Dater X: What If I Already Know My Green Zebra?
Ten years ago, after flicking my mortarboard in the air at college graduation, my best friend and I embarked on a rite of passage backpacking-through-Europe trip. Together, we traveled through France, Italy, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic, buckling under the weight of our backpacks and taking extra croissants from continental breakfasts at hostels in hopes that they’d last us through lunch. By day, we overdosed on museums and took roll upon roll of photos at historical sights. By night, we headed to plazas and parks to chug bottles of wine outdoors—something you can’t do here unless you want to get a ticket—and have deep conversations with people our age, both locals and fellow travelers. I was single for the trip, but somehow managed not to hook up once the entire month. I remember sulking about this fact at the time.
Fast forward to today, when an email popped up my inbox from my travel companion. She was forwarding me a message from some guy with an ultra Eastern European last name.
Hello [Dater X’s real name redacted],
Who am I? I am Petr. We met more than decade ago, in summer. I am moving apartment and found a book where I wrote your email address. We are older now and I am a sculptor with a studio in Prague. Maybe you are famous writer? Maybe you are married? I am not and often think of that nice night we had on Petrin Hill many years ago. I hope you will write back.
As I finished reading, my first thought was, This type of thing doesn’t happen in real life—this is the stuff of movies with cheesy soundtracks. Soon followed by, A sculptor in Prague? Hot!
I’ll be honest—I don’t remember Petr. But I do remember the night he’s talking about. I remember feeling truly elated as my best friend and I sat in the grass on a huge hill overlooking Prague while the sun set, the entire city seemingly at our feet. I remember that we stayed there until the wee hours of the night, talking to assorted people and singing along as some guy played the guitar, the lights of the city flickering like a vat of fireflies before us. Even though Petr himself is lost in the quicksand of my brain (along with the memory of my first kiss—this poll freaked me out because I can’t remember who it was with or where it happened), because of the magical feelings that night conjures up, I feel certain that he was (a) charming (b) fun to talk to and (c) good-looking.
Getting an email from him now has made me feel great. It made my day, it made my week, and it possibly even made my 2011. It’s so flattering that anyone I met briefly has any recollection of me 10 years later, let alone wonders whether my dreams have come true and if I am still single.
It’s been years since I went to a psychic (and I’ve been good on the no horoscopes resolution), but I remember that last time I did, she told me, “Your husband will be someone you’ve already met.” I don’t actually believe this stuff, and have a feeling it’s a cliche line she hands out to young women who express anxiety about whether they’ll end up alone. But when you feel ready for a relationship, it’s a nice thought that someone new could waltz into your life, or that you could reconnect with someone you’ve met before, whether you’ve been friends for years or spent two minutes chatting with them on line at the grocery store. It’s an exciting thought that opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
My New Year’s Resolution has been to loosen the reins on my hunt for my green zebra, and not cling so tightly to the idea of finding a relationship. This email from Petr is a nice reminder that you don’t have to be feverishly talking to new guys and actively going on lots of dates to meet someone. It’s almost like, over the past however many years, I’ve been dropping breadcrumbs—making friends, connecting with guys at parties, giving my email address or number to this person or that person after a good conversation. Who’s to say that, at some point down the line, one of those breadcrumbs won’t lead someone back here?
I will definitely be writing Petr back. And thinking about what to say has given me another little ego boost—that I really like who’ve I become in the past 10 years. I feel certain that, if someone liked me then, they will really appreciate me now. I’ve built a career I’m proud of and heck, I wrote a novel—one of my lifelong dreams. I’ve pursued every hobby that’s piqued my interest, from becoming a good darts player to learning how to jazz dance. Thanks to a realization I had several years back that exercise is actually fun, I look significantly (read: about 40 pounds) better than I did back then. Not to mention that I no longer think Doc Martens count as formal footwear.
I can’t helping thinking about how this summer, I will be in Berlin for a conference for a week. Who knows—maybe Petr will be willing to hop on a train and come meet me?