By Lori Gottlieb
people read the New Yorker for the articles, but I used to
read it for photos on the contributors' page. I had a thing for
neurotic east coast intellectual writer types, but since I lived
in the land of laid-back actor-slash-model-slash-surfer dudes, I
scoped out guys whose bylines appeared in the pages of the New
Yorker, Harper's, and the American Scholar.
the issues by my bed, and used them the way men use Playboy
and Victoria's Secret catalogues.
one week's issue stood out. When I flipped past the table of contents
to the contributors' page, all the blood drained from my head. There,
staring out from a fuzzy black-and-white photo the size of a postage
stamp, was none other than my soul mate. (To protect his privacy,
I'll call him Hot Nerdy Writer Guy.)
Nerdy wasn't just another smarty-pants writer to whack off to. He
was no mere Paul Simms, Andy Borowitz, or Malcolm Gladwell.
Nerdy was The One.
this because the blood that had drained from my head wasn't just
pooling in my pelvis -- it was circling around my heart. Not only
did Hot Nerdy look exactly like my hipster-nebbishy fantasy, but
I could tell from the intense look in his eyes and the frown on
his face that he was thoughtful and sensitive, in that mildly depressed
but highly functional way. Totally hot! Plus, his article was about
a rehab clinic where his ex-girlfriend's sister lived after becoming
HIV-positive from heroin addiction. My freak show of a family would
seem normal by comparison.
a letter to Hot Nerdy, care of the New Yorker. But I didn't
send the typical I'm-a-fan-of-your-writing note. After all, if we
were soul mates, I needed to convey our deep, authentic connection.
I lied. I made up a completely bogus story about having met him
in the airport in New York several years earlier, where we'd talked
about Kafka and laughed about the beat-up leather bag that made
him stoop over to one side as he disappeared into the gate. I said
that when I saw his photo on the contributors' page, I was pretty
sure he was the guy from the airport. I asked him to let me know
either way. I figured that with a nostalgic story like that, he'd
respond to say he's not that guy, but then we'd chuckle about the
"misunderstanding" and ... if the fantasy went as planned,
he'd ask me out.
A week passed, and I didn't hear back. I waited two weeks, three
weeks -- nothing. Which could only mean one thing: Hot Nerdy wasn't
my soul mate. I mean, soul mates don't ignore your letters, do they?
months later, I was on the phone trying to track down the cable
guy who was two days late when my call-waiting beeped in.
this Lori?" a man asked when I picked up the phone.
the guy!" he replied.
about time," I huffed. "Do you know how long I've been
waiting to hear from you?"
know, I'm sorry," he said. "But I'm calling you now."
can you get here?" I asked.
I'm in New York
you're not the cable guy?" I asked.
I'm the guy from the airport. I can't believe you remembered me!"
trying to make sense of this. Not only was I talking to Hot Nerdy,
but he was calling to say that he remembered an encounter that never
happened! Had he met some other girl in the airport years ago, pined
after her, and now confused me with her? Or was he screwing with
me, in the way that assholes -- or worse, freaks -- do? Then again,
I sent a stranger a fake story in order to get him to call and ask
me out on a date. What kind of freak did that make me? I considered
it a freak tie and played along.
wow," I said. "So, you remembered it, too?"
said he did. He said he was glad to get my letter. He said he was
coming to L.A. to do a story about trendy hotels. He said he wanted
to see me. He said something about "fate."
if fate existed, this had to be a cosmic joke: I was leaving for
New York for work, he was coming to L.A. for work, and we would
miss each other completely.
would we? I was to return to Los Angeles on Thursday at 11:45, on
the same airline that was taking him back to New York an hour later,
incredible!" he said. "What are the odds that we would
both be in an airport, in the same terminal, at the same time, again?"
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