Sophomore year, my friend Noah introduced me to the term “unicorn.” It may not be the one in Webster’s dictionary, but, essentially, a unicorn is someone you see everywhere. But more than just a lot: They’re a motif that appears as a blur in every picture you have from college.
Like an extra in a movie, unicorns appear randomly — coming up the intimately cramped stairs of Greenlaw, behind you in every line, buying cereal at Harris Teeter — but, like a mythical creature, they seem to exist only in the moment.
Simply by virtue of your unicorns’ proximities, a fascination develops that falls, in some yet-to-be-invented Venn diagram, between a crush and a spirit animal. Everything from their handwriting to their stack of library books seems witty and deep. They appear to always be absorbed in thought.
You could (if you were creepy) try to look them up on Facebook, but because they’re a unicorn, they won’t be there. Sorry!
In some extremely specific internet circles, yes, there’s controversy about whether you can have more than one unicorn.
But unicorns aren’t something to be monogamous about — they just appear surreptitiously, fill you with a deja vu sense of kinship and disappear promptly into the ether.
But what if they don’t have to? This post-Valentine’s Day, I want to make a frivolous, yet deeply important, proposal: February 15 as Unicorn Day. On this day, you reveal yourself to your unicorn. Consider it amnesty against self-consciousness. Begin by saying hi.
It won’t be awkward because — as at least the small audience of this column knows — it’s Unicorn Day. It’d be awkward if you didn’t introduce yourself. Think of the freedom! You won’t have to wait until an inebriated coincidence at a party.
Once, coming into a building, I bumped into a man who yelled, “Oh my god it’s coffee shop girl!” which, though abrupt, was an effective way to reveal that I was his unicorn. We now nod cordially.
One crush, who I called Captain America, had a smoother approach. “Going to Davis?” he asked one day, appearing suddenly (as unicorns are prone to do). I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.
We’re public creatures, existing in public spaces. And sometimes, a willingness to surpass those barriers is a necessary antidote to that insular impulse of daily life.
Of course, some unicorns will disappoint. Their deep thoughts turn out to be a cycle of Taylor Swift lyrics. You overhear them ordering food at a restaurant and they seem like jerks. You date them, and they are jerks.
But more often than not, that inkling of potential friendship turns out to be mutual. And a universe that is supposed to be growing more chaotic develops a sense of mathematical intimacy.
The imaginary worlds we create about other people are, for better or worse, stick-person versions of the real thing. Declare yourself, then. After all, it’s a holiday.
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