Part 1, Chapter 3
For every relationship I’ve ever been in, there’s always a moment of unbearable non-classical-mechanics, such as “sparks” or “chemistry” or “magnetism,” that predates the relationship. If that doesn’t happen, you don’t have yourself a relationship – which, sure, everyone knows that. But then, how come it sometimes doesn’t happen until months or even years after I first meet the person? How come the initial strength of this impulse seems in no way correlated to the intensity of physical desire, later on? What is wrong with classical mechanics, anyway? It’s as though the entire world of romance metaphors has it in for ol’ Sir Isaac.
When I walked into the Chinese restaurant for the customary end-of-the-year dinner in May of ’02, I wasn’t thinking about any of these things. I was thinking only about how late my friends and I were, and how it was, almost certainly, going to cost me the opportunity to sit next to Hot Copy Editor. As far as I knew at the time, it was going to be the last time I saw her for a whole summer. I didn’t want to be gazing at her across a table.
I was trying to figure out the likelihood that the only seat left would be the seat next to her, assuming that there are n=20 seats at the table, one empty seat left for me, and a 99% probability that every female-preferring member of the staff (of which assume 50% likelihood) would go out of their way to sit next to her. I never did take a statistics course, but I was not coming up with good numbers.
Well, numbers can go to hell. There was one seat remaining. It was just to the right of Hot Copy Editor. Okay. Be still, my endocrine. It’s just dinner. She’s not your girlfriend, who, you remember, is a person who exists.
So I tried to settle down into a normal rhythm of small talk. I complained about how the “Cantonese Duck” dish required a 24-hour advanced notice to be prepared, a thing that Hot Copy Editor heartily agreed with. I quoted lines from Pulp Fiction in context-appropriate locations, a tactic which fell devastatingly flat. On everyone at the table.
All in all, then, it was a normal evening of conversation for me. Par, you could say. As usual, I have absolutely no clue which of the things I could say is going to be hilarious and which things are going to be stupid, so I just go ahead and say close to everything that comes to mind. The evening was progressing as it normally might.
Until I turned left as she turned right, and suddenly our faces were way closer than they have any rational reason to be, for only the length of time it took us both to turn away. Screw chemistry. I’ll tell you exactly what it felt like: Magnus force (which Newton first described, bitches.) In other words, a curveball. She was supposed to be just the Hot Copy Editor that I ignored because I was mostly too scared of her to flirt with her, and because I had legitimate girlfriend-related reasons to, if half-heartedly, ignore her. But that was until my face was 2 inches away from hers, making eye contact for the briefest of twinkles.
So, there’s, you know, some kind of non-Newtownian science in between us now. Which is approximately as exciting as beating Super Mario Brothers 2. So you can hop on an egg, so what? And in my case, so, I can pull some half-assed kiss-free Chinese food Lady and the Tramp move. Big deal. Which is pretty much what I thought, too, when I summed up the whole thing in my mind: even now, after the Close Facial Proximity Incident, this isn’t a thing.
That is, until e-mailing started.