It began years ago. I was ten. My parents had taken me and my brother to the children’s theatre to see Puss in Boots. It was a great show. I loved it. My mom even bought me a plush Puss with removable boots. I couldn’t have been happier, or so I thought. I ate my cookie and discreetly dumped my milk behind a bush. I played with my stuffed friend. I was in heaven.
My parents loaded me and my little brother into the minivan, where the two of us traced smiley faces and the the word “poop” on the frosted windows. Everyone got buckled in and I wriggled impatiently in my seat, anxious to get home.
I shifted my focus to creating a two-minute window masterpiece, when suddenly my dad called out. “Kids, get out of the car! It’s snowing!” I stared at my brother, perplexed. Snow? At ages 10 and 8, neither of us has ever seen real snow before. One of the tragedies of living in the desert is having never experienced a “Snow Day.” Go figure that the sky would unleash its pathetic fury on a Saturday.
My brother and I rushed out of the car to see what the commotion was all about. I recalled a story my father had shared about his car engine freezing back in Chicago. I eagerly began planning what we would do with our afternoon stranded downtown. We looked out in amazement at the slushy white substance plopping down from the skies above. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.
As my obnoxious little brother stood stomping and sloshing in the wintery puddles, something in the periphery caught my attention. It was a boy–an older boy. Within those last few months, I had begun to suspect that not all boys had cooties. Even though they were still immature and weird, some were becoming a little bit cuter than I had remembered.
This boy was incredibly handsome with dark hair, piercing blue eyes and about two feet on me. He was everything I had never thought to dream of and, in that moment, I knew that I needed to meet him. I committed to doing everything I possibly could–for as long as it would take–to have this amazing stranger in my life.
“Kids, back in the car! It’s time to go.” With that statement, it seemed all hope was lost. I knew that I had to find him again, even if it took the rest of my life.
Without a drivers license, keeping up with the beautiful boy was a difficult feat. I had to convince my parents that I absolutely loved the children’s theatre, begging to go back as often as possible, just in case the boy was once more at the art museum next door… doing whatever it is that handsome, older boys do.
After eight months and terrible renditions of Jack and the Beanstalk and The Emperor’s New Clothes, I finally spotted him. As we arrived at the theatre, I saw the lanky boy walking through the parking lot. I had to follow him, but I needed an excuse. “Look, a bird!” I cried as I bolted away from my bewildered family. I turned a corner and disappeared from my parents’ sight. I juggled options in my head. Do I run up and proclaim my love for Senor Oh La La? Or should I watch him climb into his car and drive away once more? Maybe I can remember his license plate if I try hard enough…
Whoa! He looks soo old! He must be in high school or something, I thought to myself.
I crouched down and ran like an awkward vulture through the parking lot, ducking behind every other car. An older couple stared at me and a heavier man with a beard asked me what in bejezus I thought I was doing. I simply held my finger to pursed lips and shushed them all. I was on a mission. Geez! Couldn’t they see that?
I heard the click of a car lock and saw the young man climb into a car. I repeated the six characters on his license plate over and over in my head, and then I watched his little red car make one turn after another until he was out of sight. I had struck gold. I was not yet sure exactly how, but I knew that this was good.
In this moment, my quest truly began. At 11 years old, I now knew what Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome drove. For the time being, that was enough. I lost interest in the children’s theatre just as quickly as I had caught Puss in Boots fever. I had a new interest, and a brand new agenda.
Within a few years, I discovered an online database of license and registrations. With trepidation, I typed in the license plate number I’d jotted down and stared at the screen, and waited. There he was.
I read and reread his profile dozens of time. I now knew his name and I knew where he lived. I began stalking him. I couldn’t help myself.
When my older friends began getting their licenses and first cars, I had them drive me to the other side of town. I would make up reasons–anything that might allow me to stumble across Art Museum Boy’s path once more–and attempt to be discreet about my motivations. It was obvious, though: I was in love, I was falling hard for a stranger.
Years went by and I didn’t see him. I couldn’t find him. The city was just too big. And, goddammit, I couldn’t even drive. Part of my wanted to give up, but I simple couldn’t do it. Though I stopped actively looking, a small glimmer of hope stuck around like a pesky fleck of glitter. “Maybe, one day…,” a small voice whispered in my head. I sighed and attempted to move on with my life.
Several years passed. Over the course of decade, I patiently waited. I nerded out at school, made paltry attempts at being sociable and casually dated here and there; I went through the actions, but my mind was lost in an eternal daydream.
On an otherwise ordinary day, by either dumb luck or an act of fate, my heart’s secret dream came true. I was not even looking for the boy but, on one fateful day, I found him.
Rushing through my busy day, I stopped by my favorite coffee shop for some fuel and a smile. I waited in line, staring blankly at walls and looking down at my phone, pretending to be engaged in some incredible conversation. Suddenly my ears perked up. “I’ll have a 20 ounce hot soy chai, please.”
Hey, I thought, that’s my drink! And that man, he looks so familiar. And it clicked. He was the boy from the museum fourteen years earlier. The boy whose license plate, address, and full name I had scribed in my diary. I debated whether to approach him and proclaim my deep-seated affection or let him slip away once again. The later was absolutely not an option.
I watched him sit down, alone, and pull out his laptop. After a dozen years of patience, I knew waiting a bit longer to ensure things went smoothly would be worth it.
I discreetly sat at a nearby table, alone, and pulled out my own laptop. I tried not to be too obvious as a I peered over the top of the computer, straining my eyes to see what Mr. Probably Perfect was doing. If anyone was waiting for my table, they would have been thoroughly disappointed in my lack of typing. I was slightly distracted.
After thirty minutes of browsing articles on medicine, politics and how to be as tough as a Navy SEAL, I saw my golden opportunity. He typed in OKCupid.com and logged into his account.
Online dating. That was exactly how I could get to him. Though I’d never tried online dating and was, frankly, quite intimidated by the whole idea, I knew how to make the process quick and painless.
Find him. That’s all I had to do: find him and talk to him, like complete stranger with several shared interests; as if I knew nothing about him, but happened to have dozens of overlapping opinions, and happened to have been at the same place as him on the singular day when it snowed in the desert. It would be so easy.
I went home immediately, entirely forgetting my now-cold hot soy chai. I created an online dating account and began my search. Knowing only that he lived within a 25 mile radius, I narrowed my search terms and combed through thousands of profiles. No. No. No. No. Why can’t you just search for lovers based on their license plate number? That’s not really stalking, right?
I grew frustrated, but I didn’t give up. He was looking for love, and I was looking for love. It was inevitable that our paths would cross again. I was going to make sure of it!
After a few days of screening male profiles (douche, nerd, hipster, old man, just no, etc.) I decided to write up a profile. Maybe something mildly pretentious would deter the horny bastards, I thought. Unfortunately, I underestimated the male homo sapiens.
However, two days into my digital dating debut, I received a non-douchey response from a man who was actually impressed by my book list and my haughty self-presentation. Pleased with myself, I decided to play along. This will be fun, I thought to myself, just until I find The Object of My Affection.
When I followed the half-inch figure to its profile, I saw a face that I immediately recognized. He was an artist, and a coffee shop connoisseur. I grinned stupidly. What a coincidence.
We talked, and we talked some more, spending three hours at a time on the phone discussing favorite books, research studies, and random trivia. I had been doing my research for years, so it was easy. And within a week, we were planning our first meet up.
On a Tuesday in October, I left work–giddy and nervous–to meet Captain Incredible for Pho. I arrived a few minutes before him and waited outside, not knowing exactly what to look for. It had been over ten years since I’d last seen him, after all.
A moment later, I sensed someone behind me and turned around. It was him, the handsome young man from the art museum whom my prepubescent self had fallen in love with so many years earlier.
I smiled widely, and he smiled back at me, knowingly.
“It’s great to finally meet you.” In his mind, “finally” accounted for about seven days. Little did he know…
“It’s so great to finally meet you, too. It already feels like we’ve known each other for years,” I replied.
Yes, it’s true–my boyfriend and I were at the same place at the same time 14 years before we met. Fascinating, right?
No, it’s not true that I spent all those years stalking him, but look luck convincing him of that!
I don’t know…the story seems pretty convincing to me.
I know… he’s almost got me convinced too. 😂
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Great Story Erin! Loved ready it and the surprise ending 😉
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