It’s a sunny Sunday morning and I’m sitting in the kitchen with my girlfriend’s brother who is showing me the dating app Tinder.
He’s straight and single, and he’s an enthusiastic proponent of online dating. He displays his phone and flips through a blizzard of photos of single women — swiping right if he likes one, and left if he doesn’t.
“If I reject one, I’ll never see her again,” he explains, merrily left-swiping one poor girl into oblivion. “Once she’s rejected, Tinder will hide her from me forevermore.”
“Well, I’m glad Tinder wasn’t around when I first met your sister,” I say. “If it was, we wouldn’t be together today.”
“How come?” he asks.
“Because, 26 years ago, she swiped left,” I say.
I met her a quarter of a century ago in a pre-coming out group, which was designed to give women who were curious about the lifestyle a taste of gaydom before we decided whether we had a real appetite for it. It was sort of a nursery school for prospective lesbians.
This group proved to be one of the most important social experiences of my life. It’s where I met several women who would become lifelong best friends.
And it’s where I met the woman I would fall in love with — and stay in love with — for a quarter of a century, even though she was out of my reach for most of that time.
When we met, I was 25 and she was 24. We bumbled our way through a brief, charmingly innocent romance that left me hopelessly besotted, but which rattled her to the core. In 1990, it was still pretty scary to be gay, and much easier to embrace a conventional life than to take a chance on a wildcard like me.
So, she “ghosted me,” as the kids today like to say, disappearing from my life for over two decades. I spent those decades in the wilderness, trying — and failing — to recapture the enchantment of those few months with her.
I didn’t want to be in love with her. I tried to forget her. I regularly called myself stupid, a moron, a lunatic. Yet, the insults didn’t work. She lurked on the periphery of my heart, shooing away anyone who tried to get too close to it.
Then, last year, on the 25th anniversary of our first kiss, magically (through the power of Facebook) we reconnected. And even more magically, she was no longer afraid. In fact, she was raring to go!
“What took you so long?” she asked soon after we reconnected. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Suddenly, all those years of fruitless searching made perfect sense. I could never find a replacement for her because one didn’t exist. She is my person in this world, and I’m hers.
Just as I finish telling her brother this story, she pads into the kitchen wearing plush pajamas festooned in cartoon bears. She just woke up and is bleary-eyed. She glares at us, silently threatening us not to speak to her until after she has her coffee. She is not a morning person.
“What are you doing?” she asks, as her brother and I hover over his phone. She is pouring coffee into a mug, so it’s now safe to speak.
“He’s teaching me how to use Tinder,” I say. “Seeing what else is out there in case you get in the mood to ghost me again.”
She considers this for a moment while taking a long sip of coffee, and then walks over to me. With her index finger, she slowly swipes a line across my chest. “Too late,” she says. “I swiped right. You’re taken.”