In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in with an existential question: is there just one person for all of us?
And while that questionis trigger enough, he then cheats by asking ANOTHER one about true love *sigh*. Thank goodness Hola Papi! had the time today to handle two shortbut heavy inquiries.
If you want his advice, just email him at email@example.com with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!
Do you believe that there is such a thing as “the one and only” on this planet for everyone? Do you believe in true love?
— Someone’s Potential Soulmate
Let me begin by pointing out that you cheated. You asked two questions in one deceptively short letter. Were I a genie, I would tell you that you just used up two of your three wishes.
But I am not a genie. I am a Latino homosexual with a mismanaged anxiety disorder and an internet connection. So I will answer both of your questions. We can bend the rules a little. I’m not one of those columnists who cares about things like “format” or “grammar” or “consistency.” We can have some fun around here.
To your first question, I’d love to laugh off the idea of a “soulmate” as something only pre-teens with wedding boards on Pinterest believe in. But the truth is, the word “soulmate” summons for me a distinct face, a specific person, and a vivid memory. I suspect that’s true for many of us.
It was about five years ago when I met Thomas. His name isn’t Thomas, of course. But that’s what we’ll call him. Because this column is Hola Papi!and I am Papi, and I have that power here.
I was staying with a friend in Austin, Texas for the summer. Just to do it. I was young and my life was a gay indie movie with middling reviews on Rotten Tomatoes back then. Anyway, I started chatting with this dude on Grindr. You know, the standard: exchanging our favorite Bible verses, pictures of strictly our faces, family recipes, etcetera.
We agreed to meet up, and, Soulmate, within seconds of seeing this guy face-to-face, something new and exciting and horrifying unfolded somewhere deep inside my cobra pit of a heart.
I guess I’d describe it as a click. It wasn’t that we were terribly similar people, or that we agreed on everything, or even that he was the most handsome person I had ever seen in my life. It was just that when I was around him, I felt like I had found the next word in the sentence, the perfect one that hangs out on the tip of the tongue that had always eluded me, but, aha! There it was all along.
Being with him was like living in that moment of eureka. I felt like I could talk to him for hours and not get bored. Little things, like going to the grocery store or taking a nap together, were suddenly adventures that I saved to my memory bank to revisit again and again. I can honestly say, with absolute certainty, that I loved Thomas. A lot.
But then, Soulmate, things get sad. I hope you’ll indulge me just a bit more schmaltz. The summer ended, and I had to move back to Oklahoma, which is about a six-hour drive away. That’s the specific memory I mentioned earlier, the one that conjures now and again: I’m standing in the entryway of the house, and hugging him for a really long time, half of my brain thinking, “We can make this work,” and the other half, the smarter one, saying, “Just enjoy this moment and say goodbye.”
Sometimes I wish, given the magnitude of his impact on me, that things had ended dramatically. Or passionately. Or something. But to be honest with you, Soulmate, it just fizzled out. We would talk on the phone. Our first call was that same day I left, while I was driving home. The second was a few days later. The third, a month later. And so on, and so forth, until there were hardly any calls at all. And then, the final one, in which he said, “I’m seeing someone.” And that was that.
To this day, I’m not sure if I ever inspired the feelings in him that he inspired in me, that hopeless and exhilarating rush. Does he revisit those little things, those memories that I’ve kept stashed in my head? I can’t be sure, but my guess is no. All I know is that, after our last phone call, I felt that the one person I’d ever had something special with was gone, and that I’d never find another him.
Do you have a Thomas, Soulmate? I know plenty of my friends do: men they bring up when they get tipsy, or when it’s late at night and they feel sad and lonely, and I’m the only person still on Facebook messenger. “Papi,” they’ll say, “have I ever told you about James?” Or Malcolm, or Anthony, or Carlos, or whoever. Thomas takes many forms.
The point is, many people have that person. The one that got away. The one we were “supposed” to end up with. They’re someone whose time in our lives impacted us so deeply that they left a dent in their exact shape and size, and we think that no matter who we meet or where we go, they’ll always be the only person who will ever fit there.
But that’s enough deliberation. To answer your first question: Do I believe in soulmates? No. Absolutely not. I don’t believe the universe is anywhere near interested enough in us or our human lives for such a thing as a “one and only” to exist.
That might sound glum, but in fact I think it’s pretty exciting. To explain, allow me to answer your second question: Yes, I do believe in true love.
My belief is that most of us will cross paths with people, maybe it’s one person or maybe it’s several, who affect us deeply and uniquely. Life is sort of like a giant sheet of graph paper, and we are dots traveling in all sorts of wild directions. There will be points where we meet, and that specific intersection is sacred and important and unrepeatable. It’s not always a romantic interest. More often, it’s a best friend, or it’s a mentor, a teacher, a sibling, or a parent. You get the picture.
We are temporary creatures, Soulmate. Even when we love someone a whole lot, we eventually have to lose them, and they will have to lose us. Loss is a fact of this life. But as long as we continue to travel, to move, and to live, we will also continue to meet people who bring out the best in us, people we want the world for, people who make us stop and think, how was this person sharing this planet with me all this time, and why didn’t they introduce themselves sooner?
I think that’s what true love is, Soulmate. And I think, when it presents itself to us, if we are open to it, we can have it for a while.
I was right, in a way. I never met another Thomas. I often see him in bits and pieces: his eyes here, his smile there, his weird laugh, his nasty nail-biting habit, always in other people, like he was ripped up and scattered into the crowds on the street. But none of them are him, of course.
And the thing is, Soulmate, that’s completely fine. Because I know that I’m lucky for having experienced what I did with him, and I’m lucky to still have a lot to experience with other people. I have more true loves to experience, both platonic and romantic.
Who knows what the future will bring? I certainly don’t. And I’m glad you don’t either. If we had the answers, there would be no reason for this column to exist, and this is how I pay for my gym.
But the mysteries make life exciting, Soulmate. And that’s certainly a much better reality than one where there’s only one person on this whole planet that we’re supposed to meet.
Don’t you think?