A few months ago, someone in a Facebook group for highly sensitive people wrote a post asking for movie suggestions. I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve commented on group posts, but for some reason that morning, while I was in my sitting room, drinking tea, I decided to reply, and posted my list.
Then I forgot about it. I went back to my tea, my sitting room and my work. Moments later, under my list of movies, Lori Graham replied saying; “You’ve listed all of my favorite movies!” I stared at this name that I had never seen before, belonging to a person I had never met. From the moment I saw her name, I felt compelled to know, and within minutes of posting my original post, we were commenting back and forth, very quickly taking over the entire thread with our messages.
Within an hour I was charmed, smitten, somewhere between swooning and giddy and halfway to falling in love with a complete stranger. We spent the rest of the day swapping obscure similarities as easily as we swapped films and books, and simultaneously sent each other a Friend request on Facebook.
When I saw her profile picture, my chest tightened, and my heart felt as though it were speeding up and slowing down all at once. Then I saw where she lived: “North Carolina” in the United States, exactly 3,815 miles away from my English home. I felt so sad that this stranger lived so far away, but, more than that, I felt confused as to why this person halfway around the world was making my heart ache and race.
We talked on and off all day and evening, and the next, and the next. We shared our lives in stories and moments over the next month, video messaging on Marco Polo, Skyping, sending pictures and voice clips. She was fascinating and brilliantly funny. We connected in a way neither of us ever had with anyone else before. We told each other the stories of our lives. Shared the good, the bad, the spider-web complexities of past relationships and romantic missteps.
I will never forget the moment she told me “I love you,” or the smile on her face, or the overjoyed relief I felt when I said, “I love you, too.”
One day, like Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (one of the movies on my list) she asked: “Do you think we should … meet?”
She arrived at Heathrow Airport just one month after we first met online, looking more beautiful than I had imagined. Watching her on a phone screen was nothing compared to the hug we shared across the barrier. It was nothing compared to the way her eyes sparkled, the way her hair smelled, the way she moved, or the way she glanced sideways at me and smiled such that I fell in love with her all over again.
We took the train to Brighton and walked the labyrinth of streets in between sunshine and graffiti, seaside and city. We held hands and we kissed, we drank cider in a pub and made plans to steal the coasters. We stood together and watched the sun set on the pier, wind and hair in our faces, and watched a drag queen sing “The Lonely Goatherd” in the Queen’s Arms, one of Brighton’s many gay nightclubs.
She fed me strawberries dipped in Nutella in bed, we dressed as hippies, and we laughed at how umbrellas on the beach look from the bird’s eye view of the British Airways tower. We stayed a night in London and had a meal in a Greek restaurant that was so awful that we left without paying. The waitress, who deliberately ignored us, chased us down the street and blamed us for her incompetence. We got to see each other “get sassy” (as Lori with her gorgeous accent would say), and we hid in a bookshop down the street to recover. We had a terrible meal somewhere else to make up for it, and walked hand in hand to Tavistock Square, where we took selfies with a bust of Virginia Woolf and watched a little boy hand-feed squirrels.
Then to Paris, to sun-dappled streets and bohemian apartments, where the comforters were too small but we slept curled into one another. Whenever I awoke, I whispered, “I love you” against her skin.
We drank champagne and kissed and held each other at the top of the Eiffel Tower. We watched a woman walk by the Arc de Triomphe who threw bread crumbs to stream of pigeons. We read snippets of Emily Dickinson and touched the spines of Virginia Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway in the Shakespeare and Company bookstore across from the skeleton of Notre Dame Cathedral. She took pictures, and I fell in love with the way she saw the world and how she pronounced “Pigalle,” while we took guesses on how to pronounce the name of our train station.
We bought a lock, wrote our names on it, and hung it on the bridge overlooking the Eiffel Tower, where we sat and watched the night glitter and sparkle.
Charming waiters in charming restaurants served us delicious food. We found our way home in the middle of the May Day riots. We saw the Moulin Rouge, drank wine, slipped in and out of shops, and smoked a peach-flavored hookah in a blue-lit bar, where I watched her blow smoke rings, which she blew smoke into my mouth when we kissed.
Later, she visited my town, where we planned our future, and she met my family, my cats, my chickens, and my friends. We suffered a string of accidental but funny injuries, found vicars playing bohemian rhapsody on the organ in a church, where we dodged the rain, and drank cappuccinos and tea in arty coffee shops.
Now, a love-blurred flurry of weeks later, and she is in the sky, flying back across those 3,815 miles home from coming to see me for the first time, and I am missing her so much I can barely breathe. Some people speak of soulmates, some seek “the one,” some claim love at first sight. This was closer to what Annie Read articulated in Sleepless in Seattle: “a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together.” And we knew it.
Natascha Graham is a fiction writer, artist and screenwriter who grew up amid daydreams on the east coast of England by the shores of the river Deben, where she now lives with Lori Graham, the woman who changed her life forever.