There were years of too many dates gone wrong.

Too many dinners that ended cold,

too many ghosts to count,

too many times I felt less than, settled for less than, accepted less than.

Less than what I wanted.

Less than what I deserved.

Less than what was real and beautiful and honest and kind.

There were too many.

Too many times I didn’t feel adored.

Too many times I didn’t feel heard.

Too many times I didn’t feel seen.

Too many times I didn’t feel loved.

And when you spend so much time without being adored and heard and seen and loved, you start to doubt.

You start to doubt that there is anything to adore.

Doubt worms its way into your heart, and you wonder if there is anything to love at all.

You stare at the mirror and wonder if there’s something you cannot see — if something is missing, if you’re not complete.

You get tired of hoping and dreaming and loving and giving.

Love, for you, gets exhausting.

And so you button up.

You close yourself off.

You stop going on dates.

You stop taking calls.

You put a fence around your heart,

and you lock it up,

and then you throw away the key.

And then you forget.

You forget about being single.

You forget about trying.

You forget about what’s normal and abnormal,

and you teach yourself to be.

But then one day you’re lost — you’re looking at a map, and you can’t seem to find the building where you’re supposed to be.

Another set of hands points to your building on the map. They joke and say that they had trouble finding it, too.

You don’t look up and mutter a casual thanks. You have places to go, and you have things to do, you have people to see. You can’t be bothered with small talk. You have a schedule to keep.

But then hear a voice that says, “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”

And you look up, and there he is, looking at you.

For a moment, you look behind you; maybe he means someone else.

But no, it’s you.

You falter for a moment. Is this a date? With a stranger? You haven’t been on a date in a long time — maybe it’s not a date. Perhaps it’s just coffee.

Maybe it’s a trap.

You look back into his eyes.

You realize that you hold the key.

“Okay, let’s get coffee. But I’m going to pick the place, okay?”

“Sure,” he says.

You start walking.

Heart still guarded, but open to possibility.