The first time I remember meeting you, you were late. You said that it wasn’t actually the first time we’d met—that I’d been introduced to you, multiple times, two years prior (once upon a Toasty Tuesday). But, that first day, you were indeed quite late, and I was a little ticked off.
A mutual friend had suggested to me that I attend a date night with you. We could just hang out, she said, in case you two don’t really get along. I consented to letting her give you my phone number. I’m sorry for opening your initial invitation almost immediately and then ignoring it for several hours. I didn’t know I had read receipts on, I swear.
Going out with a boy (dare I call it a date?) was an unprecedented situation at the time. I had to call a friend, who was abroad in London, so we could give your Facebook page a thorough stalk.
“He’s cute,” I remember her saying. “You should go with him.”
When you did eventually show up at my apartment before the date night, I realized that you were cute. That annoyed me a little as well, because I was preparing to be mad about the lateness, and the fact that you were nice to look at made me less mad than I wanted to be.
You apologized for the tardiness while power walking with me at top speed toward the frat house where you lived at the time. Something regarding complications with the pregame; I don’t really remember, because I was trying to keep up with your pace while wearing heels. You realized that as we veered onto Walnut Street, and apologized again, but I didn’t mind going so fast. It was chilly out, anyway.
It took exactly seven minutes to get there. I know that not because I’d measured it that first night, but because we’d do that walk countless times in the months after. Eventually you would conclude that it was a seven–minute affair, and I made fun of you for how precise of a number you’d chosen. You said it was no more precise than five or ten or fifteen minutes, since it was still just a number. You were right, I conceded. Seven minutes it was.
Penn went online in the second half of your last semester. The Class of 2020’s Commencement ceremony was virtual, which upset a great many people. You didn’t seem to mind too much.
“To quote Richard Feynman,” you said, “‘I don’t like honors.’”
The rest of that quote goes like this: “I’ve already got the prize: the prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it. Those are the real things.”
You know what these real things are. It’s obvious, if you could see your face as you’re explaining exactly why Bayesian time series analysis is fundamentally flawed, that you know the pleasure of finding the thing out. You get a kick from the discovery, just like when you’re parsing through the lyrics to Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” and hit on what might be the meaning of a metaphor in the last verse. And I hope, at least, that you were proud to observe me imitate you by clumsily using LaTeX to write up my math homework, even after you spent a particularly nasty all–nighter helping me with number theory before my first exam.
And the real things go beyond the realm of homework and Spotify. Real things include your Pulp Fiction poster, and the afternoon we spent watching the movie, after I’d admitted I’d never seen it. We were so enamored with the pancakes in that last scene—where Jules and Vincent are at the diner—that we decided that we’d make them ourselves. I had a kitchen in my apartment, so in late November we set up a date to make pancakes together.
That was the second time. You weren’t late.
Pancake dinner was on a Friday. I’m quite good at pancakes, and this was on my home turf. I gathered the ingredients so I could make them from scratch. I cleaned my entire apartment, put away my books, and washed the dishes. I vacuumed the carpet and opened the windows. Everything seemed to fall into place after that.
Richard Feynman, besides his quote about disliking honors, wrote this line as well: “I, a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.”
We made pancakes over a year ago. Time has been elastic recently, and it still feels like that might have been last week. Maybe last month. The overlap during which you and I attended Penn spans three years. I don’t remember meeting you when I was a first year (I wish I did), but you do. And I’m thankful now, that across space and time, in a universe of atoms, we are now atoms in each other’s universes.