The Internet is empowering. Within seconds, you can track down your grade-school crush, the recipient of your first kiss and that hitchhiker who stole your heart (and your wallet) at Woodstock .
It's also scary. Some memories are better left pressed between the pages of a diary than viewed online. It all depends whether you initiate the search or are the recipient of an email from a romance that expired during the Nixon administration.
After hearing so many stories about reconnecting lost loves, I decided to track down one of my own. I had met Gino over spring break in Mexico in those pre-Cancun days when young Americans still flocked to Acapulco. We met "cute" on the beach at night while my friends tried to score weed. They found what they were looking for. And so did Gino and I. His English was as nonexistent as my Spanish. But under a full moon on a deserted beach, we understood one another perfectly.
Gino visited me in the States and I was a guest at his family's gracious hacienda in San Angel, the Beverly Hills of Mexico City. Long-distance relationships being what they are, the last I heard from him was a postcard from London where Gino was attending photography school.
Flash-forward 40 years. I did a Google search and found a photographer with the same name in Baja. I was nervous. Would he even remember me? I sent a message.
"Are you the Gino I met in Acapulco in 1971?"
Later, the same day, I got a reply.
"Stacia? I tried to find you when I moved back from London but you changed your name."
Decades collapsed. We exchanged photos. He was as I remembered, a darkly handsome man, but now with silver-streaked hair. I was careful to keep our communication brief. I didn't ask for details regarding his home life or offer up my own story. I didn't suggest a phone conversation or Skype. The vibes were good. The connection was made. If I'm ever in Baja, I just might look him up.
Since then, I've occasionally flipped through my mental Rolodex and used the Internet to find out what became of other romances, those with whom I actually cohabitated and those who were just infatuations. A Casanova who couldn't seem to zip up his pants long enough to establish a long-term relationship had finally settled down, after a series of "starter" marriages. And a youthful Gregory Peck look-alike now resembled Chris Christie, thanks to his wife's cooking.
The most confusing blast from the past was an email I received from a guy named Carlos whom I hadn't heard from in 25 years. (And, frankly, didn't miss.) When we met, he was a graduate student from Venezuela who played in a local salsa band. I was considerably older and totally disinterested.
Carlos quickly clarified his intent. He was now an international petroleum engineer and was contacting me about a potential writing job. I was relieved and excited. I knew nothing about oil, but I knew a lot about the money it produced and was eager to get it flowing my way.
"I need a brochure edited for a project," wrote Carlos.
"No problem!" I responded. But I thought, why me? Carlos was in Houston, Texas. Aren't there editors there? Was my LinkedIn profile that compelling?
His next email contained the brochure. I couldn't find anything wrong with it. But I couldn't find anything right either. It was all widgets and stats. Before long, Carlos transitioned from emails and phone calls to Skype chats from the front seat of his Lexus. His banter quickly shifted from business to flirtation.
"How could I forget you, darling?" he purred.
Uh oh. Houston, we have a problem! I had no memory of Carlos outside of dimly recalling his face and name.
"It's been a long time," I said. "Can you refresh my memory?"
"You really don't remember, darling?" he sighed.
"Um, no. Sorry."
Carlos was discrete. He didn't go into graphic detail. I had apparently gone on one date with him. (Gentlemen of the jury, it was just ONE date 25 years ago!) Making allowances for the spirit of the times, I had seemingly won a gold medal for my Olympian performance. As for Carlos' performance ... suffice it to say, it was not memorable. A half dozen "darlings" later, Carlos' reason for tracking me down became clear. He wanted a rematch.
"That was a quarter of a century ago," I said. "I'm twenty years older than you. Do the math."
He blithely shrugged off our age difference.
"But you're married," I said.
It turned out that Carlos' marital vows only applied within the Houston city limits, like Jews who only eat kosher at home. He suggested we meet up in Dubai. His treat. For a nanosecond, I imagined basking in the luxury of a penthouse suite on the Persian Gulf, popping icy magnums of Dom Perignon, and stocking up on Chanel and Prada while Carlos discussed widgets with oil sheiks.
"Thanks, but I really can't get away now," I said, and went out to buy kitty litter.