I’m sitting alone in my apartment on a rainy night. I’m restless, mildly bored, and, yes, I’ll admit it, but please don’t tell anyone … lonely. It’s days like this that I’m sure that there’s no more love in store for me — all of the epically momentous possibilities must have already passed me by. Somehow I blinked and missed them. It’s in moments like this that I allow myself the small indulgence of thinking about Sebastian.
Our story had all of the makings of a great love story. Once upon a time we met one evening in a dark, crowded party. He told me I was beautiful. I was young enough for him to appear larger than life. We kissed on the sidewalk in the rain. I fell hard for him — hard like scrape-me-off-the-floor-with-a-spatula hard. But we were wrong for each other in every way. We were young, immature, and troubled. It ended tragically – Sebastian stood me up on a cold, snowy New Year’s Eve and the two of us never spoke again. I went on with my life.I wonder what Sebastian is doing right now. I wonder if I will ever love anyone that way again – with an open heart. I decide to cruise the internet for inspiration – narrowly avoiding the temptation to do a Google search of Sebastian’s name. The intention of my search? To remind myself that love really exists. A tall, existential order for sure, yet a valid one. I practice it often. On the street, on the subway. Every time I encounter a seemingly happy couple I say to myself, “See you bitter old hag, people fall in love all the time.” I find the kind of cinematic headline I’m looking for: “Gulf War Pen Pals Get Married After Facebook Encounter 19 Years Later.” Touché.
As a teenager, Jamie Benefit decided to reach out to the troops during the Gulf War. She addressed a letter of support and encouragement to “Any Soldier.” Jamie’s anonymous letter found its way into the hands of 19-year-old soldier Jeremy Clayton. Jamie and Jeremy continued to write each other for the duration of the war, to exchange stories and keep their minds off of the scary worlds around them. After the war ended, the two lost touch. Jamie wrapped up her letters in a patriotic ribbon, put them away in a safe place, and moved on with her life. Nineteen years later, Jamie got curious one day (maybe she was sitting alone in her apartment on a rainy evening?) and looked for Jeremy on Facebook and sent a simple message to a man with his name, asking, “Were You In Desert Storm?” That was all Jeremy needed in order to know that he had to see Jamie again. The two met up in person a few months later. When Jeremy finally saw Jamie he says of the moment, “It took my breath, I was actually shaking and I’m a pretty strong man. I just said to myself, ‘You have to do whatever you can to make sure you spend the rest of your life with this woman.’” A few months later they were married.
Wow. Just like that huh? War. Letters. Great distances. Great danger. Years apart. Reunion. Facebook. Marriage. I’m sure someone in Hollywood will be calling any minute to option the rights to the film. Maybe they’ll call it “Love in a Time of Bush.” I should feel inspired that love happens — exponentially and effortlessly — yet I feel nothing but skepticism. Does this actually happen in real life? Like, real real life?
Like Jamie and Jeremy, Sebastian and I lost touch after that fateful New Year’s Eve. When he sent me a message on Facebook 10 years later, I was unable to breathe. It said simply, “I hope you’re still silly.” When we met in person for coffee, I was so dizzy that I had to sit with my head between my legs while he sat silently across from me. His hand shook slightly as he grabbed mine and said, “I’m sorry, I’ve been waiting 10 years to say that to you.” Momentarily I was so giddy that I almost let myself get carried away. I looked at Sebastian for the first time in the bright, clear morning light and saw him exactly as he was. It happened so quickly that if I had blinked I would have missed it. He was just an older, more mature, version of the awful of the guy who broke my heart 10 years ago. There was no proposal. Just an awkward meeting of two grownups realizing that they were no longer young and silly.