Saturday, February 11, 2012
On my way to work this morning, walking from the train, a sign taped to a streetlight caught my eye. It was bright yellow, maybe goldenrod and it was taped around the pole with clear packing tape. In Times New Roman font, large size, were two words:
I walked past it at first then stopped in my tracks. Was it a band? Was it some artsy fartsy thing? What is some person’s crazy rant posted up for all to read like Martin Luther? I retreated a few steps and read it.
I’m not sure you’ll remember me, but my name is Dana and we met one night a few weeks ago when you came to a party I was working and you came outside for a smoke.
Oh, interesting. One of those I saw you and now I want to find out notes that are in the missed connections section of Craig’s list and the back of the Chicago Reader. Cool.
In summary, the girl wrote her phone number down on the guy’s bar receipt, but wrote it down wrong (hey, girls have totally accidentally given me the wrong number, too). She had just lost her old phone and got a new one with a new number and didn’t have it memorized. She said they hit it off and had really interesting conversation. My favorite part was where she said she was nervous putting her email out there because she knew she’d get Rick Rolled.
It was cold, so I stopped reading and moved on. But all day long, I couldn’t get Hey Alexander out of my head. I started spinning my own story around just the first two words, “Hey, Alexander,” hoping it would turn into a short story (and it still might). I thought about the girl wondering why the guy didn’t call (six days, right Swingers fans?) or maybe the guy calling the wrong number and wondering why the girl gave him a fake phone number. Did he give up then? How long did it take her to realize she gave him the wrong number?
Serendipity. Good luck. Fortune. Fate. Whatever you want to call it. These people met once, by chance. What tiny little change could have prevented them from meeting at all? What if he had met his friends at another place before going to the party and was having so much they never left the first place? What if she worked a different part of the party and just never ran into him? What if didn’t catch the first cab he hailed and instead took a second cab, which got him to the party later and as he walked in he bumped into an ex-girlfriend who he still loved. What if Dana hadn’t left early for work and got the message from her boss who told her not to come in because he thought it would be slow at the bar? Who controls these things?
The night before Halloween in seventh grade, my friends and I had a sleepover where we did Mad Libs. Yes, those Mad Libs. When asked for a girl’s name, I blurted out Rachel Lakeman (name changed because she might be reading this). My friend wrote in her name. The next day while trick-or-treating, we ran into Rachel Lakeman dressed as a punk rocker trick-or-treating with her friends.
Serendipity or coincidence?
My friends called out to her and we showed her the Mad Lib book, which, for some reason I was carrying around with us. She read it, saw her name, ripped out that page and tossed the book back at us.
After that, our paths kept crossing. We had a few classes together and now she started paying attention to me and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. A couple months later, Rachel and I were going out (or whatever going out means in seventh grade. To tell you the truth I didn’t really get it then). We went out for a few months and she even gave me the Mad Lib back. It had been ripped then taped back together, with one piece missing: her name. (Aww, how sweet. She kept it that whole time).
Was this fate? What if I had written down another girl’s name? What if we hadn’t seen her while trick-or-treating? Why on Earth why I was carrying the Mad Libs book when we were trick-or-treating and why did we show it to her?
Fate? Love at first Mad Lib?
Well, no, it turns out. We lasted a solid two months going out, which is a long time in junior high, and I was even her first dance at her Bat Mitzvah, but that was it for our relationship, except for a few awkward moments at our ten year high school reunion, which is a story for another time.
Then I wondered how enthralled by someone you’ve shared a single meeting with do you need to be to make a sign with your name and phone number on it and plaster it all over the city. I remember riding my bike past Rachel Lakeman’s house after we broke up because there was something about her I couldn’t get over. But I’d know her for months, and even had kissed her a few times when we went to the movies. And I was thirteen, and man, thirteen year old boys are pretty clueless when it comes to matters of the heart. I got over it eventually, until the next girl came along and broke my heart. And so on. That’s how it is.
But was there ever someone who I would do that for? Well, of course.
It didn’t start out as love at first sight. Not exactly. We shared multiple awkward moments the week we met. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Without getting into too many details let’s just say there had a been a lull in my love life, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. I had tons of bad dates, blind dates, group dates, getting set up, trying again with the girls where I had bad dates, doing and saying the wrong thing, doing and saying the right thing at the wrong time. I was at the bottom. I had sworn of girls, given up trying. I was “concentrating on work.” Things were not going well for me.
Then I met the girl who is now my wife. And yes, things were awkward at first, but that’s a story for another time, when our kids are older, much, much older. Then we got over the awkward part. And I still remember the first time we talked on the phone. It was a Monday night, and we talked for hours. And trust me, It was hours. I know because I hate talking on the phone but with her it was easy and enjoyable. When we were done, and I was finally going to sleep, sometime around midnight, I said to myself, “I really want to talk to her again.” And I can’t remember the last time I’d felt that way about someone.
So, the next night I was going to call her. But she beat me to it. She called me. She could have waited for me to call, and I was going, but she called me. I'm happy to say things went well. Here we are eleven years and two kids later. Things are great. Going back in time, if we had only talked that one time, than one night and somehow, I had lost her number or she had lost mine, or something had kept us from talking again, I’m sure I would have gone back to where we met and posted up a sign and tried to track her down. And if I only got the one time, well, I’m sure I would have survived but you gotta try. If you feel that way, you have to try to go hunt that beast down. Take the chance. What’s the worst that can happen? You are no worse off for trying. So what if you get a few crank calls.
What if Alexander is at the bar drinking with his friends and he walks outside to have a cigarette (the poster said he smokes). He’s been down in the dumps because this girl he met the other night, who he thought he totally hit it off with, gave him a wrong number. As he’s cupping his hands around his lighter to keep the winter wind from blowing it out, he sees the goldenrod paper out of the corner of his eye. His eyes lock on the words Hey, Alexander, and he steps to it and reads it. He starts to smile, takes a long drag on his cigarette then pulls his phone out of his pocket. He dials the number he sees on the poster. A woman’s voice answers. “Hello,” she says. It’s her. It’s Dana, the girl from the party. “Dana? This is Alexander,” he says. “You are not going to believe this, but I’m standing outside of Jak’s and I saw your sign.”
This is the perfect ending for a movie, maybe with Ryan Reynolds as Alexander and Rachel McAdams as the plucky Dana. Man, I hope it turns out this way.
All day, I keep thinking about the poster. I wish I had read the entire thing. I leave a couple minutes early hoping to read the whole poster on my way home. But it’s no longer there. In fact, there’s nothing posted on any streetlights or street signs on the entire block. They’d been stripped away sometime during the day, left bare like a mini mart before a hurricane. There had always been things posted on this block, band signs, Radiohead Hail to the Thief stickers, lost dog signs, political signs. Why, of all days did they clear them today?
Damn. I will never know the fate of Dana and Alexander.
So, Dana and Alexander, if you are out there, I’m pulling for you. I hope you find each other. Call it luck, fate, serendipity, whatever you want to call it. I just hope it happens. After all, Valentine’s day is in a few days.
Thanks for reading. All 36 of you.