I met my first love during Dead Week. Or, at least I thought I did.
Over Thanksgiving break, inspired by a breakup that left me morose and in a creative funk, I created an OkCupid account. I wasn’t sure about how I felt about this app, which I had unceremoniously referred to as “Tinder’s uglier little brother.” But I was heartbroken, bored and had no inspiration to write, so I created my account and waited.
The next Monday, back in Berkeley, I was biding my time in Main Stacks before a review session when my phone buzzed with a notification from OkCupid: “You’re pretty,” accompanied by heart-eyed emoji. He was sexy: a Bernie Sanders- and music-loving UC Berkeley student whose photos showed off an easygoing smile and warm eyes. After receiving more awful OkCupid messages than I could count, I was more than willing to give this cute boy a chance.
We shot messages back and forth for a while, agreeing to meet that night for my ideal date: star-gazing plus Chipotle. Even over text, conversation flowed like we had been friends for ages. When we met in person, it was no different, and by the end of the night, I was convinced that he was to bring about a tectonic shift in my life. The attraction was electric, magnetic, chemical. That first night, we revealed that we thought we were falling for one another. We broke from kisses to stare at one another and marvel. Within two days, we had vocalized what seemed to be a miracle: We loved each other.
Yet the hopeful, romantic interactions were not what they seemed. Over the course of less than a week, our relationship descended from its pedestal into a perverse parody of romance. After our first “I love you”s, my OkCupid boy and I had grown intensely awkward with one another. I wanted to talk things out, and he didn’t. He wanted a threesome, but I didn’t. At random times, he would pinch me hard enough to leave a bruise. Only half-jokingly, I addressed him, “Satan?”
By the end of the week, my relationship woes had left me with such overwhelming anxiety that I could barely drag myself to class. When he asked me to come to his residence hall Saturday, I responded “yes,” angry, resigned and worried.
Once there, he extended a water bottle in my direction. “What’s in it?” I asked. “Tell me if it tastes weird,” he responded. I raised the bottle to my lips and took a swig, repeating my question. “It’s strattera and vyvanse,” he answered. “It’s going to make you really horny.” I asked with horror if he had drugged me. He answered lightly, “I drank some, too.”
Before I left his residence hall that day, we had one final conversation about our relationship. He implied that I had been too quick to call what we had felt love. I shot back: “Don’t you dare. You said it first.” He shrugged his shoulders; I offered that we both got carried away. He said he had to get ready to see his friends. I packed up my bag and left his room feeling like I was swallowing sand.
On a recent brunch date with family friends, my mom told me about an experience she had as a young woman, when she narrowly escaped kidnapping by a romantic interest. She concluded the story with the rhetorical question, “Where do you draw the line between adventure and safety?”
Risk-taking, haphazard adventures, impulsive decisions: These are the meat of life and love. So much of what is meaningful and worthwhile about romance — the sexiness, fun and excitement — is born from laughing at the odds of falling into danger and heartbreak. Adventure and safety live at opposite ends of a canyon. We must all decide if we are to walk the tightrope that bridges the gap between them.
I took a chance on something I thought to be love, and I ended up with ADHD drugs in my water bottle. After the breakup, I was left feeling like I was constantly bleeding. I couldn’t reconcile the two sides of this man, who stole my heart one day and drugged me on another. In spite of all this, I have never once regretted my leap into this experience.
Risk bodies forth meaningful, transformative experiences. Though the encounter is still real and painful, I recognize its worth. Perhaps the best days of our lives are the most memorable — but the worst have the power to change us like no other.
I have a clumsy heart. My love trips and falls flat on its face. I get my heart broken easily and often, find myself in circumstances dangerous and uncomfortable. Yet I still believe in taking chances. I am living, loving, learning — for only great adventures can come of those flights from the familiar into the unknown.
Contact Sarah Coduto at [email protected].