole.