I never expected to meet my wife on a downtown N Train. It just happened. I was sitting by myself, reading Jon Friedman’s Rejected when she decided to get onto the train, and into my heart, at 14th Street-Union Square. That my heart is big enough for both the present and subjunctive tense should tell you that I have a lot of love to give. I don’t know what about her got my attention – the long brown hair, the snow white complexion, the nerd glasses, the red lips – but I did know, in that moment, this was the woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
Here’re three things you need to consider when meeting your soulmate: personality, sense of style, and eye contact. First thing I ever noticed about her was that, after settling in, she pulled a copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke from her bag. This book (in case you don’t know) is about dueling magicians, set in England. So, clearly, she is very into magic. Or, British people. Or, she finished all of Harry Potter and was just trying to keep the buzz. Second, the sense of style – she wore jeans and Chuck Taylors, a rather distinct coat that says “I’m a grown-up, but only on Mondays.”, and one of those scarves that I see all New York women wearing when they turn 24 and decide “Enough is enough, time to get serious.” So, this meant she was either a librarian, or manager of a medium-staffed advertising firm. Either one works for me. Lastly, she never once made eye contact with me, save for quickly peering at the subway ad above me advertising Dr. Zizmor’s Fruit Peel. This meant she was most likely shy, and I don’t blame her: even with a two day old beard and hat hair, I still looked pretty damn desirable.
Then came the most exciting part: sitting in silence as our train crossed over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn. You live in Brooklyn, too! Crazy! We should get married at the first mixed faith lesbian vegan synagogue we can find! At that point, I was still trying to pretend as if my book was holding my interest, but it wasn’t (though on a side note, you should pick up Rejected, edited by Jon Friedman, as it is a very entertaining read and Jon, I happen to know, is a very nice, gracious person, and could use the money in these Recessive times). As she sat there thumbing through her book, concerning herself with the things that modern-day city women concern themselves with (which I imagine is paying the rent and Oprah), I thought “Our first child will be named Jack. What if it’s twins, like in Star Wars? Okay, Jack and Eve – one after my favorite painter, the other after my mother.” This thought brought me to my next question: “Hey, what is her name anyway?” There’s an unspoken rule that you’re not supposed to pick up women on the subway. Sure, when Robert Redford does it, it’s romantic. But when anybody else does it (save for my friend Neal, who used to appear on a soap opera as “John Handsomepants, Gorgeous Jackass”), it’s creepy. So, because of my crippling social anxieties and need to always be New York Cool, I am forced to guess my future wife’s name.
Margaret. She looks like a Margaret. No wait – Lisa. I haven’t met or talked to a Lisa in a long time. Lisa and Matt Fried. It’s got a nice ring to it.
Our train pulled into Atlantic-Pacific in Brooklyn, and lo and behold, Lisa is getting off of the train with me! More excitement: Lisa is walking across the platform to catch the R Local. She lives near me! It’s written in the stars! But, like all good love stories, there’s always a complication. That complication came in the form of “Cute Girl In A Hat”. She was already standing on the other side of the platform, reading some self-help book about bears in the woods and purpose. Lisa decided to put some distance between us (this was another sign that she was clearly intimidated by me, and was still too shy to want to engage in conversation) and walked a few feet down the platform. “Cute Girl In A Hat” stood between us. Lisa! Wait, no! I want to talk to you, but I can’t! I fear the gods of New York Cool – Lou Reed and Ryan Adams – will judge me harshly! But I love you! Dearly and deeply. I want to wake up next to you every morning, and I want to help you edit the graduate thesis you’re writing in my head! At that point, “Cute Girl In A Hat” looks up at me and smiles. I can’t lie; the thought of hurting Lisa actually crossed my mind. This new girl was, in fact, a very cute girl in a hat. I hadn’t been this torn since my AP English class, senior year of high school, where both Jessica and Andrea (my own Betty and Veronica, minus any actual romantic relationship) sat in the same class with me, and I tortured my soul daily with their existence. But things are different now, dammit! I had to make a choice, because that’s what a man does. As my new President said “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.”
So, despite a gaze and a smile, I looked past “Cute Girl In A Hat” and still focused on Lisa, who by then was gazing down the tunnel behind me, waiting for the R train to show up. It finally did. We walked into the same car. I walked to the other side, near the door. Lisa sat across from me and waited patiently for her stop. “Wow,” I thought “so this what being in love is like. It feels great.” The R train pulled up to Union Street and I got off. Lisa decided to stay at her place that night. It was totally understandable – I mean we did just meet. But let me, tell you: I knew. I smiled that night as I watched the R train pull away. It carried on it the woman to whom I would one day make the pledge “‘Til death do us part.”
You never expect to meet “The One”, but you don’t argue with fate when it happens. You just smile politely, say “Hi.”, and then, you wait until fate chooses for you two to meet again, so that you actually can get her phone number. Or, at least find out if her name actually is “Lisa.”