The world has a strange, strange way of looking out for me.
I mean it– I’ve seen my share of unpleasantness, but things have a bizarre way of working out. Not only do they work out, I get a surprising amount of omens, pointers, and other hints along the way. I’m not going to go all “omg #soblessed,” but credit where credit’s due.
About seven years ago, I was seeing someone I’d met through an online dating service. (“Dating on the internet,” my mother sniffed disdainfully and clutched her metaphorical pearls, “People can pretend to be anyone on the internet.” “They can lie just as easily in a bar or a restaurant. Also, I know how to Google,” I replied.) He was a little younger than me, attractive in a kind of careless way, and seemed interesting and fun. He had hobbies I didn’t, lived in a hipstery part of PA with neat shops and cafés, and I enjoyed spending time with him.
Then things got a little weird.
I don’t mean he-was-secretly-a-polygamist-with-six-wives weird, or I-caught-him-doing-the-spread-eagle-with-my-sister-in-the-hotel-Cicero weird. Just… weird. Like being-way-too-into-the-MBTI, calling me “delightfully counterculture” like it was a compliment, and also dreaming that I was secretly a caterpillar.
It went something like this: He dreamed he was trying to get into his car, only to be blocked by some kind of large, spiky, terrifying caterpillar. After spending the dream trying to find a way around it, a stranger showed up, picked the caterpillar up, and pointed out that it was just frightened and harmless.
“And now,” he declared, “I feel like it’s okay for me to date you.”
Uh… huh, I thought.
But hey– whatever helps a guy get over his mental furniture, right? Wouldn’t be the first time some dude I knew told me I’d had a cameo in one of their weird-ass dreams. I was a little hurt that he apparently had some gigantic mental obstacle to dating me that he hadn’t seen fit to mention, but I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt when he said he’d overcome it.
Not terribly long after, we were geocaching– something he’d gotten me into and I discovered I really liked– when we were led to a cache spot in the middle of an unmarked, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Revolutionary war graveyard. Set right next to an unassuming road in nowheresville, PA, and bordered by a knee-high stone fence, a plot of land no larger than a good-sized backyard holds the bodies of two hundred soldiers, the vast majority left unmarked. Though we never found the cache box, it was hard to be too disappointed. It’s not every day that you get to see a piece of history in the wild like that. (To this day, I still kick myself for not having had some charcoal and paper with me to take some rubbings of the few untended, crumbling tombstones and plaques that were still left.)
I noticed more than the tombstones, though.
“Oh, hey,” I chuckled when I saw the big, spiky brown caterpillar stretched full-length on a shady rock, “It’s a–”
I cut myself off when I saw the ants crawling inside of it, rocking the caterpillar’s dry, hollowed-out husk as they stripped away what was left of its flesh and carried it back to their nest.
My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. Not only did I feel bad for the caterpillar, it all seemed a little too salient. Like the fuzzy, slightly crunchy, woodland equivalent of a neon sign. The timing was too suspect– if I had watched this scene in a movie, I would’ve rolled my eyes at how clumsily the director and writers were hitting the audience over the head with their stupid bug metaphor.
Instead, I was standing in a two hundred year old cemetery and questioning my life choices because of hungry ants.
At least now I kind of knew to take my time and enjoy this cache hunt. There most likely wouldn’t be others like it.
We ended up splitting up not long after. He initiated it over text (in a kind of weasel-worded way that made it take an eternity to figure out what he was trying to say), and I had him come collect a few gifts he’d given me. I was hurt, though not surprised, and made plans with another friend to fill the hours afterward. He arrived to collect his things, I squeezed out a few tears and the kind of stammered declarations of affection I thought would appeal to his melodramatic sensibilities, then I wiped my face, fixed my eyeliner, and went out for beer and nachos.
The moral of the story? It pays to pay attention to the dreams of those around you. They might tell you more than you’d think.
Also: Don’t worry about appealing to melodramatic hipster boys, and you can totally have fun geocaching by yourself.