Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Greatest Story Ever Told

This is a strange world we live in, and NYC may very well be the epicenter for that strangeness. I've had lots of random encounters in this city of almost 9 million people, including one last Sunday in which I ran into an old friend from Dallas I'd not seen or spoken to in over five years. I was getting off the train and he was getting on. Random. But even that sort of run-in dramatically pales in comparison to the chance encounter I had the preceding evening. It's been a week since it happened and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the astronomical odds of such a moment taking place. It truly is the most remarkable story I've ever gotten to tell.

Last Saturday I went downtown to participate in a "marathon-style" evening of speed dating. I'd done speed dating before (it's absurd, but totally fun), but only the kind where you go on 12-15 dates that last about 4-6 minutes each. This time there were 54 men and 54 women and we would go on FIFTY dates that lasted, at most, two minutes each. For the most part, marathon-style speed dating is an exercise in mass rejection. The girls mostly suck, and the guys are even worse. They hate us and we hate them. (ding) Next date. Objectively, I was easily in the top three of all the men there. That's less a compliment to myself than it is a comment on the dearth of decent men in this city. At least 10 guys were wearing Bill Cosby-like sweaters with not even a hint of irony. A few others had not yet realized they weren't exactly heterosexual, and a full head of hair was about as rare as a new Terrence Malick film. Good times.

Mercifully, the dates are exceptionally short---even shorter if you take the time to jot down a few notes on the girls as you move from table to table. My notes at the end read like the minutes from a KKK meeting. There just isn't time to put more down on paper than things like, "crazy Indian chick," or "black girl with curly hair", or "argumentative Aussie." You go for the most obvious details to help remind you who all these people were at the end of the night. One date was with a soft-spoken Chinese woman. I spent my entire two minutes with her spelling out the word trivia. T-R-I-V-I-A. That was the date. (ding) Another girl angrily lamented that there were no hot guys at the event. (ding) There were two Aussies and two Kiwis there, and each time I incorrectly identified their accent as the other. Turns out this is an insult. (ding, ding, ding, ding) And so on and so forth it went...all the while I chugged vodka drinks in epic fashion.

Towards the end of this marathon, I had a date with a pale-skinned girl with bright red lips and short brunette hair. Remarkably, especially given the limited time we had, we somehow realized that we both graduated from the University of Texas and that we had done so only one year apart. Now, if you think you know where the rest of this story is don't, so stick with it. We briefly marveled at this minor coincidence and then...(ding)...time to move on. After the event was over, she sought me out at the bar where I was continuing to down drinks like Kobayshi downing Nathan's hot dogs in Coney Island. In other words, the details get fuzzy. I remember we chatted for about five minutes, and I remember we realized we were also both from Dallas. I didn't have any feelings about this at the time, but the next day that would change.

On Sunday, seemingly out of nowhere, I began to have a strange feeling that I somehow knew this girl. I often joke about how I've dated every single girl in New York, but that was far from the case in Texas. The Kraig from Texas wore sweater vests and listened to James Taylor in his dorm room during college. The Kraig from Texas wrote cheesy poetry about unobtainable girls whilst watching MST3k late at night. The Kraig from Texas, in short, did not date much. So how then did I know this girl? Did I know her? Was it in my head? Bit by bit the feeling grew, and then, finally, an implausible and utterly insane theory formed. I texted a friend that day and informed him that my theory had only a 5% chance of being true. It was that hard to imagine. This girl's name was Paulette, a rather rare name for people my age. I've only known two Paulette's in my lifetime. One cleaned our house when I was a child, and the other...

I emailed Paulette on Sunday night, whose address I'd gotten because we'd both "picked" each other at the speed dating event. I told her it was nice to have met her, but also that I had a crazy idea in my head and I was hoping she could disabuse me of the insane thought once and for all. I asked a simple question: Did you ever go to sleep-away camp in Texas? The answer came back loud and clear. YES. The pieces very quickly fell into place. Not only had she gone to Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas---a Jewish camp located about 15 miles from David Koresh's compound in Waco, Texas---but she had been...wait for it....wait for very first girlfriend EVER. THE VERY FIRST. It's staggering. Somehow, 27 years later, my first "girlfriend" had taken a seat across from me at a speed dating event some 1,500 miles away from where we first met.

She did not recognize me and, for the most part, I didn't recognize her. The extent of that pre-pubescent relationship was asking her to "go with me", something which lasted all of two days. We never talked, we never held hands, and we never kissed. We were only together because her two friends at camp were "going" with my two friends and we were, naturally, encouraged to close the circle. My recollection of asking her to go with me is anything but romantic. I asked her and she responded with an apathetic shrug---not unlike how things work still to this day. I eventually broke up with her when I met my second girlfriend on the archery range two days later...but that's a story for another day. The breakup went down a lot like the proposal. "Um, is it okay if we don't go together anymore?" Another apathetic shrug from Paulette and I was once again single. And that was it. She and I never talked after that (and almost not at all prior to that) until we unwittingly met again last Saturday night.

I'm going out with Paulette on a real date in just a few hours---probably more for the story than any actual chance of romantic success---but if things ever were to miraculously work out, hello, NY Times Wedding section!

It's a crazy, beautiful world.


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