When the bar staff finally kicked us out at closing time, we stood on the darkened street corner, swaying back and forth, not wanting to let the conversation end but not sure what to do. I watched him towering over me as he tried to figure out how he was going to bend down the foot between us to kiss me. I stepped towards him and back again teasingly, making it hard for him. Given the circumstances under which we'd met, I wasn't sure if kissing him would indicate I'd go home with him. None of my previous experience with dating etiquette had prepared me for how this scenario worked. I did know that I wanted to see him again. He followed me to my car, nervously passing his umbrella from hand to hand, until finally, we couldn't stand in the street anymore and I got into my car and drove away.

Regretting that I had kept him from kissing me, the next day I told him he should try again, knowing that I was drifting farther away from my plan to keep sex and romance comfortably separate. We met for dinner, which turned into drinks, which turned into kissing on the street corner, which turned into spending the night at his place, which turned into breakfast and then lunch and then plans for the next night.

I watched him towering over me as he tried to figure out how he was going to bend down the foot between us to kiss me.

Over the following weeks, I fell into a rabbit hole of long talks, not enough sleep, foot rubs, and eating ice cream from the carton. His basement apartment was like a hideout from my real life; in fact, for him, it was a vacation from his life back in Edinburgh. As much as I tried to postpone it, eventually I had to invite him over to my place, to see my real life. He checked out the photographs, artwork and books that were absent from his own temporary home. As we settled down onto my couch with takeout and a movie, things felt unsettlingly like an actual relationship.

Somehow we slipped from there into making plans to meet up after work, cooking dinner for each other, and carpooling in the mornings. At the height of our domesticity, he even fixed my laptop. For me, having someone in my space, brushing his teeth in my bathroom, taking up space in my bed, felt novel and strange — like a costume I was trying on to see how it fit. This was the closest I had been to a real relationship, but I was still holding back, knowing it was temporary.

One lazy evening, he asked me "What are you really afraid of?" After a few moments of silence, I managed to answer without making a quip, or turn the tables around with another question. I'm not sure I gave him the complete answer, but it was an honest one. Later that night, after a dinner of the worst Chinese food imaginable, we were strolling hand in hand in the darkness, and he said, "See, that wasn't so hard. You opened up and it didn't hurt." I did feel exposed and vulnerable, but I just nodded my head in silence. "It was good practice for the real thing," he added. I knew he was right. But by then, I didn't want this relationship to be practice. I wanted it to be the real thing.

This was the closest I had been to a real relationship, but I was still holding back, knowing it was temporary.

And what was he afraid of? He'd been married at nineteen, and when I met him, he was twenty-seven with a divorce not even finalized. His wife had left for a supposedly temporary trip home to Canada and just never returned, raising suspicions of an affair. He was afraid that he was unlovable, that no one ever had or ever would love him unconditionally. Maybe what he'd wanted was less a casual encounter and more simple reassurance, proof that he was loveable.

I knew that he had come to the States on an academic fellowship to get away from his past life for a while, to experience being single for the first time since he was a teenager. Having been married for seven years, he couldn't have been at a more distant end of the relationship-experience spectrum from me. The months and weeks we'd spent together were a tiny island in his romantic history, while they were a continent in mine.

Some weeks I did a better job at pretending that our routine was normal, pretending that he wasn't leaving, pretending that I'd be fine when he did. Walking through the door of my apartment after a long drive home from Atlantic City, I blurted, "We're home." He smiled, glad that I felt he belonged there. But I wanted to retract it as soon as I had said it. I was home, but he was far from it. We were just playing house, and soon I'd be in my apartment alone.

Finally, the inevitable came. We were out of time. Lying in bed, with my head on his chest so I couldn't see his face, I wanted to say so much. "Let me be the person who makes you know that you're lovable. I can be that for you. I want to be that for you."

But I couldn't say that out loud. All I could say was, "I'm going to be sad when you leave." Knowing there wasn't much he could say, he pulled me into a hug. "Who'll fix my laptop when you're gone?" I asked, embarrassed that my façade of nonchalance had cracked.

"You'll just go on Craigslist and find someone else to do it," he joked. I tried to laugh but I knew I'd never be on Craigslist again. Whatever I was looking for now wasn't going to be found in Casual Encounters — not a second time.

Commentarium (27 Comments)

Jun 03 11 - 1:03am

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it... but I was fervently hoping for a happy ending. You disappointed me, Nerve.

Jun 03 11 - 1:58pm
Alex Heigl

I'd rather have bitter accuracy than the sweetest lie.

Jun 03 11 - 3:32pm

Hell may be other people, but it's also the absence of other people.
My heart hurts a little after reading this. I need to go hug my girlfriend.

Jun 03 11 - 3:45pm

Cheer up, Alex.

Jun 03 11 - 2:26am

"The months and weeks we'd spent together were a tiny island in his romantic history, while they were a continent in mine."

How beautiful.

Jun 03 11 - 2:40am

Such a sad ending, I'd say chase him.

Jun 08 11 - 5:51pm

I did that - it didn't work w/o the "expiration date" stamped on it. It became old and moldy.

Jun 03 11 - 3:07am

Very touching.

Jun 03 11 - 4:33am

Having been in a long distance relationship, good job not getting tangled up in one even if your heart was begging you to. They're a recipe for disaster.

Jun 03 11 - 4:52am

Apart from the Craigslist beginning, mine is a very similar experience.

Met a guy on holidays, we both knew the deal but after a few weeks, found the same happiness, domesticity and regret at the soon-to-be separation. When he left, we kept it open, stayed in touch and ended up evolving into a long distance relationship (we're talking continents and time zones apart). Long distance turned into visits and holidays turned into him moving to my country....

Maybe the writer's story with this man hasn't yet ended. But I definitely felt exactly the same way when we parted ways the first time round and expected to realistically never see him again.

Jun 05 11 - 9:12pm

That's exactly my relationship story! Glad it worked out for you... and for me and my foreign guy. :)

Jun 03 11 - 11:23am

I met my OH in the Casual Encounter section of Craigs!! 18 months later we're still together and first few months was pretty bumpy but we're getting there!!! I wasn't looking for it and I doubt he was either... but I am glad I did!

Jun 03 11 - 12:37pm
Mike Pringles

Who said you're interesting, Rebecca?

Jun 04 11 - 3:39am

Oh, go back to your basement.

Jun 04 11 - 4:25am

Certainly not the very misinformed someone who said you should speak, meat puppet. Sheesh. Jealousy is quite unbecoming, is it not?

Jun 04 11 - 12:01pm

as someone who knows the writer personally, i can assure you that she is far more interesting than you, mike. she's also more creative, runs faster, and looks better in a bathing suit. so there.

Jun 03 11 - 3:34pm

I loved this. All the sweeter for the sad ending...

Jun 04 11 - 10:55am

Interesting sounds like someone I met on Nerve. I don't think I will ever see her again...

Jun 05 11 - 12:12am


Jun 04 11 - 1:27pm

I love a goo tragedy, it makes my life so much less depressing...

Jul 26 11 - 4:59am


Jun 09 11 - 6:20pm

The sad stories are always most likely to be true

Jun 10 11 - 10:40pm

It is interesting that in "Casual Encounters" you picked someone who you were attractive to intelligently. It sounds as if there was instant chemistry but both parties were afraid to pull the verbal intimacy trigger. It is going to be hard to let this one go. And I can see how this totally changed your mind on not wanting to go back to Craiglist's Casual Encounter. I think people THINK this is what they want, but what they are looking for is something casual with the potential of turning into something real. Sounds like you had it for that brief time and it is sad that it has ended, but i can guarantee you this. That guy is having the exact same thoughts. He is thinking about you and you are not going to be so easy to just shake off and forget. (Yeah I know the article author isn't reading this, but, it is what I do believe, is the truth).

Jun 13 11 - 1:44pm

Actually, the author is reading these. For those of you who are curious, I never saw him again. From our brief correspondence post his return home, I was pretty easy for him to shake off once his American adventure was over. Though I had strong feelings for him at the time, with two years in the rearview mirror, I can see that we weren't really right for each other but it was a huge growth experience for me.

Nov 21 11 - 3:51am

Enlightening the world, one heflpul article at a time.

Nov 21 11 - 2:15pm

1F9Bpf wtrzyboggrxy