(Photo: Devyn versus the security guard. Credit: Looper, Devyn’s downtown Chicago photoblog.)
I can’t believe it actually happened. Like something out of a movie, on March 26, 2005, I accidentally met the man of my dreams on a street corner. But little did we know we had been dreaming about each other. Or emailing each other on and off for a year without knowing it. All we knew was that, out of the blue, we were standing in front of each other at the corner of Fullerton and Clark and knowing, in an instant, that we were about to have one hell of a story to tell our grandkids.
It all started way back in April of 2003. I had moved to Chicago to get over NYC’s post-9/11 angst. Like any self-respecting but single thirtysomething SGWM new in town, I (ahem) may have perused an Internet personal or two, and think I might have (really, who remembers?) posted a couple myself, to scope out the locals.
As anyone who’s ever visited an AOHell chatroom can guess, results were average, meaning entertaining in a very not-promising way. Meaning kinda scary. But there was this one man who’s little ad kept creeping up every now and then. Describing a non-conformist urbanist, lover of all things midcentury modern, and all-around deep thinking artist. Who, like me, would rather be forced to eat okra than own a car or live in the suburbs. A perfect match. Totally.
So, of course, I never wrote to him.
Come spring of 2004, well don’t you know who finally sends me an email. Even if I didn’t have the courage to say hello, he did. Californian who fled east to denser spaces, best friend living in my old ‘hood of Brooklyn, living downtown at State and Madison. I mean, what more could an expatriate NYC urban planner want?
So, of course, I never wrote him back.
But I still saw his ad pop up here and there. By winter’s end in early 2005, I could tell you what he looked like, where he lived, though certainly not why he was still single, and still the obstinacy in me to not respond. Even in March of last year, when he sent me another email. And by this point, from our ads we could certainly pick each other out of a crowd. His continued interest was a gift horse.
So, of course, I rapped it right in the mouth and didn’t write him back.
And then I did the dumbest thing I have ever done in my life. I responded to a personal ad from what seemed like a really nice fellow. Handsome, intelligent, a committed urbanist, a photoblogger of Chicago’s downtown. And he responded back. We exchanged a few very promising–well, frankly awe-inspiring for me–emails. I wrote him back. We traded numbers. I promised to call. He was the same man from the past two years of personals. And I didn’t clue into that fact. Like an idiot.
And, as you already can guess, I never called him.
One week later, a Saturday, late March, I set out to pound the pavement in search of a new apartment. All morning I felt guilty for not having called him all week. Somehow, I knew this was important. But my intransigence before all clues of a higher power persisted. So there I was, in a neighborhood I didn’t live in, just walking up Clark from the corner of Fullerton, looking for “For Rent” signs.
And suddenly there he was, standing between two parked cars, camera in hand, aiming south, shooting the Hancock Building in the distance. I almost walked by, but instead tripped over my jaw as it hit the ground. I stopped, walked up to him, and did the bravest thing I’ve ever done. I said, “Excuse me, are you Devyn?”
And without missing a beat, and grinning ear to ear, he said, “Hi, Michael.”
And I realized in an instant sometimes the man of your dreams is, truly, right in front of you.