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Amy Vander Heiden

Hi Matt (and Josh and Pierre),

I am single. Nothing new, I know, but I am a little dejected and disappointed, and the pandemic isn’t helping.

At the start of all the chaos in March, I was in Dallas, Texas (of all places) visiting my Nigerian boyfriend for spring break. (This is the same guy from last summer.) Luke was a Greek god in form and an average man in communication. The truth was we didn’t connect far beyond the physical level; we ran out of things to say to each other. I know what it’s like to be adored, and Luke didn’t adore me. Plus, he wasn’t planning on leaving Texas any time soon. The Tuesday after I returned--in a crowded plane where I was ironically seated next to a former student who had been visiting her boyfriend--I broke it off with Luke. We had planned to do our regular yoga-via-phone routine, but before we started, I blurted, “I think we should let each other go.” 

He paused for a time. “Well, we tried.” 

Obviously, the timing of the breakup wasn’t ideal. I left Luke quarantined in his one-bedroom Dallas apartment, and I was thrown into figuring out Distance Learning. Not wanting to be alone, I drove to my parents’ house in Appleton, WI to quarantine with them. Nothing says “dating” like a pandemic and your parents. Still, everyone is looking for love. At least, I was--or some kind of distraction. 

I logged onto one of the many trusty dating apps and started perusing. At the end of March, I matched with a short doctor who worked in Rochester. I thanked him for doing his job and helping people in such a dangerous time, and he asked me what inspired me to become a teacher. He sent me walls of text before I finally convinced him we should talk on the phone. And we did--for over an hour. He asked if I wanted to read a book together, and I was over the moon. The fastest way to my heart is through a book. I asked him what kinds of books he liked; he listed some Indian novels and mysteries. So, I picked Siddhartha by Herman Hesse--mostly because I was looking for an excuse to re-read it and the Hindu doctor seemed like he would appreciate some spirituality. I found a poorly translated version of the full text on Project Gutenberg (still love the website, though!), and I sent it to him. 

We journeyed with Siddhartha as he searched for enlightenment and peace, the doctor telling me about Indian culture and how to actually pronounce all the names and me asking him questions about awakening and worldly desire. We talked on the phone almost every night for over a month. I listened to him vent about stress, and he listened to me cry about my brother deciding to postpone his wedding. We had one FaceTime date where we each told stories as we colored a map of the United States to indicate which ones we had visited. The screen of his face was a little fuzzy, but he sent me selfies (too often) of his short beard and pretty eyelashes. He had a nice face, but I was falling for his voice and what I discovered as we talked. I watched the movie Her and wondered about the nature of relationships and intimacy. Though the doctor obviously wasn’t an operating system--he had a body--I was emotionally and intellectually connected to a man through my cell phone. He made me feel beautiful and special and joyful and he hadn’t even seen me in person. 

So. We decided to meet the second weekend in May. I know, I know: we broke all the social distancing rules. But, after over a month, we both thought it was time to determine what kind of relationship we had and were going to have. Because we couldn’t go anywhere “out,” he drove an hour and forty minutes from Rochester to my townhome. I had never had a first date at my house. I wouldn’t recommend it. As I waited eagerly on my couch, I kept thinking it would be wonderful if this were the man for me. Wouldn’t it be a great story to tell our future imaginary children? “I met your dad during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we talked on the phone for a month before we even met.” Plus, I had finished reading Love in the Time of Cholera just as things began shutting down in March. (In fact, Luke and I had watched the movie starring Javier Bardem in Dallas.) I thought the fates had aligned. 

But, I have found they rarely do. The doctor rang the doorbell, gave me a box of Cheerios (because I eat them for a nighttime snack), and we hugged. I pulled away and leaned in to kiss his scratchy, bearded face. Fireworks didn’t go off, but I thought maybe I had put too much pressure on the moment. Maybe the fireworks would come later. We spent the day together walking through a nearby park reserve, ordering takeout, finishing Siddhartha, and watching an Indian film. 

Later, we tried to make fireworks again. I think he felt them, but I wasn’t so sure. We discussed physical intimacy and learned that we did not have the same definitions. He was disappointed, and I was surprised. With that--after so much anticipation and hope--it abruptly ended. I think we’re both still perplexed.  

Relationships and dating are difficult no matter what. I fell for a voice on the phone, but even in a pandemic, I am reminded human bodies are tangible, complicated, and beautiful things. And the voice of a man is always attached to a body--and its organs. For over a month, I had someone thinking and caring about me, laughing with me. I tasted a renewed joy in connecting with someone and in the promise of what we could be together. And I’m grateful for that. 

I’ve probably said too much; Pierre and Josh would say I haven’t said enough. Really, I am doing well--I am healthy, and my family and friends love me from a distance. I’m just single. And, I really need a haircut. 

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