We met in a bar. That’s where everyone meets. When couples tell me they met while mountain climbing, or glass blowing, or bow hunting, what they usually mean is that they saw each other while doing some activity, and then actually got to know each other at the local saloon.
I, however, met her in a bar. I had just finished performing at a comedy club in Edmonton and headed down to that bar with a sad-sack clique of ambitious and insecure fellow comics. It wasn’t long before the high of the stage had burned off, and I found myself scribbling into my Moleskine notebook. That’s when we met.
She shook her hand in front of my face and asked what I was writing. “Jokes,” I replied. “I’m a comedian, sort of.”
From that moment on, we didn’t stop talking. She wasn’t too impressed with my being a comedian (not the most financially or emotionally stable occupation), but she did like writing. She was a writer. She started quizzing me on what books I had read, who my favourite authors were and whether or not I thought The Catcher in the Rye held its own when reread in your 20s.
This was the girl of my dreams. She was outrageously beautiful, smart, funny and intense, and though we came from different cities, we could trace our lives in parallel by the books we had both read. When I told her that in high school, I spray-painted my shoes gold in an ode to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, she asked if she could kiss me.
In one of our brief pauses between literary criticism and lip locking, she excused herself to the bathroom. I was in a daze when the bartender told me I had to leave: “She’s not going home with you, and it’s time for you to go.”
I didn’t take it personally. I knew she was friends with the staff and they were just looking out for her. I was clever enough to already have her name and number in my fabulous magnet of a notebook. Plus, I had given up my hotel room to save money and was sleeping in my car. So, really, it just saved me the embarrassment.
Falling asleep in the front seat of a 2003 Chevrolet Impala had never been so easy. I woke up when people started driving to work, went to the truck stop for a shower and planned to call my brother to borrow money (I had spent every last cent buying her drinks) so I could take that girl, that wonderful girl, to lunch.
I called her just after noon and was greeted by an unfamiliar voice. She had given me a fake number. Well, not fake – it just wasn’t hers. It was the number of her friend, who worked at the bar. I gave her my number and requested that she tell the woman of my dreams to call me back ASAP.
I never received a call, which was just as well – I didn’t know how I would pay back my brother. After the next show, I drove back to my home in Saskatoon, and flipped open my laptop to look her up on Facebook.
She didn’t exist. Well, the name she had given me didn’t exist. Maybe it was a dream? Did I really think someone so perfect could actually exist? That there was a woman out there who liked everything I liked and was turned on by nerdy footwear odes? I must have had a self-indulgent delusion brought on by intense loneliness and vehicular slumber.
I spent the next four months trying to convince people that I had found the love of my life, a person who really “got me,” and that she lived in Edmonton and was real. It became a running joke at the local open-mike night, and pretty soon it was just a joke to me too.
Then she added me on Facebook.
She apologized for giving me the fake number, and explained that the fake last name was her mother’s maiden name. Perfectly reasonable explanations, I thought, almost too reasonable, so I checked to make sure my computer was on and got my roommate to read the message too. I wasn’t sure if delusions were cyclical, and I wasn’t taking any chances.
We started messaging back and fourth. It was like we were back in the bar again. She existed, she really did, and I had never met anyone like her in all my life. She told me she would love to see me again, and I told her I was moving to Edmonton.
That wasn’t true. I hadn’t planned on relocating to a different city. I called a friend I knew who lived there and asked if I could crash on his couch for a week or two. I packed up my stuff and drove. I never told anyone what I was doing.
It must have been my lack of variety in clothing, or the fact that my friend already had a roommate, that indicated to my sweetheart the impulsive nature of my presence there.
“Listen, this could be over at any time, but right now I don’t want it end. Why don’t you move in with me? I’ll just kick you out if I get tired of you.” That’s all she had to say. We spent the next week on a French holiday, staying in, eating brie and drinking wine. At the end of the week, I called my landlord in Saskatoon and gave my notice.
About a month later, I had to explain to all my friends back home that I had moved to Edmonton, that I had found the love of my life and that this wasn’t an elaborate joke.
It’s commonplace now to scoff at love. Being cynical, bitter and realistic are signs of intelligence. I do it every time I’m onstage. It’s funny to be cynical, but being in love makes you act funny.
We’ve been together for more than two years now. After getting engaged last June, we decided to celebrate by visiting my family in Ottawa and experiencing Canada Day in the capital for the first time.
While riding in the back of a rickshaw through a crowd of thousands all hoping to get a glimpse of the Royal Couple on Parliament Hill, we noticed the lengths people go to for a glimpse of love. All we have to do is look over at the next pillow.
York Underwood lives in Edmonton.
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