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• 920 words • 4 min •
NOTE: Sorry this episode is so late, and so disjointed. My life’s been a bit of a mess recently, and on top of that – Sandoval’s story is an emotional one for me, as you’ll see in this episode and the next two. Please have patience!!
Did I mention Sandoval was ten years older than me? He officially has the biggest age gap of anyone I’ve ever dated. I was intimidated by the writing career he’d already had, his vocabulary and experiences I didn’t share. But I found him fascinating. He was charming and silly, went along with all of my weirdness – from making him download Snapchat to listening to me gush about every cool thing I was reading or playing.
I tend to flirt by teasing people, so of course I teased him about being old any chance I got.
“Be careful,” he said once. “I’m not afraid to pull out the ‘you’re picking on an old blind guy’ card.”
He introduced me to Fallen London, a game that let me play as a nonbinary gender, or as the game called it a “Person of Mysterious and Indistinct Gender.” I absolutely loved this, and love Fallen London for having an inclusive nonbinary option. Sandoval began referring to me by my Fallen London gender in real life, which was hilarious and amazing.
Sandoval was so much fun to talk to, bounce ideas off of, engage in nerdy debates out of nowhere with. I talked about him all the time, and our conversations bled over into my relationships with everyone else. I endured a lot of teasing for this. I was so excited about this new person I’d found and every amazing, hilarious thing that he did or said or thought.
He was a very bright spot during a couple of heartbreaking weeks. I finally severed ties with my best friend, and I was… lost. And mourning. Countless times every day I’d pick up my phone to text her or forward her a meme… and then remember we were over. Chris works nights and Cute Boy lives 40 minutes away, and there were a lot of nights when I just needed to be around someone so I didn’t spend all night crying on my couch.
One of these times, I texted Sandoval and asked if he wanted to get baconator fries from Wendy’s at like 9 pm, and we sat in my car and ate fries and talked until the streets were empty of traffic.
It’s hard to convey the feeling of talking to someone for hours. Where the rhythm of telling stories and taking turns and following the ebb and flow of subjects comes so naturally and engages you so fully, time stops mattering. You have nowhere else to be, and even if you did need to get some sleep to work in the morning, you’d still choose this conversation with this person.
It was the same magic that drew me in on our first date, and kept me in a freezing cold car in a Wendy’s parking lot until long after the restaurant had closed.
I hauled him out there for company, to distract me from sitting in my house and grieving the complicated loss of someone who hurt me on a regular basis, but who I still deeply missed. We talked about her, and about how I was doing, and about how he handled cutting off toxic people in his own life. But really, the conversation wandered all over the place, covering how he met his friends, the pro’s and con’s of different tabletop rpgs, and the time he met a friend from the internet and ended up hooking up with her and dating her for years afterward.
I drove him home and walked him to his front door, and hugged him quick and fast, burying my face in his sweater and clinging a bit before skipping back off to my car. He always seemed so surprised when I hugged him goodnight. When I picked on him for it, he told me “my arms were suddenly full of a small, soft person. There wasn’t a lot of thinking going on.”
The first time I met Cute Boy, I was entirely smitten with him. When I met the boy and the nonbinary cutie I dated in the past year (we’ll get to them!) – my heart was shining and warm, giggly-giddy and so delighted by these humans I had found. But my feelings for Sandoval were different. I felt like I could share anything and everything with him, and he’d be interested in it. Like I wanted to show him things and hear his thoughts on every new thing. There was a strong intellectual connection – we shared a lot of the same tastes and opinions, and the opinions we didn’t share, we could talk about without it turning into an argument. I hadn’t had that with someone in a long time, maybe not since I dated another writer just out of college.
I foresaw only good things happening between us, and I was excited to see what they were, but I was also just enjoying this budding new relationship for what it was, and I was happy to go slow and see what happened next.