Sometimes we look across the table and recognize -- as Plato describes -- our "own half." The one we know without knowing. And dinner becomes a date with destiny.
For me that was Jon.
It was stirring, magnetic, happy, primal, telepathic and more. We just fit. Hummed at similar frequencies. Came from similar backgrounds. A sensible businessman, he, too, was experiencing things he "never felt before." We both grinned a lot. I thought we'd found the X on the cosmic map, the crossroad of inevitability where we were meant to be.
We had a promising, whirlwind month together. But as powerful as our connection was, he and it vanished one night -- in the time it took to drive the 101 to his house for dinner.
On the surface, it was about his ex-girfriend calling in tears just before I'd arrived and realizing she still loved him. But it was about us. Well, ending us. He wrote a letter stating his confusion and panic, something he also "never felt before" though what we shared was "real and strong."
He said he'd call to explain soon, but didn't. He just vanished; wouldn't say goodbye and I hurtled back to planet Earth alone.
For two weeks, my soul hurt, something I'd never felt before. A throbbing like a headache, but in the outer extremities of -- for lack of a better word -- my spirit. Aspirin didn't help.
My buddy Daniel dragged me on a forget-him mission to the Sierras. He shouted above the Cessna's engine: "The soul is too wild, a place you should visit, not live." There was mountain turbulence before Kernville and I was trying not to pass out so I couldn't answer. Though what could I say? My soul has a mind of its own.
Even Mr. Zuckerman, my Yoda-like dry cleaner, noticed something was off in my normally glowy mojo. He listened sadly.
"True love is practical. Think rugalah, not kabbalah, it's better," he said handing my sweaters across the counter.
Falling in love is one place where normally sensible people talk like Rumi. I've observed awestruck scientists, FBI agents, and moguls discussing synchronicity, intuition, destiny, timelessness and a sense of the divine. Though quests for mates might resemble Maxim layouts or Hoover's CEO profiles, it isn't so simple: deep down, most long for the one we belong to on some transcendent, mythic, inchoate level -- that "feeling."
Just when I detached and started to date, Jon vividly and relentlessly re-entered my thoughts and dreams. I sensed he was thinking about me, too. So I wrote him saying I thought we had unfinished business. He wrote back, thanking me and said he'd meet me. I left it to him to follow up.
He didn't. The spectral soul mate did.
He/It became the phantom boyfriend, my ghost of beshert past. He even attended Thanksgiving dinner, invisibly toasting with my family and friends, relishing the caraway herb bread I'd baked.
I knew then -- closure or not -- I had to let Jon and our happy unlived life go.
The next morning, I left pans soaking and drove to Malibu where I got a latte at Starbucks, then walked across the bridge to the hidden cove where we first kissed and shared the stories of our lives and dreams. I emptied an envelope of torn-up notes and buried them in the sand. I whispered goodbye into the capricious wind. And with resolve I stood up, brushed off the sand, walked back across the bridge, back into my life.
I missed him, nostalgic for something paradoxical: that thing that always and never was. But it passed.
Who can say why one person is a familiar and another isn't; why one stirs and moves us; why some we like but don't love and some we love but don't like; why some we think we just like and then fall madly in love with; what is beshert, pheromones, experience, right timing or simply it. How two people can see each other for five seconds and connect indelibly, while others live together for years but divorce as strangers. Why you forget one and another you can't.
My psychic friend Jesse thinks it's past lives.
My zoologist friend Mary claims physiology over metaphysics. That scientific research shows telepathic communication is a highly evolved sonar system all animals share for survival, to identify those in their tribe, flock, pod, pride, etc.
I think my rabbi has it right. He's pragmatic -- if it's true soul mates, both know it, that "feeling" is mutual and recognizable.
One day, I dreamed about Jon. And then, just hours later, after a six-month absence, he drove past me in Santa Monica without noticing. The coincidence was striking, but not meaningful. More like a cosmic postcard from a place I once knew. Like a connection to the immortal parts of us that persist but can't exist as grounded, ordinary, primal love. I watched his silver Lexus disappear and I continued walking in the other direction.
Reeva Hunter Mandelbaum is vice president of story research at a film and TV production company and is finishing her first novel, "The Lost Songs of the Cowboy, Jakob Boaz."