I was reading something on my phone, then I looked up and electricity passed between my heart and his. You know that feeling. When you see someone in the crowd and your heart flip-flops. You get a chill that starts at the base of your spine, spreads to your stomach and ends with the hair standing up on back of your neck. You just know. I know within seconds if a person is going to be a real part of my life.
I looked back down at my phone. Tried to avoid his eyes. Looked back up, and he was straight up staring at me. He was gorgeous. A head of dark, thick curly hair and curious eyes. Tall. And still staring.
At the next stop, people piled in and he wound up pushed up against the train door next to me. Directly in front of me, a homeless man with a cart was smashed up against the pole. His back was to me, and a pic was sticking up out of his afro. I stared at it to avoid staring back at the man next to me.
Another stop went by. I couldn’t not talk to him. I turned to him and asked him if he had a piece of gum. I’m standing there, dressed up like a doll with a little purse and fancy shoes, asking for a piece of gum. He rustled around in the pockets of his leather jacket, dug around in his bag. No dice. He said, “Sorry, I don’t.” A beat passed. “I wish I did.” I was in.
He asked me what I was all dressed up for. Told him where I was headed, and he asked if I had any favorites for the awards. It turns out that he’s a filmmaker. Time was running out to chat. I missed my stop. I always miss my stop. The homeless man was getting dangerously close to backing right into me. His pic was in my face.
I told the man I’d give him five dollars if he would grab the pic out of the homeless man’s hair and put it in his own hair. He laughed and said he’d give me a hundred dollars to take it out and put it in mine. I refused on principle. Which principle, I’m not sure. But there it was … time to get off the train. I looked up at him, said it was nice to meet him and went on my way. He didn’t ask for my number. I took it to mean he was either uninterested or unmotivated.
A couple of nights later, my friend Tracey posted a cheeky ad on Craigslist trying to get rid of a couch that her and her husband believed to be possessed. My eyes wandered to the sidebar and I saw it: Missed Connections. I thought, “Nah. That doesn’t really happen.” I clicked nonetheless. I clicked back a couple days, since I had seen him on Sunday night and it was now Tuesday.
And there it was, in very big letters:
You needed gum for the oscar party – m4w
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2009-02-23, 12:11AM
And you stayed on the a train for an extra stop. I should have grabbed the afro pick when I had the chance.
- it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
How does that happen? How do we live in a city of millions and find even one person to really connect with? He goes one way, I go another way, but then we follow the path of sizzling electric light back to each other. It seems so improbable to find even one person who gets you, believes in you, sees in you what you wish the whole world could see.
To find someone even worth sharing your whole self with seems less likely when you consider we’re in New York City. But you’d be surprised to find how impossibly small of a place this can be.
It takes effort and sincerity and tiny little seeds of devotion. It takes me responding to that random listing on Craigslist and saying, “Nice job leaving it up to the Universe.” And him proposing a first date: “Sunday works. Shall we say on the northbound G train between the Flushing and Broadway stops at 8:27pm – 3rd car from the front. I’ll be the guy with enough gum for the whole class.”
It takes a first phone conversation. The one where he tells you he went back to the C train the next night at the same time, hoping you’d get off there and he’d see you. And if that didn’t work, he was going to go to the G train and wait there. And if that didn’t work, he was going to draw cute pictures of you like that other guy did that one time and enlist his friend to post them all over Brooklyn. Just to find you.
How does my story end? The ending’s not the point. It’s the beginning that’s scary. It’s that moment when you’re holding your breath, waiting for the pendulum to swing back the other direction. It’s taking the murdering step … fighting with daggers to kill the Ifs.
It takes a lot of wading through bullshit to find the magic. And when someone is worth it, drop everything and put the whole Universe on notice. Move heaven and earth if you need to. Get to that one person and make it worth it to pay attention. Because if you don’t, another motherfucker will.
Song for this Post: True North – Meg Hutchinson
“She said can’t you see we’re moving in all directions?
Can’t you feel the pull?
But you’re still the one by which I chart my course
You’re still my, still my true north”