It was the spring of 2016. I had been vacationing in New York City with my mom and my sister for weeks. Everyone was exhausted, which made it easier for me to sneak out and to explore the city on my own… or to go out on a date without getting suspicion about my whereabouts. It was the perfect time for a fling, except I didn’t realize how much of a problem the timing would be, that I would fall in love so quickly with a week left before my flight back home to Manila.
On the night that we matched on Tinder, I had just returned from a week-long side trip in Toronto. Diego super-liked me, and honestly, I only swiped right because it was the nice thing to do. I had been discouraged by a previous super-liker, who wrote in his profile that “super-likes are accidents.” Besides, I didn’t think he was cute. He looked so gangster in his pictures, and knowing that I would have to meet him someplace downtown alone, I wasn’t exactly feeling sanguine about my safety. Thank goodness he linked his Instagram page. Twenty minutes into it, I felt that I owed him an apology. In the right outfit, he was a gentleman, and mixed with his gangster selfies, he looked like a bad guy I can make good for a weekend.*
As much as I wanted to, I didn’t start a conversation with him that night. I just didn’t have the energy to start and to keep one flowing. I had an early day ahead of me, and I didn’t want to compromise it because I wanted to make the most out of my last few days in my favorite city in the world.
At around noon on a rainy Thursday, I was sitting near a restroom in MoMA, fiddling with my recently purchased Apple Watch, which had began acting up and stopped sending me any information. Once I got it to work, I invited my mom and my sister to view my favorite painting—Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
I loved that painting for two reasons. The first and more obvious was it was beautiful. The other, it was from the Impressionist Era, an art movement that I adored and on which I could re-enact my favorite scene from Gossip Girl. In the scene, we see Blair Waldorf admiring Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe in la Musée d’Orsay in Paris. A handsome man, who later in the episode reveals himself to be a prince, approaches her to ask her if she likes Manet and to tell her that he has seen her there before, but lacked the courage to speak to her. In perfect French, Blair introduces herself and responds that she loves Manet, and explains, “I love the Impressionists. It should have emboldened you, no? You know now that I’m a romantic.” In my best Blair Waldorf impression, I said that same line in broken French on Snapchat, and immediately after I sent it, I got a notification on my watch, which made me happy because I knew it was working. I was expecting an error message from Snapchat, but I was surprised to see that it was from Tinder.
Diego sent you a message.
I’m struggling to find the right words to describe how I felt at that moment. Surprised, definitely… baffled, maybe. Did that really just happen? Did my prince say hello while I was looking at my favorite painting just after I said the same thing Blair Waldorf said while looking at her favorite painting when her prince said hello? YES HE DID.
The next days I spent museum hopping and losing myself in amazing conversations with Diego over Kik. Those started with him ogling over how regal my name sounded and detesting his for being so basic, a facet about him that isn’t true. Then they evolved to him asking why I was on Tinder, which I answered honestly—I wanted to hookup with as many men as I can because a) I wanted to get back at the guy who stood me up in Toronto, and b) I am nobody’s type in the Philippines. When he said that he wanted to take me out on a serious date because I didn’t look nor sound like the type who went on random hookups, I swooned.
It took a bit of negotiation to schedule a date with him. While I was in my last few days in the city, he was in his first. All that waiting made me crave being with him even more. I was desperate to hug him, as a thank you for making me feel blissful again. Then, I thought that the timing was a win-win because we finally settled on a date to date. We were to meet on my last day in New York. We both felt pressure to make sure we would have a good time, considering that it would be my last day and that I would be the first guy he would ever date. If it’s terrible, great. It was going to be my last day, and I would never have to see him again.
When that day came, I was nervous because I had loaded so much on it. In the morning, my sister and I made our way to Queens to visit a relative who introduced us to David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends). On the subway back to Manhattan, my sister dropped a few hints that she had wanted to go with me on a last-minute shopping excursion in SoHo, which was my alibi to get away and go out with him (although there really was one more thing on my shopping list). To top it all off, I had a 3pm deadline to reconvene with my family in Times Square before heading back to our hotel.
He knows how it goes on from here, but I never tire of recollecting how perfect that date went because I’m thankful for everything that happened during.
I’m thankful that he showed up on time and for letting me hug him and speak so close to his face even though I had coffee breath from drinking a latte, which I had bought ten minutes prior to meeting him to calm my nerves. I’m thankful that he took my suggestion of getting pizza at Lombardi’s even though it was in the opposite side of the city and way downtown. I’m thankful that he accepted my MetroCard, and that he did not judge me for being a bitch to an old Indian dude who asked us for help but could not understand what the hell was going on. I’m thankful that he was open about his anxiety because it made me feel that I wasn’t alone in what I was dealing with.
I’m thankful that he let me know that I chose a good spot for a first date by complimenting the music, when he knew so much about it. I’m thankful that he had two slices of pizza when he told me that he was on a clean diet and that his grandma fed him before going out to meet me. I’m thankful that he assured me that we were on a date when I had to ask. I’m thankful that he bought my explanation that I wasn’t into fit guys when I was dumbstruck about how hot his brother was. I’m thankful that he split the bill with me and that he left a huge tip to let the waitress know that we had a great time. I’m thankful that he carried the bag of our leftovers.
I’m thankful that he intertwined his fingers with mine without me asking if I could hold his hand. I’m thankful that he let me hold his hand while walking around SoHo when I knew how paranoid he was, that one of his cousins might find him in the city holding hands with another guy. I’m thankful that he said that the backpack I bought was cute. I’m thankful that he exclaimed, “YASSS!” when he learned about Petal Dior’s (my drag name) drag aesthetic. I’m thankful that he let me steal kisses while in that furniture store and in Forever21. I’m thankful that he reminded me that I had people to meet at 3pm without making me feel that he wanted to end the date.
I’m thankful that he made me laugh about a couple of bad decisions that I made in the days preceding our date. I’m thankful that he didn’t get angry when I made him walk for a while when we both needed to pee. I’m thankful that he asked me to sit with him before his bus to New Jersey arrived. I’m thankful that he kissed me when he had already said no when I asked. I’m thankful that he promised to wait for me to come back to the city. I’m thankful that he told me how much he would miss me when I left. I’m thankful for everything.
A few days after I arrived in Manila, he had asked me to write about us. Whatever I had written for him was already partially written before we even met. I wrote it on my flight back to New York from Toronto, still on a high from my favorite YouTubers’ wedding ceremony. I had written my wedding vows to my future husband. While we didn’t get married in the end, nor did we last longer than a month doing everything we could have done given our physical distance, at the time, I didn’t realize how soon the words I put in paper would be applicable to a boy who saved me from heartbreak… and for that, I will always love him. Always.
*Taylor Swift, please don’t sue me.