Cryptic Enigma. That was my secret admirer pen name which in hindsight sounds ridiculous and redundant considering both of those words have the same meaning. It’s like that show Unsolved Mysteries which makes no sense either because a mystery is a mystery because it has the element of being unsolved. But Joey was a mystery. I was both intrigued and stumped by his striking intelligence, knowledge of pop culture and quick wit. I couldn’t piece together how these attributes lived comfortably inside of a 6’3” basketball player who wore Megadeath shirts and drove a black Mustang. He contradicted all of the preconceived notions I had about him the moment he opened his mouth. I needed to know every single detail about him.
But I was the fat friend who didn’t get the attention of boys, at least not the kind I wanted. I was the mousy girl the boy felt comfortable talking to when he needed help getting his foot in the door with one of my three attractive friends. I had this identity from the 5th grade all through high school, and slightly into college. I’d like to think this lack of physical attention helped me cultivate my stunning personality and sharp sense of humor. This perhaps false conviction at the least makes me feel better about my entire adolescence and young adulthood, which was mostly spent in a Taco Bell drive-thru and writing bad poetry in my dark bedroom surrounded by The Cure and The Smiths posters.
I confessed my sudden and overwhelming infatuation to Tamela and asked for her assistance. I needed her to be my drug mule sans the drugs. Her role would be smuggling letters into Joey’s hands and hopefully smuggling his responses back to me. I made her promise not to unveil my identity because I feared instant rejection the moment he realized Cryptic Enigma was just code for Fat Brunette.
I spent hours crafting my first letter and had a pile of rough drafts by the time I finally felt comfortable with the end product. 25 years creates static between that time and this time so I’m unsure of the exact content, but I’m confident I did my best to be dark, brooding and mysterious…at least from the perspective of a teenage girl who couldn’t decide if she was punk, goth or grunge. With hesitancy I handed what would be the first of many exchanges to my friend and once again made her promise to be discreet. I went home that afternoon feeling nervous and excited about the prospect of hearing back from Joey, absolutely certain we would be communicating within 24 hours.
The following day passed by without a letter. I was depressed and humiliated. I chastised myself for trying too hard and believing someone might actually be interested in what I had to say, so interested that he would stay awake all night writing as many rough drafts as I had in the hopes of wooing me back. And then the second day went by without a letter. Death by an overdose of Benadryl was my only option. Not even sure you can die from that but at 15 I didn’t have many choices. The third day arrives and I trudge down the hall defeated and crushed but then I meet up with Tamela in our French class. She hands me a small square of lined notebook paper covered in dark blue ink. My attitude went from terribly sad to maniacally overjoyed within two seconds. I don’t know what being electrocuted and dying but then being spirited back to life feels like, but I think that is kind of what happened.
Dear Cryptic Enigma,
And this starts a 10 year course eventually derailing our lives and pushing us both off the cliff.