Monday, November 05, 2007

The One That Got Away

It's tough when you're looking for your soulmate but you feel like you've already met her and it doesn't seem like there's any way you'll ever end up together.

This story begins in the summer of 2003. I'd recently hooked up with two guys from South Dakota writing sketch comedy. They lived downtown and uptown (Mpls., of course). I was coming to the end of a year living with my parents in the 'burbs. (That was where I crash-landed after crapping out in Chicago for 2 years, my first post-collegiate experience.)

The guy who lived downtown (Hans) moved in with the guy who lived uptown (Casey). During that gloriously boring summer (the weekly brainstorming sessions with Hans and Casey were my only salvation), they had a housewarming party. Obviously, I attended. That was their 2nd party of the season. I believe those were the only truly social events I attended that year, besides my own birthday, which they very generously hosted in the fall.

I'm not sure if the number of partygoers ever broke double digits. The apartment's decor was spartan. A single thrift-store table was the locus of the dining room (that doubled as a foyer), around which some folding chairs gravitated. There was indie rock on the stereo nearby in the living room, where 3 people chatted on a futon. I was sitting in a folding chair, trying not to feel incredibly awkward about the silence enveloping the group of people around me.

That's when Liz arrived. Casey answered the door and must've hugged her or gotten a hug from her. When I saw her, I just thought, "Wow. She's really cute. There's no way she'd ever go out with me." Her top was a khaki green t-shirt with bright orange(?) lettering on the front. I don't remember what it said, besides "I was purchased secondhand." That was all I needed to know. She sat down at the folding chair nearest mine, which was still a few feet removed. She just sat there for a few minutes, didn't say anything, no one said anything to her. The chairs were spaced too far apart to encourage conversation over the blaring stereo, and everyone was too socially uncomfortable to move their chair to a more accomodating location.

After a few minutes of this agony, I thought, "There's a really cute girl sitting all alone a few feet from you. She's WAY out of your league; therefore, you have nothing to lose. Just talk to her and you can go home with the satisfaction of having talked to a really pretty girl." I leaned slightly in her direction and inquired, "Do you like music?" In my mind, this was a brilliant joke. Who doesn't like music? (Only the soulless.) Unfortunately, she didn't hear it. I believe her exact word was "What?" But she said it so kindly and with such a generous smile that repeating myself felt like a privilege she had bestowed on me. So I scooted my chair closer and repeated the question. Apparently, it lost its humor in repetition. She said "yes" warmly, and we set off on a conversation of our favorite bands.

Luckily, the music of the Flaming Lips was extremely dear to both of us. She talked about their tour with Beck and how he supposedly covered some of their songs on the nights when he opened for them (they alternated), which pissed them off because it prevented them from playing those songs in their own set. I was extremely disappointed in Beck. I distinctly recall saying, "Oh no! But I love Beck!" She did too and was also disappointed. I told her of my dream of forming a Flaming Lips tribute band. She must've been supportive. (I can't imagine her being anything else.)

After a half-hour or so, the conversation ended and she left. I left soon after. The talk was good, but not the kind of life-changing event you'd expect to have with your soulmate. I asked Casey about her once or twice in the following year. The questions were just about what she was up to. I didn't wanna tip my hand too blatantly. It would've been too embarrassing. I didn't want them to think I actually thought I had a chance with Liz. They might've feared for my sanity. She was in her senior year at Creighton University in Omaha. As it so happens, my cousin and long-time best friend Erin attended Creighton. This was a pleasant coincidence.

In the summer of 2004, our sketch comedy troupe (the Half Windsors) performed our first revue at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. (That show had premiered at the Acadia Cafe in the spring.) Afterward, Liz and a guy and a girl chatted with us outside the BLB's front door. She was standing next to me and playfully said, "I bet you don't remember my name." I smiled shyly (it felt like my face turned a little red too) and answered, "Of course I do..., Liz."

Then she smiled.

One year later, as I was slowly climbing out of a deep emotional hole blasted open by a nervous breakdown, that moment when Liz smiled at me suddenly seemed like the defining event of my life. After two years of just having a crush on her, I immediately became convinced that she was my soulmate. The few seconds of that smile turned into something out of a movie, a transcendent instant when everything else in the universe ceased to exist and her face was the sun, blinding in its beauty and love.

But, at the time, it didn't seem to have such a profound effect on me. It felt amazingly good, but not necessarily transcendent. I wonder if my extraordinarily vulnerable emotional state the following year invested that memory with a significance it didn't really have, or if my extraordinarily open emotional state allowed me to openly feel, for the first time, the strong affection for Liz that I hadn't allowed myself to feel, out of fear of rejection.

Soon after my soulmate "revelation," I sent a voicemail and e-mail to Casey, pleading for any contact info for Liz. Eventually, he e-mailed back that he didn't have any. I still find that hard to believe. The truth, and his potential motives, remains a mystery. I'd left the Half Windsors the previous year. I only heard from them in occasional mass e-mails promoting their shows. They're in NYC now trying to make it in comedy, so the question of the integrity of his friendship is moot.

I didn't have her last name, rendering my internet searches pointless. I actually tried to guess her last name, based on nothing but a hunch. My attempts to track her down online went nowhere, and, as the months passed, my infatuation faded.

Flash forward to the summer of 2007. I was walking home with two of my best friends, Marc and Sadie. I mentioned Liz and my desire to see her again, if only to learn whether that moment when she smiled at me meant something to her too. They suggested looking her up on MySpace or Facebook. I felt pretty dumb for not thinking of that before and said I'd try it. The next day I got an e-mail from Sadie saying "Is this her?" It was a link to her MySpace page. It was her. She wasn't quite as beautiful as I remembered. (I don't think the camera can capture that kind of beauty.)

I wanted to e-mail her, but I paused. According to her page, she was "in a relationship," and there was a guy in two photos who looked like a boyfriend. (Predictably, he was much more handsome than I.) I wasn't sure I could handle seeing her now if we could only be friends. But I e-mailed her anyway, nervously. Two years had passed since our last (and second) meeting. I tried to jog her memory and otherwise played it safe. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I never heard back from her. Maybe it'd been too long. Maybe I never meant that much to her. Or maybe, just maybe (Damn that bitch goddess, Hope!) she felt the same way about me and couldn't put herself through the agony of seeing me again while still pledged to someone else! (For the record, that last theory has about 1% support in my brain.)

So that's where I stand. I can't help but think this fate was preordained. I've always been a star-crossed romantic. I'd rather pine for a girl who seems angelic from a distance than get up close and risk having my hopes dashed on the rocks of reality. How could I be so obsessed with a girl with whom I've spent less than an hour of my life? What kind of God would cast me in this tragedy? Or is it my fault for passing up my chances with her and other girls for the risk-free escape of fantasy? I've got my money on the last theory.

(Author's Note: None of the names has been changed. Hopefully, that will not come back to haunt me. The song you should listen to after reading this story is "Simple Twist of Fate" by Bob Dylan, the 2nd cut off of Blood on the Tracks. That's how it felt.)


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