August 9, 2007
Whose soulmate is it, anyway?
A Jerusalem rabbi once told me that when we're born, God whispers the name of our beshert -- our soulmate or destiny. The cleft above our lips, he said, is where
God places a finger, to silence our ability to reveal the secret.
Since then, I've anticipated the moment when I'd happen upon mine. When my eyes locked with his at a pay phone at San Francisco International Airport, I sensed it was a sign.
It was Oct. 10, 2001, and I was heading to Detroit. As instructed by the airline, I'd arrived early, with hours to kill. For 10 minutes, he and I chatted on adjoining pay phones, stealing glances at one another. I thought he was the cutest thing I'd ever seen.
After finding the crowded gate, I felt eyes on me and peered up to find his. I remembered my recent horoscope: "You'll meet someone on a flight."
His seat was 15 rows ahead of mine. But destiny is destiny, so I wrote him a note.
I admitted I'd never done this before, but figured I had nothing to lose by saying hello. I said I refused to live with regrets and, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, sending kind words on an airplane made sense to me. If nothing else, I hoped he'd smile.
I signed with my first name, seat number and e-mail address. And then I sat there, baffled, clasping the note.
Eventually, I caucused with the flight attendants. They approved the note and fought over who would deliver it. I scurried back to my seat like the eighth-grader I'd become.
Peering over my magazine, I witnessed the delivery. But my beshert did nothing.
Although embarrassed, I was proud to have taken a risk. Only my 94-year-old grandmother condemned me: "Do you want people thinking you're a prostitute?"
Six days later, I looked up as he was boarding my return flight. Amid my muttered obscenities, I stifled my laughter and stared at my feet.
I surveyed the crowd for his face at SFO baggage claim, only to ensure a safe distance. In awe, I watched as he scampered to hide behind a pole. It took everything in me to not peek around it and scream, "Boo!"
Several months later, I was at the YMCA in Presidio Park when he entered the building.
After pointing him out to a friend in the know, we agreed I had to do something.
"Excuse me," I started, as he stood by a machine. "You may not remember me, but I'm the woman who made a complete fool out of herself and slipped you a note on an airplane."
I nodded, wondering if this happened all the time to him.
"That was you? I had no idea who sent that note," he said, staring blankly.
"Now I'm really mortified."
"It was nice," he said without smiling, "but I was really hungover and totally out of it."
The man, whom I will call Evan, said he'd been traveling to Buffalo. Beyond that, he offered nothing and had been much more likeable before he opened his mouth. Officially over him, I looked forward to walking away.
"Anyhow," I said, "I just thought that after sending you a note, seeing you on the return flight and then seeing you today, I had to say hello."
"You were on my return flight?"
With that, I excused myself.
Since then, I passed him on Steuart Street, but my pride kept me silent. When cheering on a friend at a half-marathon, a racing Evan stopped beside me for water. Another time, while running along Crissy Field, I stopped to refill my water bottle. He was there, on the bench in front of me.
"Hi, Evan," I ventured, stupidly. "It's Jessica, from the plane. Again."
We spoke awkwardly before I escaped. I ran out to the bridge and ignored him on my return. Later, he caught up with me. He said he was a former journalist in Alaska before becoming an analyst. If I'd been meeting him for the first time, I might have cared.
I suppose I'll always wonder why my ex-beshert never responded to the note. Was he in a relationship? Gay? Simply not interested? Or ... was I really all that terrifying?
Maybe I'll ask, next time I see him. And in the meantime, I'll keep my notes to myself.
Jessica Ravitz is a religion reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org