Sex & Sensibility: Stranger things have happened
It all started on a public bus in D.C. It was around 8 p.m. on a weekday, and I sat down with my books and tried to occupy myself by staring out the window. A man around my age got on the bus and strategically placed himself in the seat across from mine. Our eyes connected for a split second, and then he spoke.
"Do you think you could give me some advice?" he asked.
Originally, I thought he was going to ask me my name or about the bus schedules, or where I was going. Past experiences have taught me that when men approach, they have specific reasons. However, when men place themselves close to you and begin a conversation, the woman assumes for the most part that the man is trying to come on to her. This was not the case.
This man, Charlie, began to tell me a story about another woman he had met on the bus, much the same way I met him. Their story began a month ago, during a similar bus ride, when a woman named Sarah sat down and they talked. As the ride continued, the two found they shared similar interests, and Charlie believed they shared a mutual bond. Although Sarah never gave him her number or e-mail address, they ended the ride with an "I'll see you around," presuming that they would actually see each other.
This was the man's dilemma. Charlie hasn't seen Sarah since, and it's been one month.
Obviously Sarah made a huge impact on Charlie and he has been thinking about what it would be like if they had seen each other again. To complicate matters, Charlie knows that Sarah is a student, and sent her an e-mail to her campus address. Sarah never responded. In addition, Charlie knows that Sarah is a student in a particular program. Subsequently, Charlie has begun to go to the department and aimlessly walk around - hoping that the two will "randomly" run into each other. He has even asked friends who know her to help find out where her classes are, and at what times.
As Charlie told me this story, I couldn't help but reflect on my past. There have been so many times that I too have seen or spoken to someone for only a moment, and have hoped that I would meet them again. Like the movie "Sliding Doors," every moment in one's life can alter the future, whether you're aware of it or not. Charlie's encounter with Sarah has made him wonder whether the two of them would've made it as a couple. If they had exchanged numbers, for instance, would things be different?
It was difficult for me to give advice without hurting Charlie's feelings, and without placing too much emphasis on my own thoughts. A part of me wanted to tell Charlie to keep trying, to not give up. Maybe she didn't get his e-mails, and maybe she has been thinking of him too. But then another part of me thought about how awkward that truly is. In other words, is he some kind of stalker?
In the end, I told Charlie to wait it out a little and see what happens. Instead of going to her classes and standing in a department with which he has no connection, he could relax and let fate play out. If the two were meant to be together, then one day they will be.
Although I know this advice isn't sensible, it works. I'm sure that there's a part of Charlie that doesn't feel comfortable "stalking" this girl. He probably feels awkward, and understands that it's a little eerie the way he's been acting. He already knew this, and that's why he chose to talk. I just happened to be there.
As we approached our destination, I remember looking at him and thinking: While most people wouldn't ask for advice from a stranger, what made me so different from Sarah? Why was he willing to go to such depths to find this girl when so many other girls were right in front of him? Why was he infatuated with finding ONLY her?
People we meet throughout our lives can have lasting effects on us. Sometimes the person you meet only once can change the course of your life. Charlie might find Sarah one day, but the chances are greater that he won't. These fleeting encounters with beautiful strangers can convince us that love at first sight might actually exist. On the other hand, Charlie's drive to find Sarah may just be an unwarranted delusion. My philosophy is time-tested and logical: You can't go searching for love. When it's your turn, he or she will be right in front of you.