Jake and I sat on a bench outside Prospect Park separated only by a pint of ice cream.
He had let me know in our initial chat that he was leaving our once-shared town of Burlington, Vermont to attend medical school in New York, and if I was down for something “fun and flirty,” he’d like to grab a drink. I had signed off on the agreement, but it was already complicated. Within our first three hours together, we had already spilled secrets over shared tacos. Then there we were on that bench, me with a stomach full of butterflies, feeling like I could take flight and float over the park. I decidedly was not looking for anything flutter-worthy, but there they were. I started thinking, love is capable of transcending miles, right?
Soon, I was flying to New York where we met up to spend however many minutes we could grab together. We drove from New York to Vermont, to my current and his past hometown, holding hands only to unlock from the clutch to reach for pizza we grabbed along the way. We danced — literally twirling and leaping — our way up a mountain. We plucked vegetables from the garden, cooked an elaborate dinner, and divulged intimate information over broiled tomatoes.
With every kiss on the forehead, interwoven finger, and slow dance in the kitchen, Jake cleared the layer of dust that had settled over my heart from relationships past. It felt safe to feel again. So I invested.
But then he was gone. He changed his mind about New York and decided to attend a program in Los Angeles. He headed to the coast opposite of mine rather than staying a few states away. Still complicated. Now also confusing. We kept each other up to date with our whereabouts via text and what our faces looked like after a long day and what ice cream cones we were eating via FaceTime. It seemed that we both wanted to extend the expiration date of our initial contract.
After a phone call during which we divulged a whirlpool of worries, we decided to do this. We missed each other. Even if our cities weren’t mutual, at least our feelings were.
Three thousand miles apart and dating. Thanks to FaceTime, we could minimize the distance, sort of. He showed me the palm trees that dotted his new neighborhood, and I sent him pictures of the Green Mountains. We might have been far apart, but we were also right there in each other’s pockets.
All long distance takes is heart, a plan, and no fear of flying. We met in New York twice. I flew in, fueling the whirlwind up and down flight from Burlington with anticipation and free snacks. It’s a delicate thing, dating someone casually long distance, because airfare is a commitment, even if you’re not defining your relationship as such just yet.
On our final meet-up in New York, after two months of FaceTime tag, we sat on a bench noshing on bagels. Jake told me he didn’t know how he felt about this whole thing. Being together for no more than 36 hours veiled our weekend with sadness. I soundtracked it with a lot of sighs. And I realized that sometimes the greatest distance can be felt in person.
Our circumstances had changed along with our cities. New schedules, fresh faces, and budding individual anxieties took away any light the little sprout of our feelings for each other required to grow into something big and strong.
Jake, who had willingly and on his own volition, flown across the country to see me decided to cancel our dinner plans in favor of eating with a friend, without me. Jake, who proposed it would be fun to spend the day at the farmer’s market followed by a visit to a dog adoption event, spent most of the daylight hours in bed. I, in response to the sudden shift in enthusiasm, shoved his arm away from my shoulder and asked him what he really wanted. He didn’t know, he wasn’t sure. Still. The not-so-great weekend ended with his text. “Honestly, I don’t feel a deep connection so I don’t want to continue this.”
Maybe seeing each other in person accentuated the dreaded distance that had led Jake to categorize the four-month ordeal as unhealthy in a matter of minutes.
But this isn’t a sob story. Yes, I did long-distance too soon. I might’ve cried into a bag of dark chocolate-covered pretzels for a week straight. I might’ve felt unlovable. But I also realized that I invested in more than just Jake. At the end of my week spent face-first in that bag of pretzels, I wiped my final tears away with 10,000 JetBlue points.
In the most rewarding karmic conclusion, I am whisking myself away on a solo trip to California, paid for with the points I got out of this too-soon-long-distance fiasco. The week-long excursion will consist of tacos, silky sashimi, and attempting to stretch the lifespan of my summer tan through the winter season. I’m traveling across the country to revive the solo strength in me, which was nearly compromised. I might not be flying into the romantic sunset. But this storybook wellness journey will conclude with sunrise yoga and still-in-season tomatoes.
Jake and I might not have worked out, but my relationship with the friendly skies is soaring.