I know I don’t know you, but I want you so bad…*
Truer words were never spoken.
Romance and mystery have always been two sides of the same coin. Everyone loves a little bit of mystery. It keeps things interesting. Adds a little spice. Think about it, the less you know about someone, the more attractive they probably seem to you. And there’s the other side of it – once the mystery fades away, usually a fling will fizzle out. We preach that we want boyfriends, the perfect relationships, Mr. Right, or whatever, but really, we’re suckers. We all like that wonderment – it makes our otherwise ordinary lives just a tiny bit more extraordinary, even if its only for a little while.
Maybe that’s why they sell those 70-cent soft-core paperbacks with the windswept, nipple-bearing lovers (usually pictured with some kind of horse or other barn animal) on the cover at the check-out aisle. It’s a great marketing scheme, really. You’re minding your own business with your little wire cart, picking out which lettuce looks the best or deciding whether you should actually put that chocolate bar into your basket or if staring at it will be enough. Grocery stores have that calming, copacetic effect. And then – BAM. You reach the check-out aisle and there’s one of those damn books with the naked guy on the cover and you’re like, Gosh, I just wish I had a Fabio or a Mario, or whatever. And then you buy it, because what’s another 70 cents, right?
In all honesty, never have I ever purchased one of those grocery store paperbacks. But I digress. This isn’t about the grocery store, or anything like that. It’s about instinct.
A little more than a year ago, I went to the Apple store with my friend Amy. She was driving to the mall to get something, and my iPod had just up and died very tragically. It was pink and adorable and I wanted to get it fixed very badly, so I hitched a ride with her. While she shopped, I sat and waited diligently for my appointment with someone behind the Genius Bar. I sat on a stool, my eyes overstimulated with the Apple store bright white walls and lights and gadgets and noise, and then my gaze wandered to one of the geniuses. He was wearing the usual blue shirt, talking with a customer, smiling at them. The customer walked away, elated that he had salvaged their computer. And then our eyes met. We exchanged smiles.
This pattern went on for awhile as he helped another customer and I waited for Eric, my tardy Genius, to finish up with someone else. We just kept staring at each other, smiling, looking bashful. When Eric was finally able to help me, I couldn’t concentrate. When he told me I needed to spend $200 on a new iPod, I didn’t even care. Eric got a new product from the back of the store for me. The mystery Genius looked at me again as yet another customer approached him (needless to say, not only was the mystery Genius hotter, but he was way more efficient than Eric). I bought my iPod, and then I walked very slowly out the door of the store.
Back in the car, I berated myself for not summoning the courage to say hello. Normally unafraid to talk to anyone, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Over and over again I told Amy that “I should have just gone up to him. I should have just said hi.” I couldn’t shake the feeling all night, too, when we went out for her birthday. We went to dinner, and drinks, and clubbing, and the whole time all I could think about was which Apple product I needed to break next so I could go see him again.
Instead, when I returned to our apartment that night, I went to my computer and posted on Missed Connections on Craigslist. Sure, I had been drinking, but not enough to blame my lack of inhibitions on alcohol. I posted “You work behind the genius bar at the Apple Store, Natick Mall. I know this is crazy but I thought you were cute and haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since I left. I should have said hello. Are you out there?” I went to bed feeling mortified, but simultaneously a little relieved that I had just put it out into the universe. What did I have to lose?
The next night, I was in rehearsal for a dance piece I would be performing in later in the semester. During a break, I checked my phone and received an email. The guy from the Genius Bar had seen my post and written me back! It was unbelievable. What were the odds?
We exchanged emails multiple times a day, back and forth, for a week. When I called my mother to tell her, her first reaction is “What if he’s the Craigslist Killer?!” My dad, a patent lawyer and internet geek, proclaimed “How COOL is the internet?!”
But as all things like this do, it fizzled out. Turns out my Genius had a girlfriend all along. I suppose his emails with me were born out of curiosity and wonderment too, but also probably a lot of discontentment with his situation, which tainted the whole thing for me. I didn’t want to be somebody’s “other,” or the dirty mistress, albeit if only through the interwebs.
I still read Missed Connections on the regular (great writing material), and I still think about him from time to time even though we haven’t spoken since – not that there’s much to think about, but just because of the incredulity of it all. Two random people, seeing each other from across the way, and then they find each other over the internet. It’s nice to know that in such a big, chaotic world, it’s still possible to make a (missed) connection with someone. But more than that, it’s a lesson of instinct. When you feel something – when you know it to be true, without knowing why – that’s really powerful. Those moments that give you pause, they should never be overlooked.
*The lyrics at the top of this post comes from “Secret” by Maroon 5 – quite possibly the sexiest song ever.