The one that got away

A long time ago, there was a girl who was pursuing a bachelors in physics. When I first heard about her I thought It’d be awesome if she’s cute. She was cute. She was also super friendly and witty and kind. I don’t need to tell you that she was intelligent because the bachelors in physics says that already. She was just about five feet tall and loved Bob Dylan.

I was sitting at the AIESEC office one day trying to study a bunch of heavily condensed notes on automata theory. I had an exam on the subject in a few days and I didn’t yet know what ‘automata’ meant. I was waiting for a meeting and she had just got done with one. She asked me what I was reading. I explained and we spent all of the next ten minutes or so until my meeting figuring out what an automaton is. I know now that if a girl is ever curious enough about automata or machine learning or cryptocurrencies to help me figure them out then I should kiss her right then and there.

I know what you’re thinking and to answer your question, nothing ever happened with her. There was another girl I really liked back then with whom I thought I had a better chance. I was a naive fool and thought that showing even the slightest hint of romantic interest in more than one girl at a time wasn’t a good idea. We left AIESEC and I (am 97% sure that I) never saw her again.

Long after I broke up with the other girl I thought about her again. I tried to look her up but all I had was a name. She didn’t seem to have any trace on the internet. No Facebook account, no helpful search results. None of her AIESEC friends knew where she was. (Okay I’ll admit, I only tried asking one).

I worked in New York for five months in 2010. I did all I could to catch every band and musician I liked that played anywhere near New York city. I caught Bob Dylan at Terminal 5 the night before I left for a road trip to Niagara. I was late because I had to go home after work to pack my bags. A friend who really loved Bob Dylan was waiting outside with my ticket when he would rather be holding his place at the front row. I walked as fast as I could driven by the guilt of making him wait with the knowledge that I could have planned this better. About fifty steps from the entrance I passed a girl who was looking down and walking almost as fast as me in the opposite direction. She wore a sweatshirt with her hood up and carried a backpack. For those couple of seconds in the dark she looked like Her. I turned around as she passed but I didn’t have time to see where she went. Of course, it made sense! If she was anywhere near New York city at the time (given that that’s a long shot) she would definitely be at the Bob Dylan concert. He was her favorite. I walked on knowing that if it was her, I’d run into her again before the night was through. I kept my eyes open both during the gig and after but I saw no sign of that girl again.

I googled her again today and found out that she’s studying and doing research on particle physics in the US. Something about neutrinos. How cool is that?! Time is strange and it’s made me a T-shirt peddler and I think it’ll take me weeks to understand just the basics of what she does today even if she told me herself. If she didn’t live halfway around the world I’d probably hang out around her university until I bumped into her.

Maybe I’ll meet her someday still. Maybe she’ll be seeing someone but we’ll still catch up at a cosy coffeehouse that plays Dylan and I’ll make her tell me all about her research and the difference between muon neutrinos and electron neutrinos. I’ll listen to her with a genuine expression of awe as she tells me about how they create a beam of neutrinos which pass through the earth’s crust while being largely unaffected by it and other such sciency-stuff.

As night sets in our conversation will stray. We’ll talk about how they once thought that neutrinos travel faster than light and what it would mean if they really did. We’ll talk about science fiction and time travel. We’ll talk about philosophy and compare neutrinos to people and how we zip through so much of our lives without really being affected by everything we pass through. After the coffee shop shuts and I walk home I’ll wonder if there’s an alternate universe where I tried my luck with her when I had my chance and if there’s another one where I ended up spending my life trying to understand the smallest building blocks of our world.

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