It was a Saturday in February and I was in a grouchy, I’ll-never-find-love kind of mood. Someone from Friday night didn’t text back. I can’t remember whom at this point, but someone didn’t text back.
I was also grouchy because I had to trudge across campus through freshly accumulating, shin-deep snow to go to swim class. I was taking a swim class at age 27 because I hate swimming. Swimming is like running, minus everything that makes running enjoyable: scenery, music, the company of running buddies, and, let’s not forget, breathing. I hate swimming but feel like it’s the kind of healthy adult exercise that helps to stall your body’s deterioration to death. I ought to swim.
After swimming I feel exuberantly accomplished, as if I did something momentous and selfless for the good of humankind (this is exactly how I feel after a bikini wax, by the way). But before swimming I am consumed with dread (as I am before a bikini wax). The whole process is horrible: stretching the one-piece swimsuit from my crotch to my shoulders, submerging into the cold, sharing lanes, swimming for what must be 45+ minutes but is only 17. I find any excuse to not swim.
So in order to make myself swim I signed up for a nonrefundable $190 eight-week swim class. I went even when I was heartbroken because someone didn’t text. I went even when I had to trudge through the snow.
The class was taught by Betty Lou, a 60-year-old former US coast guard. Everything about her was taut: her skin, her gray ponytail, and her stance. She had that stiff walk of someone who is too jacked.
I arrived early and stood alone next to the pool, in my one-piece and swim cap. No one looks good like this, but I really look like a goober. My belly sticks out as far as my little lump breasts. Add the swim cap, and I resemble a prepubescent alien.
A strikingly beautiful man approached. He was gleaming Greek god beautiful, and considering he was wearing a Speedo, there wasn’t much left to imagine. Men this attractive usually do not register my existence, but he strode up to me with a friendly smile.
He looked just like this, but flesh tone and with a nose.
“The class starts at 1:30, right?” he asked.
“Yeah, maybe people are late because of the snow” I said as sexy as someone can say, “Yeah, maybe people are late because of the snow” while wearing a swim cap.
He lingered next to me with an expectant expression, like a golden retriever waiting for you to throw the ball. He wanted to continue the conversation. He was not reviled by my one-piece and swim cap.
Me: “So… are you new to the class?”
Him: “I’m usually in the Monday night class, but I’m doing a make up today. You’re usually in this class?”
Another guy appeared—his friend, who I recognized as an acquaintance from my undergrad days.
Other guy: “Heyyy. How are you?”
Me: “Gooood. How are you?”
Neither of us could remember the other’s name.
Me: “You’re in law school here right?”
Other guy: “Yeah, second year. You’re studying architecture?”
Other guy: “Right, right.”
The beautiful man reintegrated himself into the conversation. He stuck out his hand. “I’m Jason.”
Me: “Annelia. Nice to meet you.”
We shook hands and had a moment of intimate, penetrating eye contact. We were both smiling. There was something different about him. He exuded this ease and friendliness toward me, which most men don’t. I concluded that this must be what love at first site feels like.
Jason: “So archaeology? You dig up dinosaurs?”
Usually I am annoyed by this question, but since we were in love, I gave Jason a break.
Me: “No, just human stuff. But my office is in the natural history museum, so I see dinosaurs a lot.”
Jason: “Oh really? In the natural history museum? We have a formal there tonight!”
Me: “Really!? That’s awesome! I’m always there.”
Him: “Hey you should totally come!”
Me: “Yeah! That’d…”
Betty Lou: “Okay folks enough chatting! Into the water!” She gave us workout instructions and sent us to different lanes.
My thoughts were abuzz during my swim.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History is the closest thing I’ve had to a permanent home the past six years. My department and office are on the top floor. My mailing address is there. I buy my Christmas gifts at the museum gift shop (because it’s convenient and personal) and I force everyone I know to take a guided tour with me.
I love that museum and I am possessive of it. If the law school was having a formal there, no question, I was going.
That’s MY museum.
One hour and many laps later I said goodbye to my new friend.
Jason: “See you tonight hopefully!”
Me: “Yeah, I’ll try to make it,” I said trying to sound nonchalant.
He was definitely looking at me in a special way. Some way I wasn’t used to and couldn’t characterize, but felt was promising. Immediately I began imagining our lives together.
As I hustled home I called Ella, another female grad student in my department.
Me: “Hey what’s up?”
Ella: “Eh, nothing. I really need to work tonight.”
Me: “But I really need you to come out with me. I met this guy and I need you to be my wing man.”
Ella: “The guy from last night?”
Ella: “They guy you were chatting with at the party last night?”
Oh, the one who didn’t text me back. I completely forgot about him.
Me: “No, no. Someone else. I met this beautiful law student at swim class today and they’re having a formal TONIGHT in our museum! We have to go.”
Ella: “I can’t. I really need to work.”
Me: “No, we need to go to the formal. You can work in your office and around 9:30 we’ll just walk downstairs and happen upon the formal.”
She was convinced. We wore versatile dresses that fit the story, “I was just working in my office and happened upon this formal.” And at 9:30 we happened upon it.
Oh look, a formal. Good thing we wore these dresses to the office tonight.
We nibbled on crudité and sipped Sam Adams. Two beers later, there was still no sign of Jason, but I spotted our mutual friend and cornered him.
Whatshisname: “Hey so you did crash!”
Me: “Of course! This is my friend Ella. Another archaeologist.”
We chatted for the duration of our beers and then he started to shift, signaling an imminent end to our conversation. I had to cut to the chase.
Me: “So where’s your friend?”
Me: “The guy from swim class today,” i.e. Jason, my future husband.
Him: “Oh I haven’t seen him. Well nice seeing you. I’m going to get another beer…”
Me: “So is he single?”
Me: “The guy from swim class.”
Him: “I don’t know.” He started to walk away.
Me: “He’s really beautiful.”
Him: “Ha yeah, and super gay.”
Oh. That’s why Jason looked at me with unique ease and friendliness. Because he had absolutely no sexual interest in me.
I was crestfallen for a full six minutes until the DJ started playing a Kesha song that rejuvenated my disposition. Ella and I danced for three songs and then left the formal to get pizza. At that point in my night, and my life, I wanted a slice of pizza more than a husband anyway.
Slices of Otto Pizza. Way better than a husband right now.