The Perfect Prom Night: A Tale of Two Pen Pals
A true story.
On April 1, I found out that I’d gotten accepted into Harvard College.
Contrary to my worst fears, it was not a cruel April Fool’s joke.
After three and a half years at my college preparatory high school — the oldest school west of the Mississippi, where students lined up outside the library during lunchtime just to find a spot to study, I breathed a sigh of relief.
The 4 a.m. nights spent typing out essays on our family computer by the light of a single lamp while my mom was asleep, rhythmically snoring upstairs. The pre-calculus problem sets I haphazardly scrawled out on my train commute to school.
Ravenously eating my first meal of the day after seven classes non-stop without a lunch break. The activities that I rushed to after-school ranging from rehearsals for the high school musical to snagging interviews for the school paper to meeting with my fellow members of the San Francisco Student Advisory Council at City Hall.
High school, as I knew it, was almost over.
I had one more task, though. As a member of the senior prom committee, the biggest event for our class was two months away — set to take place on May 25, smack dab in the middle of Memorial Day Weekend and right before graduation.
While I organized posters, ticket sales, song playlists, and prom king and queen nominations, the gentlemen of the senior class began to wage a hearty competition among themselves.
The sport of choice? Prom-posals.
Every day leading up to prom, there seemed to be a new locker decorated, a fresh public declaration of affection on the radio announcements or along the staircase for all to see and hear, a teacher interrupted in the middle of class by a male student wielding a bouquet of roses for his professed dream prom date.
A homemade music video played preceding a class assembly, set to the soundtrack of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” following one prom-proposer down the halls and the shaky aesthetic contributed to a sweet sincerity, imperfectly edited before the days of doing it for the ‘gram.
The onslaught of prom-proposals became so grandiose that I ended up writing a front-page article about the new phenomenon for our school paper, interviewing both the female recipients of the gestures and the creative minds behind them.
It seemed like at a school where competition actively fostered motivation for self-improvement, now that all of the seniors knew where they were headed to college, they had turned their attention from out-doing each other in AP courses to proving themselves as the more romantic Romeos.
During a spare period where I had a 15-minute break, with still a month and a half away from prom, I wandered over to one of my favorite places: my high school counselor’s office.
Left-handed and frizzy-haired, Ms. McKenzie was one of my most trusted confidantes, who knew how to put the brakes on my over-thinking. I usually bombarded her with questions and what-if scenarios that she calmly quelled with reassuring laughter. This time around, she turned the tables on me.
“So, who are you going to prom with?”
I hadn’t considered the need to go with anyone. I was on the committee. I’d be working all night and lucky if I even got a chance to hit the dance floor.
As had been my typical tendency during high school, I liked having the job of ensuring that everyone else had a good time. That in turn made me enjoy the event more than if I was just an attendee.
“You have to go with someone. It’s your senior prom.”
I gaped at Ms. McKenzie. She was one of the most forward-thinkers at our school. Unlike the other counselors, she hadn’t cared about signing off on my schedules through the years that opted for Journalism in lieu of AP Physics, Spanish instead of Calculus, modern dance rather than Macroeconomics.
“If you go alone, you’ll look back and wish you’d gone with someone.”
She must have read the skepticism on my face because she followed that up by imploring,
“Promise me, you’ll go with a date.”
The woman had written my college recommendation letter.
I couldn’t say no.
I mustered a shrug. Maybe I should listen to her advice. She was trying to counsel me through my last dregs of high school after all.
A week later, she had given one of her TA’s the job of finding me a prom date — and successfully secured me a blind date.
Despite how Ms. McKenzie had been right for the majority of her valuable insights in my high school career, she was mistaken about this one.
Looking back, it wasn’t prom that I would remember the most.
It was the twelve hours immediately after.
On April 17, one of my friends on Facebook told me that someone had posted on her wall about a comment I’d made. Sure enough, “Zane M.” accompanied by his default photo, a square thumbnail containing a tall figure leaping on a lamppost Singing in the Rain-style, was calling me his dream girl for being Harvard-bound.
I cringed. Red flag.
I let his friend request sit in my inbox for a few days until I saw he posted a follow-up on my friend’s wall, complaining “Sanyee still hasn’t added me on Facebook. She’s probably too good for me now that she has the H-bomb.”
Despite how the guy lived in Los Angeles and I was miles away situated in San Francisco, I didn’t want him thinking I was a total snob. Certain that we would never cross paths in person, I accepted the friend request.
Immediately after, I received an email about how Zane M. had edited the friend details for us.
Curious, I clicked on the link and saw Zane’s description of how we’d “met” for Facebook’s records:
“One day, while Zane was Facebook-stalking Teresa’s wall, he came across Sanyee. Zane was so impressed and thought that everything she’d done in life already was amazing so he friend-requested her. But Sanyee didn’t add him. Days passed and Zane soon fell into a depression. Then, Sanyee accepted his request and now they’re friends. What’s going to happen? Will it end happily ever after? To be continued…stay tuned…”
After seeing the story, I posted two simple words on his wall:
A few minutes later, he wrote back, asking me about senior year.
The next night, I asked him if he’d ended up playing tennis, because he’d mentioned wanting to play during the day.
When he responded that it was scorching hot, I challenged him with my pro-hot weather stance. This led to a Northern California versus Southern California debate over Facebook.
Soon, we were writing to each other every night, responding to something the other had said and trading new snippets from our respective days on opposite sides of the state.
I found out that he had an older brother who lived in San Francisco, that his mother was overbearing, and his father was a workaholic.
That, and he shared my penchant for dreaming big.
In one post, he played off of a comment I had made about my hope to report next to Ryan Seacrest at the Oscars someday and wrote,
“It’s nice that you know me already, ‘cause you’re gonna be broadcasting about me one day when I’m rich and famous!”
He wanted to make a name for himself in the corporate world and was a prominent member of his school’s chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America.
Our correspondence became a regular pen-pal-ship — a public Facebook courtship — and our fan base began to amass as my friends would read what he posted on my wall and his friends would, in turn, read what I wrote to him. We started writing each other letters in the form of wall-posts, hitting the character maximum of 1,000 characters frequently.
When I missed one day of posting because I went to stay with my sister at her college and left my laptop at home, he mused, “What happened to my daily dose of Sanyee wall posts?”
During the day, I would take note of things that I would later recount to Zane. I found myself murmuring, “Zane would appreciate that reference” or “I wonder what Zane would think of that.”
Even though we had never even met in person, I felt closer to him than I did to most of my classmates at school.
Maybe it was because he didn’t know the Sanyee at my high school who had been voted “Most Likely to Take Things Too Seriously” in our yearbook.
The only things he knew about me were what I told him.
And I continued to look forward to his “letters” every night.
In true You’ve Got Mail fashion with Facebook instead of AOL, just like Meg Ryan to Tom Hanks’s hapless hero, I soon found myself wanting to meet him.
At the same time, I feared that his actual self might misalign with his charming online persona.
I thought back to my awkward moments in the fall of senior year, when I dated Marc, who I’d known in middle school and reconnected with on Facebook. He had seemed so funny on social media, but turned out to be far less interesting in person.
Zane in 3D might also be different from Zane in his two-dimensional Facebook profile.
When Zane announced that he was planning to visit his brother on Memorial Day weekend, I had no idea whether or not we would really meet in person. We swapped numbers over Facebook, but I was not expecting much.
A part of me was hoping that we would not meet at all because I wanted us to sustain our regular pen-pal-ship.
What if instead of writing to each other every night, we began texting or instant messaging? I liked writing to him and enjoyed looking forward to his nightly responses — and my heart did beat a little faster, perhaps in true Pavlovian conditioning, every time Facebook informed me that I had one new notification.
Or worse, what if we had no chemistry at all in person and his friends had actually been the ones who were writing to me on behalf of him?
Either way, I didn’t get excited about the possibility of meeting him because I didn’t want things to change. I also had another event to look forward to that weekend.
I didn’t have lofty aspirations for prom night; the only dream that I crafted was one that I had held onto since junior year and never dared to admit out loud— one where my prom date and I would stay up the entire night, talking about our lives.
After meeting the blind date, Jeff, that my counselor’s TA had set me up with, a few days before prom, I found him to be perfectly polite and affable. But not someone with whom I could see myself engaging in conversation until sunrise. Jeff was entertaining, but I felt more chemistry with Zane across a keyboard and screen than next to Jeff in person.
That night, Jeff brought me a corsage, we ate the desserts that my prom committee members and I had painstakingly selected, and we joked around about high school prom stereotypes from the movies. I spent the majority of my time overseeing the voting system for Senior Prom Court that I had devised — placing M&M’s in cups — at the front of the entrance.
This way, I could welcome everyone as they arrived and also persuade them to vote. However, people kept on getting confused. They asked if they could eat the M&M’s, if the colorful candies corresponded to different nominees, and whether or not they could vote more than once.
By the end of the night, my patience was waning, but Jeff’s wasn’t, as he remained loyally by my side.
After I announced our new court on the mic, playing into the long-running joke that the student body had over how I seemed to emcee every event at school and was now emceeing prom, I was able to sneak in a few dances with Jeff and an official photo at the backdrop. As prom wound down, I told Jeff that I was planning to sleep over at a girlfriend’s house and I was surprised when he looked disappointed.
Before we said goodbye, he asked if he could kiss me. Mortified, since my classmates — basically everyone I knew from school — were swarming towards us to get to the coat check with their dates and groups of friends, I stammered for an answer and told him that he could kiss me on the cheek. This only caused him to look even more disappointed.
“Are you sure?” he whined.
The sea of seniors around us was not subsiding. I nodded.
He leaned over and I could feel my cheeks burning with embarrassment as he pecked one. I thought about all of the times that I had felt like I neither wanted nor needed to be privy to students engaging in Public Displays of Affection in the hallways along their lockers.
Once we parted and I saw Jeff’s back moving towards the front doors, I checked my phone.
Then did a double-take.
A text from Zane.
He was apparently right outside of San Francisco’s City Hall, where our prom was. I stared at my metallic pink screen, blinking in surprise. Was this really happening? What was our first meeting going to be like?
I ran into the bathroom and changed out of my royal blue prom dress with the mermaid tail tiered flounces at the bottom, folding it neatly into my duffel bag that I’d initially packed for my friend’s house. I pulled on a black sequined tank top, my favorite pair of jeans, and a matching black sequined scarf.
Throwing on my peacoat to ward against the San Francisco wind, I grabbed my best friend and fellow senior prom committee member, Daphne, and asked her to come with me to meet Zane. Daphne had heard me talk nonstop about him during prom committee meetings, passing periods, and after school for the past month and now he was only a few feet away from us.
She agreed, but told me that she didn’t want to intrude on whatever exchange we would have. We wandered outside, to the red carpeted steps of City Hall and a tan figure who loomed about two heads over me strolled towards us.
Without taking time to shake hands, he enveloped me in a hug and I felt his tennis-toned arms wrap around me. I wasn’t used to being so forward with strangers, but he looked harmless. Just tall. I probably came up to his shoulders.
I introduced him and Daphne to each other, but then Daphne had to return to accompany her own date and his friends. Before she slipped away, though, she whispered with a wink, “He’s cute.”
In the moonlight, his eyes looked like a mix of amber and light brown, and his jaw appeared strong and defined, setting off his angular face. Every part of him seemed sculpted, well-put together.
“So…what’s the plan? Are you going to show me San Francisco?”
With that, the second hand clicked into place and the giant clock behind us at City Hall bellowed, ushering in the midnight hour.
And officially a new day.
We joined a group of my friends at Sparky’s, a 24-hour diner in the Castro, a lively area of San Francisco known for late-night clubs and rainbow flags adorning each sidewalk.
There, Zane met my classmates — including the student who had been named Prom King — and he introduced us to the Sugar Packet game as we waited for our omelets and hot chocolates. Taking a pink packet between his fingers, Zane deftly slid it across the table so that it hung half-suspended over the edge towards Prom King, who sat across from him.
“If you get it like that to the person across from you, they have to eat the whole thing,” he warned.
Next to him, I smiled defiantly. “So what? I like sugar packets. I could eat whole ones anyways.”
Zane asked about our prom, bragging about how he’d gone to nearly 16 proms around his district. I rolled my eyes in good fun, but secretly wondered what it would have been like if he’d been my prom date instead of Jeff.
At 3 a.m., everyone’s mothers started calling them, asking to come home, but Zane’s brother was back at his apartment, sound asleep and willing to let his younger brother fend for himself.
The others dispersed and the two of us waited for a late-night train to take us to downtown San Francisco, as I proclaimed that it was the only part of the city that I knew like the back of my hand.
Upon hearing my confident overtures, he grabbed my hand and asked if I could tell him how many moles and cuts I had.
As I fumbled for numbers, he smiled triumphantly, insisting that the phrase “knowing something like the back of your hand” was incredibly illogical. He then relinquished my hand.
With no one else around us on the platform, we talked about our favorite episodes of FRIENDS and I mentioned how everything seemed to be better on TV and in movies.
I told him about how all I wanted was an all-nighter on the town after prom, staying up talking, and he told me that he’d never pulled an all-nighter before.
As the train approached, we looked at each other and smiled.
After getting off downtown, I led us to a hotel that was known for its elevators that ran up and down on the outside of the building. On our way in, we walked by a couple in the reception area, passed out on the couches and apparently prommed out.
Unlike them, though, we had plenty of energy to spare.
We ran into the elevators and joy-rode them all the way to the top of the 27th floor, staring out into the San Francisco evening skyline, at the peaks of the Golden Gate Bridge poking up into the inky black sky. It was too foggy to see stars, but we could make out the residential household lights twinkling on the hills.
After an hour of joy-riding and taking pictures in the elevator, we went to another hotel, to loiter on the couches by a bar and piano area, swapping more stories about our high school experiences thus far.
I told Zane about how I used to come to that hotel with my mother and sister on Friday nights when I was younger, whiling away the time by eating peanuts in crystal dishes and dipping our hands in the fountains to the dulcet tones of live piano music. We would pretend we were guests there, lounging on the couches and staring up at the tiered floors that soared and stretched above us.
Following a pit stop to Starbucks, the sun began to rise and we ran out to Fisherman’s Wharf, to walk along the pier.
In classic San Francisco style, though, the sun didn’t really rise. Instead, we just witnessed a gradual change in the color of the sky above us, fading from dark blue to grey blue to lighter blue.
Zane pointed out two seagulls, conjecturing that they were father and son.
“Don’t you see the resemblance?” he joked.
When I looked out over the horizon and the lapping waves of the bay, I blurted out how I was nervous for college.
I didn’t know what to expect.
I’d never left my hometown of the past 18 years and moreover, I had no idea how to transport everything I owned over to the other side of the country.
“Why don’t you use one of those?” he pointed at a cargo ship making its way across the water.
We both burst into laughter and I felt my tension ease away.
Since it was colder near the pier, we walked towards Union Square, where giant hand-painted heart sculptures stood on raised platforms. Still early, there was barely anyone else around. In a few hours, the hearts would be cluttered with tourists clamoring to take group photos and getting in each other’s way.
Zane climbed onto one of the platforms, leaning against the heart, and gave me a hand up next to him. As we sat side by side on the narrow space, supported by the boldly oversized, colorful, and hollow heart behind us, he noted,
“I want this heart. I want to take a piece of it with me.”
I grinned, ready with a retort.
“Then it would be like you’re literally leaving your heart in San Francisco.”
As we mulled this over, a cable car roared down the tracks across from us and a man with a camera sitting on the deck snapped multiple pictures in our direction.
Zane leaned in.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if that guy was actually a photographer for National Geographic and the two of us somehow ended up on the cover together?”
He had perfect white teeth, except for one crooked tooth in his bottom set. It was the kind of tooth you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking for it. An observation that I could never have made if it wasn’t for meeting him in person.
“So — you like all this psychology stuff, right?”
Zane was referring to my long stories that I wrote him about my adventures in AP Psych. Although he had been getting progressively sleepier at dawn and complaining about how his contacts were drying out earlier, he was all of a sudden more alert and awake.
“Yeah, I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes people-watching. Like standing on a top floor and peering down through the railing at other people who don’t know I’m looking at them. Gosh, does that sound strange?” I trailed off.
Zane turned and flashed me another smile.
“Yes, but we’ve already concluded that you’re not the most normal person around here, right?”
I couldn’t believe the ease with which we were already joking around with each other. I couldn’t even do this with my friends at school because everyone was always so sensitive about everything.
Teasing back, I told him to watch it. “Without me, you wouldn’t be able to find your way back.”
“Yeah, and then I’d just have to stay in San Fran, right?” he asked lightly, which reminded us that in a few hours, he would be leaving to go back to LA.
I mustered up a half-smile. He must have noticed the lackluster attempt, because he attempted to change the mood of the conversation.
“Imagine a cube in a desert. Describe it.”
“Okay…it’s clear and medium-sized. It’s very solid, though. Made of a white, chalky, graphite-like substance. Unbreakable.”
“Graphite. I’ve never heard that one before. Now, imagine a ladder in the scene. What’s it made of and where is it in relation to the cube?”
“The ladder is sturdy and wooden. It’s really tall and it looks like it wouldn’t be steady but it’s actually super stable. It’s leaning against the cube.”
“There’s also a horse in the picture. Where is the horse?”
“I love horses! That’s the sign that I was born under for the Chinese zodiac!”
“Well, describe what the horse in your scenario is doing.”
“It’s standing next to the cube, pawing the ground and shaking its mane.”
“Imagine some flowers. I know, I know, it’s a desert. But this is like a magical desert. Use your imagination, Harvard.”
“There’s a whole field of flowers and they’re all blooming!”
“And there’s a storm. What’s going on with the storm?”
“Does there have to be a storm? What if I don’t want a storm?”
“There’s a storm.”
“Fine, it’s just leaving. And the air is cool with that feeling that comes after a storm. When everything’s calm and peaceful and still.”
“Okay, let’s see how you matched up. The cube is how you see yourself.”
“Graphite all the way.”
“Well, you’re strong. Independent. Used to withstanding pressure.”
“I like that.”
“I thought you would. The ladder represents your friends in life. Since the ladder’s leaning against the cube, your friends tend to lean on you for support. And though they seem unreliable sometimes, they’re actually pretty steady.”
“And the flowers represent how many children you want when you grow up.”
“Oh yeah, I just want a whole blooming field.”
“Hey — there’s nothing wrong with that. And the storm represents your troubles. Obviously, some big trouble is going away.”
“The burden of college apps is finally done. Trying to fit my whole life on a piece of paper in 500 words.”
“Well, you must have done a good job.”
“You say that after only having just met me.”
“Well, it’s been an incredible night. An all-nighter on the town.”
I snuck a glance in his direction. Trying to read the version of him in front of me. Just like the posts I wrote him, my next words spilled out without a filter.
“You know, this was actually the dream prom night that I always secretly envisioned…It wasn’t prom that I cared so much about — it was after-prom. The 2 a.m. diner meal, the staying out and watching the sunrise, talking for hours.”
“So you liked the company?”
“I wouldn’t complain.”
I kept my tone lighthearted, despite the barrage of thoughts flooding my brain. Why did he have to live in Los Angeles? Why did I have to meet him as I was about to head off to the East Coast? Why did I feel more attracted to him than anyone I’d ever met in all my 18 years?
Then, I remembered.
“Oh wait — the horse. What did the horse represent?”
Zane paused. At first I thought he’d forgotten what the horse meant. Then, he cleared his throat.
“The love interest in your life.”
“Looks like he’s standing right next to you.”
We spent our final two hours at the beach, walking along the coast, Zane holding my duffel bag containing my prom dress in one of his hands and taking my hand for the first time all night in his other one.
We talked about my upcoming economics test, his end-of-the-year school dance — little events that were happening soon, ones we could still predict.
It felt as if we were avoiding the topic of what would happen with the two of us in the near future, skirting the elephant on the beach.
When we said goodbye, we didn’t know when we would see each other again.
Afterwards, we kept writing to each other in freshman year of college, until our serendipity got misplaced.
The perpetual dreamer, I spoke about him to my new friends in my dorm, regaling them with that magical tale of a prom night that was perfectly pristine and permanently preserved in my memory.
One friend was in a long-distance relationship and championed the idea of us keeping the flame of the pen-pal-ship until we graduated.
Another was less optimistic.
Erring on the side of pragmatism one evening while we were studying for finals, Karl rolled his eyes at the mention of Zane.
“You know he’s in college, too, right? He’s meeting hundreds of other girls right now and come on — you’re not that special.”
Upset and trying — but failing — to avoid getting choked up, I ran to the bathroom, leaving my textbooks splayed behind on the table we’d been using in the dining hall.
Karl ended up chasing after me right into the girls’ bathroom — to the chagrin of another student we knew who was coming out — and we would laugh about that later.
Sitting on the bathroom sink together, he explained how he didn’t see the value of blindly trusting someone I had only ever met one time, someone who I only knew through words on a wall, someone who could have easily flown from Los Angeles to San Francisco anytime that summer before freshman year of college but didn’t.
Someone who could make commitments and stick to plans, but had no proven record of being ready for either with me. Sure, Zane seemed fun and impulsive, but what future was ever built on that?
Overall, Karl didn’t want me to get hurt. This story I clung to only made me seem cluelessly naive and continuously gullible.
As his words sunk in, I queried the time I could be sinking into a lost cause, myself, expending hope in someone who could easily forget about me. The damage was done. The dream shattered and bubble burst, I took a step back.
My daily posts became more intermittent and interspersed; soon I had other people to talk to about my day and didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to reproduce the stories via print for Zane.
Then, halfway through our sophomore year in college, we saw each other again. I was visiting Daphne at UC San Diego, where she was going to school. Unlike me and Zane, Daphne and I had actually sustained our long-distance friendship and I was crashing on her couch for the weekend.
Hearing that I was so close to his campus, Zane hitched a ride from Irvine to San Diego and came knocking at her door. The two of us stayed up all night, this time stationary indoors, catching up on college tales and roommate horror stories, migrating from the balcony outside of her apartment room to the couch.
He had to leave that afternoon and after he did, I felt the residual sparkle glimmering as it had the morning after our prom all-nighter.
Leaving me starry-eyed and ready to build enduring fantasies out of such little foundations.
That summer, he did make promises to visit me during my internship at the local CBS News affiliate in San Francisco — and each one went unfulfilled.
He had to stay home with his mother because his father was on a work trip, his brother was flying out of town for an interview, his family kept getting in the way of his travel plans.
At the time, I thought that it was perfectly reasonable for me to be angry. I’d been looking forward to the prospect of seeing him again — and we’d even nurtured the idea of having another more epic all-nighter to top the last one. I couldn’t stand feeling let down each time and channeled my frustration over his flakiness into the beginnings of a creative novel.
I began to pen a story about a national talk show host who has to interview an ex-boyfriend who she hasn’t seen for the last ten years, an old flame who she left behind because she had bigger career aspirations to follow. In their time apart, both have ascended in their fields.
As they bicker on camera in their first conversation in ten years, the producer marvels at their undeniable chemistry and invites him to co-host the show with the protagonist so that they are forced to work together.
I ended up further drafting this novel in England, while studying creative writing during the next summer abroad at Cambridge University, where I met someone else, someone much more tangible for me than Zane ever was.
Looking back, though, it’s funny how one of the first conversations on Facebook between me and Zane revolved around my interviewing him in the future.
Perhaps that’s where the inspiration for the novel came along.
The story of two big dreamers who don’t know if they should invest their faith in their dreams or in each other.
When I saw Zane again, it was in New York two years later, the summer before my senior year of college. I was interning at the national headquarters of CBS News this time around and he happened to be coming that weekend to attend a business training.
He’d texted me about meeting up and right before we saw each other, I had indulged in some wine at a fancy Italian restaurant with a group of my friends, collectively dreaming of a day when a bill at a place like that wouldn’t be over our modest budgets.
When Zane arrived, we walked down the sprawling avenues through Midtown West to Grand Central Station. I broached the idea of the novel with him out loud and watched for his reaction.
“I can see you writing a novel. I always liked reading all of those letters that you would write me on Facebook. I remember how good your writing was in those.”
Something about his words were too sweet, almost as saccharine as the Sweet ’n’ Low packets that we slid across the table that night after prom.
I shook my head in disbelief, thinking about how easily I’d fallen for his flattery on Facebook and in person. The danger of words, words, words.
“Yeah…I guess writing to you every night helped me hone my writing skills. Which means that meeting you wasn’t so bad and maybe it was a blessing in disguise after all.”
I’d blurted out the string of words before I could stop them.
Maybe it was the wine talking. Maybe it wasn’t.
I couldn’t tell if they’d hurt his feelings or struck a nerve. If they had, he didn’t show it. But he was quiet for once.
When we reached Grand Central, he asked if I could wait with him until his friend arrived. Staring at the clock, which told us that it was nearing midnight, I thought about how I needed to wake up at 8 a.m. for work at CBS the next day. I still also had to take the subway back to my apartment and I was already feeling tired.
Unlike my novel’s protagonist, who ultimately realizes that love is more important than work, I said goodnight to Zane and walked away from him, fading into the sea of people in Grand Central Station.
As I took the subway alone back to my apartment, staring at my somber and now sober reflection in the window, I felt like I had learned from my epistolary episode with Zane.
Thankfully, Zane and I did have chemistry both online and in person.
But, I had succumbed all too deeply to his flighty words rather than his concrete actions and the combination of timing, distance, and circumstance had prevented us from ever effectively exploring an actual relationship.
Dreams had gotten in the way. In more ways than one.
The dreams we wanted for ourselves, the dream selves we’d sought each other to be.
And like the last remnants of a dream, we were fading far from reach and well beyond recovery.
I decided not to feel sad about closing our chapter; his words, my words, the memory of our time together, and the once-hopeful dreams that I had harbored of a potential romance between us could live on in my novel.
Even though life had stalled our chance of working out in reality, I had still managed to find a different kind of love and inspiration in our story together.
Author’s Note: The hardest part about writing this story and reflecting on this time was actually having to change everyone’s names to protect their privacy.
When someone’s name becomes so familiar on your tongue and branded into your brain, it’s hard to think of them as anyone else.
That name becomes so much a part of their identity, that image they present to the world, that idea you can’t help but cultivate of them.
I did my best to keep the names as close in flavor to each of the real-life people who inspired this chain of events.
For what’s in a name that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. xo