Soulmates for Cynics

After all the trauma and wall-building which followed my divorce, I finally began to heal, relax, and open myself up to new possibilities. Naturally, I met someone I’d never met before who had been with me all along. If Soul Mates are possible, he is mine and I am his. We were strangers then, but I feel like I’ve known him my whole life, or longer.

This is the story:
I sat in the back row of (Theme Park Holiday Job) Orientation, between my friend Lindsay and a guy I didn’t know. Who apparently I knew very well already…
I asked him if this was his first Theme Park Holiday Job and he replied that no, he’d done a few- he was from Orlando.
(You don’t say! I’m from Orlando!)

Yes, he used to work at Theme Park, and performed as Taylor at the Theme Park Stunt Show.
(Omigosh, me too!)

We kept cracking jokes and making each other giggle like kids in the back row of class.
At some point, I remarked that “Goonies” was the greatest movie ever made and his eyes lit up as he pulled out his phone to show me photos of the tour he took to Astoria to see the film’s locations. As he’s flipping through pictures, I recognize my favorite tree from my favorite hike.
“The Magic Tree! In Burbank!” I exclaim, excitedly.
“You know this tree?” His eyes sparkle.
“I love this tree!”
“Me too! Dude- do you like hiking?”
Of course I do. We both do.

I’m telling him that I like to write, I do sketch comedy and I’m interested in getting started in stand-up.
He tells me he hosted stand-up comedy on the cruise ships he worked on last year.
Before that, he lived in Japan and performed as a Doc Brown, teaching himself to speak about time travel in Japanese.

OK, that one threw me- I don’t have experience with any of that, until he says:
“I took my fish-out-of-water experiences and turned them into a series of blogs, and last year I compiled them into the first draft of my novel.”
Um… I finished compiling my blogs into novel form last fall. First draft, ready to rock.
This is unbelievable…

I told him I was going to go grab dinner with Arnie and Michele from Orlando- Michele was a Taylor in the Theme Park Stunt Show too! Why don’t you join us for dinner?
He knows Arnie and Michele already.
We’re going to Hard Rock, because I get an employee discount there.
Cool! He used to bartend at Orlando’s Hard Rock!

OK, now it’s just getting freaky.

We waited for our friends and swapped “my summer job as a comedy improv performer at Theme Parks” stories (he was a Dino Chaser, I was a Tacky Tourist) and discovered we have quite a few other friends in common. I make a mental note to hit these people up later.
Dinner is fun, and afterwards, he walks me to my car when Michele and Arnie split off for coffee.
We started towards the parking lot walking with the couple between us, but my heart quickened as I watched him increase his pace and circumnavigate the group to walk by my side. His pace matches mine exactly.

Even though we had each other’s contact info from our Orientation paperwork, he asked if he could get my phone number in case any Orlando-related emergencies popped up.
I gave him my number, knowing he’d be texting soon, and then felt the strangest urge to kiss him goodnight as if we’d been on a date and hadn’t just met 6 hours before. It was weird- so instead, there was a lingering double-hug and then I left the garage, leaving him to wander and find his car.
His car had been parked pretty much next to mine, all along.

I walked into my apartment and was telling both my roommates that I’d had the strangest experience of feeling totally connected to a near stranger, when my phone alerted me that I’d received a text.
“That’s him, making sure I got home ok.”
And it was.
I store his number in my phone, after securing permission to rename him. His name is William, but he goes by his middle name of “Matt” because his is a “the third” in his family and it helps differentiate.
I’ve dated 2 Matts in the past and still have 10 friends named Matt in my phone. I asked him if he’d prefer to be the 11th Matt of the first Will.
He chose WISELY. Will. It’s hot.

We texted all evening, and since my Give-a-F*ck is at an all-time minimum, I sent this:
“It is weird that I feel like I’ve known you forever?”
A pause. Then the three dots, letting me know he was typing: “It would be, if I wasn’t thinking the same thing.”
I felt a strange calm warm sensation in my chest when I read his words.

Day after next, I needed a ride to my car, which was at the mechanic’s near his place. I offered him dinner in exchange for a lift, which he accepted. I predicted he was the “come knock at the door” type of guy, rather than texting he was near from the street, and I wasn’t wrong.

I got into his car (a Prius, which I’d test-driven and lusted after a month prior) and we headed for dinner. Thai food. Which we both love. Of course. Later that night, I was going to an engagement party for Dustin and Wendy, my friends from Other Theme Park. He knows Dustin from working with him at Current Holiday Theme Park. Of course he knows Dustin. So we pick up my car and head for the party, but along the way I get nervous- my super-sweet former boyfriend Paul will also be at this party, and I’m not sure how Paul’s headspace is.

I push a button and the glass elevator pulls us towards the party at the top of a Burbank hotel- both of us feel it. It’s a kiss moment. His hand holds mine, or the other way around- tough to tell- but we’re both sensing it aaaaand
“Not yet,” I say, pawing him with my free hand, hoping he’ll understand.
“Right- not yet,” he says.
“That’s not a ‘no,’ that’s a ‘not yet.”
Will sparkles his eyes at me. He gets it.

Paul and I had been very close- and we’re both grateful we can maintain a friendship- so I wondered how he’d react seeing me with someone else for the first time. Paul and Will (who, keep in mind, I’d only met 2 days prior) have an awesome chat and everything is easy and fine. I noticed myself exhaling for the first time in a while, in regards to Paul, and relieved to see Will completely holding his own in what could’ve been an awkward social situation. It was effortless and graceful, and I loved it.

Later that night, we’re sitting on my couch and chatting, commenting how very much we have in common. And then it happened:
One of us said “We’re already finishing each other’s…”
And then WE BOTH SAID “Sandwiches.”
We BOTH said sandwiches.
“Whaaaaat?!? How did you- what the- Omigod, omigod- you’re a witch!”
“Maybe it’s because our heads are too close together?”
I elect to climb to the other side of the couch, and extend a certain number of fingers out of his view behind my back. I always choose 9, but this time, for whatever reason, I chose:
“Seven.” He said it even as I stretched out my seven fingers.
I kissed him. No way I wasn’t kissing him. He finishes my sandwiches.

The next day we go for a walk around the Hollywood Reservoir, where Will jogs sometimes and I’d never been but always wanted to go. Along the trail, we’re comparing notes and discover that we both worked on the ineffably 90’s tv series “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” as stand-ins. He stood in for “Cutter,” Sheena’s love interest. I was Sheena, of course. We stood in for the onscreen couple, same job. Different seasons.

Crazy, right?

There’s more. Both of us traveled to Australia when we were 20 years old, and we both braved our first nude beach experience shortly after arrival at the same exact place: Lady Jane Bay. Granted, said experiences were vastly different, but RIGHT?!? We’ve both been to the Botanical Gardens, seen the same fox bats, the Blue Mountains and the film museum, because we’re both Alfred Hitchcock fans. Of course.
We also lived on the same street corner in Orlando. Different years.
We also both worked at Darden restaurants in Altamonte Springs within a 1/2 mile of each other, at the same time.
He started at Theme Park in 1998, I started in 1999.

Oh, there’s more- last winter, he popped into Theme Park Stunt Show for a social visit while he worked Theme Park Holiday Orlando again. I was Tayloring those days, but not that day.
He stopped by the Tacky Tourist hallway to visit another mutual friend, Kelli.
I was Touristing those days, but I wasn’t there that day.
And I was avoiding Theme Park Holiday because frankly, it stirs up too many memories of my prior engagement… Which Will has seen photos of. Because he was a performer playing the same role my ex had been cast for that year.
He didn’t know my ex, but had worked around him, and even included a joke about him in a CD which has become Theme Park Holiday legend. The joke was about how my ex, who had been fired the next year for sleeping through a set, was “the lucky one.” I’m not so sure. I’m feeling pretty lucky these days.

The next night Will and I are driving to Anaheim to meet my friend Jason for dinner. We talk about the Big Picture, and when he expresses his desire to write, to create, to make comedy and just make people laugh, I tear up- it’s as if he’s hardwired to my heart. That’s exactly how I feel, echoing out of someone else’s dreams. For the first time, I start to sense that what lies ahead could be incredibly easy.

This will sound strange, but up until this point I hadn’t really LOOKED at him- I’ve been so swayed in the past by a pretty body or magic eyes, and I was actively trying to appreciate this person for the incredible connection we felt, and not how he looked- but right then, I sneaked a peek, and caught a sideways glimpse. I marveled at how kind he looks. This was my first impression. That and he’s got a great smile, aimed at me.

Each and every one of the mutual friends I’d asked about Will strongly vouched for him. One friend in particular, Shane (the subject of Will’s legendary CD) promised me that “if you wind up with him, you will never stop laughing.”

Will has all the best qualities I love, and none of the ones I’m wise enough now to avoid.
I began to consider the possibility that I was capable of letting these walls down and falling in love again. As I ponder, Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love” plays on the radio. I decided to give it a shot.

It’s been 40 days and 40 nights since I made that decision.
We’ve spent a few of these days traveling to San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, San Jose, San Francisco and Pismo Beach. (We love Sans and Bugs Bunny references.)
We’ve spent a few more taking our journals to coffee shops and writing through a haze of caffeine and mutual adoration.

Will and I have just returned from one of several hikes, but this one was up to our Magic Tree in Burbank. We collected pine cones from Theme Park, decorated them with peanut butter and sunflower seeds and hung them from the tree as organic Christmas Ornaments the birds could enjoy.

I stopped for groceries on the way home to cook us dinner, and when we arrived at my apartment, Will effortlessly scoops up the bags. I melt. It’s the little things- after years of ferociously lugging my bags up thousands of stairs alone, suddenly I have a partner.

It occurs to me: if someone had time traveled to 14-year-old me and told her “hey, don’t worry- you’re going to go through some hard times and things aren’t going to happen the way you expect them to, but eventually, you’ll wake up in the city you’ve dreamed of, have lunch at a favorite spot with your fancy writer friends, explore the city and go for a hike with a person who keeps you laughing and inspires you. You’ll feed the birds and cook a nice dinner, then fall asleep in his arms,” I think I would’ve worried a lot less.
And since that is exactly what happened, there is significantly less worrying in my life.

If I’d met him any sooner, I would’ve been in a relationship or tangled up in my own recovery from the relationship. If I’d met him any sooner, he would’ve been with someone else or at a point where he wasn’t looking for someone like me.

I’ve taken time to forge these claws and cultivate these spines, for what? It has made me stronger. I’ve grown harder, but not cold. And not bitter. And the openness which came from the strength I developed provided me the chance to finally meet this amazing person who’s been right next to me for 16 years. I don’t know what will happen with us, but I do know I’m able to hope again, and I have the highest hopes. Several of my friends have independently reported dreams of my future with Will. Married, with kids. Sounds good to me.

Who’s right next to you? If you’re looking (or especially if you’re NOT,) there very well may be a Will sitting next to you- and you’ve known him for forever. You just haven’t met him yet. So reach out! They’re just waiting for you to be ready to say hello.

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About the author

Jaime Jessup