the other day i was going through my e-mail drafts and deleting messages. the half-written e-mails were often ones i had never intended to send or had chickened out on sending, or they contained poems or snippets of dialogue i’d thought to include in some nonexistent novel or blog. but in one case, i found part of an unfinished post that i had entitled “timing is everything.” it had been buried under e-mails with no body (which, by the way, are now inundating my draft folder due to gmail’s new lightning-fast auto-save function—i find this to be both savvy and beyond irritating). anyway, it’s interesting to read your thoughts and then to go back to figure out when you wrote them, what was going on in your life, and what would soon follow. below is what i had started writing and then stashed in the gmail vacuum.
yesterday i went to lunch with a friend who is leaving early thursday morning to go on vacation for almost three weeks. i won’t see her until i get back from my trip on march 20. after ordering my edamame dumplings, the woman behind the counter gave me my order number—2283—and i had one of those illogical, childlike reactions, thinking that some good luck had to be coming my way. twenty-two is a lucky number not just for me, but for my family, both on my maternal and paternal sides, and i was born in 1983 (!).
a few hours later, after getting out of work on the tardy side, running an errand for my friend, and returning to my apartment around eight, hours of freelance work ahead of me, i ended up doing only half the work i’d planned to and went to sleep with my contacts in and full makeup on, my eyes puffy and swollen. my last thought before i drifted off was that i should have stepped in that dog shit on the way home to double-guarantee the luck i’d been hoping for was in transit to hoboken. if only a bird had pooped on my head as well, to make the luck trifecta. the lucky numbers weren’t cutting it.
when my coworker and i had sat down to eat, we’d started talking about timing. about taking a train later than your normal hour and meeting someone who never takes that particular train but happened to that day because the a, c, and e was x, y, and z. about a coincidence that can’t possibly be just that. about luck. my ten-year-old self would have called it magic.
and that’s where it stopped. i remember that lunch very well, but today i had trouble placing it on a timeline, so i used facebook (i knew my overuse of social media would come in handy) to pinpoint the date, which ended up being february 12 of this year. i had just gone to nashville with one of my best friends and was about to, that weekend, meet her and a few others in washington, dc. on the next day, february 13, the time of writing, i was nine days away from knowing my boyfriend even existed, eighteen days away from leaving for my trip to cambodia and thailand, and nearly thirty days away from making a huge life choice, which was ultimately to quit my job to focus on writing and freelancing. i wrote the post less than a day after telling a best friend, a guy who i had been dating then stopped dating but remained friends with despite still having feelings for him, that we had to stop speaking, stop hanging out.
whatever happened to me that day hours after lunch had caused me to arrive at place where i felt that luck, that timing, no longer mattered. because i’d seen a “sign,” because my friend had been talking about being on a train at the right time, because i was about to go on a life-changing trip, i’d expected the rest of my day to turn out gloriously. instead i got home late, didn’t finish my work, told my best friend i couldn’t speak to him anymore, and cried myself to sleep. i realized i wasn’t content with my life, and the worst part was that i was letting myself be that way. i was contributing zilch toward changing the view outside my window while hoping for what, i’m not sure. some dog shit to step in, i suppose.
i read a quote recently (and i cannot find it, which is fantastically pissing me off) about how, if you’re writing about your life, you need to be willing to embarrass yourself. otherwise, the product is going to reek and be ridden with an assortment of holes, and trying to sell it to your audience would be akin to selling someone a moth-chewed sweater you found in a very old, very neglected dumpster. no one wants it, and frankly, it stinks. keep this in mind for the next few paragraphs. please.
anyway . . . as i said, on february 13, i was nine days away from knowing that my boyfriend existed. if you’re not familiar with online dating, and in particular, if you’re not familiar with match.com, there are several methods of communicating with people you’re interested in. you can send them a match.com e-mail or instant message, like one of their photos, or wink at them (typing that makes me gag, but oh well). the splendid thing about match.com is even after you’ve let your subscription run out, if you’ve left your profile set to visible, charming bachelors can continue to send you messages and wink up a storm. the caveats of course are that you can view the profiles of said messengers and winkers, but 1). you can’t read the content of their messages, and 2). even if you could read them, you can’t respond in any way other than with . . . yup, a wink. the reason for this is that match.com hopes you’ll get enough batting eyes and sexy texts to make you want to renew your subscription and be able both to see what poetry was sent to you and to chat with these fine young poets.
so i got a wink from this gingery-looking guy, a self-proclaimed narcissist workaholic with commitment issues, who claimed he was 5’10” and whose headline read: “life is too short to dance with fat chicks.” he read—actual books!—had a degree in mechanical engineering, and strung words together much like i do, as if he believed, also like i do, that they matter (though maybe he could have used a thesaurus for that “fat chick” part to soften it up a bit). and then, toward the bottom of his profile, i came across a quote he had listed as one of his favorites, one by mark twain, and one that my sixth-grade english teacher had made us write as the first line in our journals: “the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” this was also the same teacher who had had us learn about the genocide in cambodia, my soon-to-be travel destination, and had assigned us cambodian pen pals shortly after the khmer rouge was overthrown. the quote has been, since that day, one of my favorites. as a writer, it only makes sense.
long story longer (it’s my way, i’m sorry), i winked back at this man and told myself that if he e-mailed me, i’d consider spending the money to rejoin match to be able to read his message and respond to it. i half-hoped he wouldn’t message me—i knew i’d be out at least the one-month subscription fee if i opted back in—but he did, and i spent a day wavering between letting the thing go and renewing my membership. ultimately, i renewed. i told myself that if i didn’t, i’d always regret it.
i told him this story on our first date (according to the rules, what a no-no, right?), but he didn’t see it as pathetic or loopy and he didn’t believe that my openness about telling him was too forward. i was really george constanza’ing it in reverse, embracing every natural impulse instead of going by the unwritten book of dating. my propensity is to overshare, overcompliment if i like someone, and overexpose bits of my personality and vulnerabilities upfront, and this, not shockingly, scares the shit out of guys, if not most people. we continued to talk after i left for asia, four days after our first date, and when he suggested that we meet in the airport the night i returned to new york (his flight from la happened to be landing a mere forty-five minutes before mine), i thought that the sensible thing to do, after traveling for a day straight and sitting in a cramped airplane seat for sixteen hours, would be to say no and figure out a better time (as if any other time when you’re not exhausted, jet-lagged, smelly, and dehydrated wouldn’t be better) to hang out. but i said okay, and there i was staring at a guy with whom i’d had one date and whose face i’d struggled to re-create from memory during three weeks of eating ganja pizza in siem reap, trying to ride a motorbike in koh lanta, and peeing, drunk, in the andaman sea off phi phi island, my dress hiked up to my hips, my phone and bag dangerously close to plummeting toward saltwater death. my friend and travel companion told me i was nuts for not ditching the guy to go home and head straight to bed, but i knew i’d regret it if i didn’t see him again and, not only that, i’d regret it if i didn’t see him that very night.
timing isn’t everything, but it is something, if only we capitalize on it. ultimately, we have choices, and we have the power to make the most of our luck. we aren’t helpless bystanders in the coincidences in which we find ourselves. i used to believe that the good things in life came to you if you were good, if you waited patiently for them to find you. and maybe, for some, they do arrive in that way. but the most satisfying good, for me, has come out of action, not passivity, from seeking out, not waiting for.
our airport “date” was six months ago, and i got off the phone with him around eight this morning, he in a cab in las vegas en route to eat steak and eggs, i in my room, packing for my trip to costa rica. the person i love is 2,500 miles away, but i am happy he is in my life to love this much (i’m currently stretching my arms out to my sides as far as they will go—that’s how much). tonight in san josé i’m meeting my friend, a girl i met a year ago at a hostel in amsterdam, another example of timing capitalized on, the result being a best, lifelong friend who i’m spending my birthday and eleven days with on another continent. a part of me continues to believe in luck, and in magic, but above all, i believe in the present progressive, in those -ing verbs: moving, going, and most important, doing.