There is no such thing as love at first sight, but it’s easy to fall in love with a stranger.
They have no internal workings; just a shell that you find attractive. But you don’t know their mind yet. Whether they sleep naked or in a onesie. Whether they hate brussel sprouts or broccoli. Whether they believe in climate change or nationalism.
And that’s where the hope can lie, which is also closely related to luck and risk and all the other unpredictable nouns that we cannot really quantify, even whilst we live them. In a modern age, it can begin with a swipe and a thought.
Ooh, they look nice.
Maybe you read their profile and then start an exchange. You find that you’ve read a lot of the same books, but not all of them, so there’s something left to discover. You both like dogs and food markets and you grew up in a similar environment? Things are looking promising.
A series of encounters follow, and none of them disappoint. You’re in that very early place where you feel a connection because your make out sessions were all heat and no chill, and they made you laugh during the twenty hours total that you’ve spent with them, spread over a few dates. You start to think, maybe, maybe there’s something here.
You let your imagination run wild, the future by no means a certainty but definitely a possibility. Maybe you’ll take your new beau to the beach with friends, and your friends will love them and you’ll finally be “one of those couples”, and you’ll not be able to get enough of each other.
You play the highlight reel of your first night together on a loop in your head when you should be working, because how often do you get to enjoy these things without a hint of regret?
You muse about it and you tell a few friends.
Maybe, just maybe, this could be the thing I keep hearing about. That story of the couple that met online, could I be one of those couples?
So you hope with caution and stay cool. But you know also, that you’re letting yourself fall in love with a stranger. And it’s as real as the way you love your favourite TV shows or coffee order. Because it carries possibility with a big dollop of the unknown, because you don’t know them yet. You don’t know what happened to them the day before they met you, what they’re really thinking when they look into your eyes, what they’re really saying when they tell you they had a nice time with you.
And it’s so easy to do, because you’ve moved on from falling in love with potential – that was wasteful and a perfect place for heartbreak. No, this time you’re heavy into the possibility of what things could be, hanging all your hopes on something you can never even hold in your hands. And maybe everyone does this, has to do this, to keep going. To keep searching for the real love, the weighty kind that comes with anguish and depth and knowing someone so well you can imagine a whole conversation with them in your head, knowing that if you had it in real life, it would go exactly the same way.
But the beginning is love-light, love-beta, love-almost. It holds promise but not always of longevity. A lot of the time, a handful of dates can turn into a thimble of nothing. Because loving a stranger is just that. A strange thing, a thing you do not understand the whole of, that you are not the whole of. And sometimes strangers are destined to remain that way, because they have their own things and you ended up being just for a time, and not every stranger you meet is meant to remain in your life.
Yet it’s easy to love them, because they’re just a shell, an easy blank slate to project all your hopes and desires on to. Maybe you’ll turn the lights on and that blank slate will actually be full of pictures and projections that only appeared blank at first glance because there was so much. And maybe there’s no more room for you.
And maybe, there is.