One Percent

Like many of my best stories, all of my love stories pivotally involve buses.

Now, normally, “I love you” ought to read like “my investment in us-as-a-unit continues to be worth it.” I’m going to go ahead and take another angle on the topic. Call it a fun little retrospective at the end of a year that left everyone too cooped-up to have so many of these interactions.

Once, I was on a municipal bus ride to school (community college), sat on one of the inward-facing bench seats as is my wont, and I met the eye of someone sitting across from me, and again, and again, and we’d warmly smiled to each other each time. Not a word was exchanged. Maybe, rounding up, I think I fell a fifth of a percent in love. Over that ten minutes, we did so much as negotiate a relationship, its terms, performed our roles, and ended it precisely on schedule. (The bus was on-time that morning.) I don’t think I ever saw them again, and it’s been enough years that I’ll never know.

A good while later (probably a bit under three years?), I’d sat on my late commuter bus home from a semi-routine trip a couple hours’ ride away to see a partner. This one’s about my seat-neighbor for the next couple hours of my life.

She has earrings made of plastic goldfish. She drops a pocket full of coins on the floor (which I quietly help sweep up in a less-perfunctory-than-normal sort of way). I attempt to try to do a small amount of work for a few minutes, but I couldn’t get either the bus’s terrible network or my phone’s tether to work well enough to get anything done, so I mutter something about how computers are terrible and put the machine away. Her phone dies. I offer her my relevant cable. She pulls a case of audio cassettes out of her bag, and a cassette player, and listens to something for a good while. Later, whatever circumstance came about, and we talk a little. I discuss my partner, and she effortlessly and tactfully indicated that she was aware of some of the ambiguous queerness I’d dangled.

I haven’t seen her again either; I forget if we did so much as exchange names (though I guess I’d accept a correction). I like to think I fell one percent in love.

Now, this is all poetic metaphor or whatever. Take that “one percent” for what it is. Real, hardly hyperbolic, and a little bit unforgettable.

I have been more than one percent in love before, and I will say it’s an experience against which one-percent-in-love might try to hold a candle, but it’s as if it’s in a gale. Trust me, I’ve written proportionally far more love letters (destined to be read by their subjects or no) to the more-than-one-percent cases than I did to these two near-one-percent ones I described here. (I did also handwrite this love letter before typing it up: it’s how I write the rest.) Why this piece, then?

Falling in love can leave you with little traumas, neuroses, fox-and-sour-grapes memories, and et cetera: those can color your recollection of the small joys or critical little moments in a relationship that I’m trying to gesture at here. One-percent-loves have the extra marginal benefit of being loves whose memories are as about as likely to be corrupted by new experiences as a snowball is to be found in Hell. So long as they’re ended gracefully then and there, anyway! I’ve never had a love that did not start at a simple one percent.