Once, when I was 22, I met a guy my age at a summer festival in New England. He got up on stage wearing an oversized suit with a pocket protector and Adidas running shoes and proceeded to yell at the top of his lungs about how he hadn't been loved enough in high school.
"Oooh, this guy is just my type!" I thought.
He lived in New York City and I lived in Montreal. We kept in touch through telephone calls and writing. He sent me drawings of sad robots that I loved. His return address was always the record label where he was producing an album. He kept inviting me to come down to visit.
So I packed a little suitcase of pretty dresses and took the Greyhound bus to see him. We wandered around the city happily, comparing ourselves to Patti Smith and Sam Shepard. Then I got tired and said I'd like to lie down to take a nap.
At this point, he admitted that he was homeless. He had signed the lease for an apartment in Brooklyn, but wasn't allowed to move in until the next month.
"Why didn't you tell me!" I exclaimed.
"Well," he said, "then you wouldn't have come and I couldn't wait another day to see you."
"But where will we sleep?"
"Let's sit and put our heads together on this one."
We ended up sneaking into his sister's NYU dormitory and sleeping on the floor, while her roommate muttered angrily, threatening to call security. The next day he had a headache from sleeping on the floor.
We went into a little bodega that only seemed to stock dusty cans of tuna and gave the impression of being in post-war Poland. He bought a bottle of aspirin and swallowed a couple. A few hours later he began to feel dizzy. He lifted up his shirt and asked me to see if there was anything wrong with his back because it was kind of itchy.
I gasped in horror. Enormous egg-sized welts had sprung up all over his back. We looked at the bottle of aspirin, noticing for the first time that it had expired five years before.
We spent that night squeezed onto a hospital bed in Brooklyn, while he was hooked up to an intravenous tube. His heart beeped quietly on a machine next to us.
He held my hand and said, "I know it's too early to say this kind of thing, but I'm in love with you."
The whole thing had all the makings of the worst date ever, yet it ended up being one of the sweetest I've ever had.