A Smalltimore Dating Story I met a guy on Bumble. Turns out, he lives on my street.

I had  just slid onto my stool at Union Brewery and taken a sip of my sour beer when the guy I was on a first date with started telling me about his job. “Oh, I know someone who works there,” I told him excitedly. “My friend, Jill.” He swigged his own beer and nodded. He knew her, too. OK. I felt some relief that we had at least one mutual friend.

Then, he added the most important detail. “She’s my neighbor.”

I sat and stared straight ahead for a few seconds. “What?” I mumbled, turning to look at him to see if he was making some sort of twisted joke. “No,” I shook my head and paused, searching for words. “She’s my neighbor.”

I near-shouted it with my eyebrows up to my hairline. I think I gripped his shoulder a little too tightly, too. Definitely too tightly for a first meeting, er, 30 seconds into a date. It took a few more minutes for it to sink in, but the guy I had met on Bumble about a week earlier and was now sitting next to at the bar turned out to be my neighbor, and one who lived directly across the street.

If we lived downtown in Canton or Federal Hill where there are people everywhere, it would be one thing not to have noticed each other. But we live on a small side-street in Mount Washington. The only cars coming down our road are driven by the people that live on it. He lived so close I could see into his bedroom window easily, without squinting (not that I’ve ever tried that. OK, well, I have now). And yet, we had never met. It didn’t take long for us to start joking that the date better go well because otherwise, we’d be in for some awkward encounters.

Luckily, it did go well. After the initial shock wore off, we moseyed outside and sat in the sun. We talked about our jobs, our families, and briefly, our romantic history. I realized he was smart. Like crazy smart. Science smart and nature smart, two things I basically know nothing about so our conversation was intriguing. He was also thoughtful and happy to go with the flow, openly sharing just about anything I asked him. He talked a lot, which he later told me was because of his nerves, but I’ll take nervous chatter over awkward silence any day. Plus, it was adorable and endearing.

I also started to piece together why we hadn’t crossed paths. This guy was a hard worker and he kept busy. He was probably getting home around the time I was tucking my kids into bed most nights, then sprawling myself out on the couch to binge watch “Handmaid’s Tale.” I liked that the things that kept him busy were all healthy things, too, like climbing at Earth Treks, hiking, spending time with his friends and family. He wasn’t a big drinker, either, which honestly, was a first for me. I seemed to seek out men with drinking problems and latch onto them like a half dozen thirsty fruit flies to my Cabernet.

We covered a ton of ground in a couple of hours, split a pizza, then he walked me to my car. “See ya at home!” I laughed as I hopped in my van and headed back to my house. He came over to say hi to my dog, whom he was pretty allergic to, but adored. I went over to his house where his cat nuzzled my head, which apparently, is very rare. It was clear we had a solid connection. And when he texted me the next day to ask me out, he let me know that. Actually, he told me it was the best first date he’d ever had. It was up there for me, too.

If there is a moral to this Smaltimore dating story, I sure don’t know what it is. Get outside and talk to your neighbors would be a good one, except that my neighbors are some of my best friends in the world. I talk to them constantly. The single guy across the street just wasn’t on my radar and I wasn’t on his. We kept different schedules, and even if we had crossed paths, we probably wouldn’t have stopped to chat (or flirt) because we seemed to be in different phases of life; he was a single guy with no kids and me, a mother of two. Our lives didn’t intersect until we found ourselves connecting on a dating app, and then face-to-face.

Now that we’ve gotten to know each other better, the phases of our life don’t seem to matter that much. Just because where we were was different, that doesn’t mean that we can’t share a connection or common goals moving forward. So far, so good.

Perhaps the moral is put yourself out there, whether it’s on an app or in your own front yard. Because connections can be found anywhere and everywhere when you have your eyes open to them. They might be closer to home than you guessed.

At least in this city.


About Sarah Bregel

Sarah Bregel is a writer, mother, feminist and deep breather. She has contributed to Vice, Vox, Slate, Longreads, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Parents, and has been featured in multiple anthologies. She lives in Mount Washington with her two children, who are 9 and 5, and is working on her first manuscript.

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