FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Current Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contributors FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//About FRESH YARN FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Past Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Submit FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Links FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Email List FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contact


Sleepless in JFK
By Lori Gottlieb

Most 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.

I kept the issues by my bed, and used them the way men use Playboy and Victoria's Secret catalogues.

But 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.)

Hot Nerdy wasn't just another smarty-pants writer to whack off to. He was no mere Paul Simms, Andy Borowitz, or Malcolm Gladwell.

Hot Nerdy was The One.

I knew 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.

I wrote 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.

So 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?

Four 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.

"Is this Lori?" a man asked when I picked up the phone.

"Yes, who's this?"

"I'm the guy!" he replied.

"It's about time," I huffed. "Do you know how long I've been waiting to hear from you?"

"I know, I'm sorry," he said. "But I'm calling you now."

"When can you get here?" I asked.

"Well, I'm in New York…"

"Wait, you're not the cable guy?" I asked.

"No, I'm the guy from the airport. I can't believe you remembered me!"

I froze, 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.

"Oh, wow," I said. "So, you remembered it, too?"

He 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."

But 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.

Or 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, at 12:45.

"That's incredible!" he said. "What are the odds that we would both be in an airport, in the same terminal, at the same time, again?"


PAGE 1 2

-friendly version for easy reading
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission

home///current essays///contributors///about fresh yarn///archives///
submit///links///email list///site map///contact
© 2004-2005