My letter arrives at nine that morning. I’m one of the “lucky” ones to have my eighteenth birthday on a Saturday. It’s delivered by a special courier in a dark khaki jumpsuit. I expected something a little more futuristic; maybe a robot or an email. The government always seems to prefer the old fashioned way, and the National Bureau of Genetic Profiling is no exception. It sounds Orwellian, but it’s just a bunch of computer nerds and psychologists in an underused federal building.
Astro had woken me up earlier to go for a walk. He pulled me through the hushed neighborhood down to the school. I let him run through the football field and pee on one of the goalposts. A dew laden fog hung in the early morning air. He sniffed about with fervent ambition before bounding back to where I was sitting on the bleachers.
Mom made tea while we pined away the last anxious hour. Chamomile helped to calm my nerves. There was always a fresh pot waiting on the counter each weekend morning. We chatted about school and the puppy. Mom and I were close, but not on the level of sharing clothes and talking about boys. She’s my mother, not a character in a late night sitcom.
Then the doorbell rang. We stared at each other, neither one having had thought this moment would actually come. Dad greeted the delivery man and signed for the envelope. I watched from the kitchen. He came over, kissed me on the head and wished me a happy birthday, then set the letter down in front of me.
Sitting and staring at the envelop reminds me of the story of Annabelle Augustine. She had been preparing for this moment since she turned sixteen. Annabelle registered her genetic profile as soon as she was allowed to, and filled out every questionnaire available. The matching program works off of genetics, user responses, and census data. There’s no exact documentation on how everything is weighted. After rounds of testing and then the first national deployment, the Bureau has accepted a two percent margin of error in the program.
Annabelle spent countless hours dreaming about her match. She hoped he was cute, like most girls do, but the tagline “Love for Everyone” always got her stomach to flip. The government was promising, and delivering, a prince charming for every little girl. Finding your soulmate has a way of smoothing over a lot of a person’s flaws. Being second generation matches means our genetic profiles are closer to ideal than our parents’.
A week before the big day, Annabelle went out shopping. A lot of girls buy a new dress or set of makeup. Annabelle went out looking for the perfect gift for her match. At first she found it difficult to decide on any one thing. Then it dawned on her, she just had to buy what she would want if she were a guy. I’m not sure if the logic in that approach really checks out. She purchased a leather bracelet with a fishhook shaped clasp and a blank greeting card. Annabelle published the contents of the card the night before her birthday.
I know we’ve never met, but it feels like you’ve been alongside me every step of my life. Hopefully you like the gift and we can meet soon. This is like the first step in the rest of our lives. I’d like it if you kept walking alongside me, only now I’ll know you. I’ll be able to reach out and take your hand. If I stumble, you can help me back up, and I’ll do the same for you. It sounds like a lot, but we’re meant to be together.
See you soon,
She stayed home from school on her birthday. Annabelle waited alone in her apartment for a knock on her door. Her dreams, though they didn’t come easily, were filled with glimpses of her soulmate. What she pictured he would look like and what he might say. Nine o’clock came. She stood by the door and waited to hear the sound of footsteps in the stairwell. Ten o’clock came.
At eleven o’clock there was a knock on her door. She felt an immense sense of relief. Maybe there had been a lot of matches in her area that morning. A man wearing rounded glasses handed her an envelope before rushing down the steps and out of her building. She watched him peel off the curb from the window.
Annabelle was the third person who had ever been rejected from the matching program. The tagline was changed to “Love for Everyone*” after she made her story public. Reading through it, especially the aftermath, was tough. A few people called for the termination of the Bureau, but since then there hasn’t been another incident.
I know there’s a match inside my envelope. Someone will read my name and address in their letter; maybe they already have.
“Well, aren’t you going to open it?” my mother asks.