They say you should never meet your heroes.
But that wasn’t something I was thinking about when I clocked out for lunch, ran for the elevator yelling a breathy something about “stalking my celebrity crush,” and sprinted due east across Prince street.
In fact, I had another mantra rattling around in my skull.
Do not puke on Chris Evans.
Something I thought I would never think. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Chris Evans.
I’ve been a Captain America fan since the first movie came out.
Anyone who knows me knows this. I usually mention something about this within a five minute conversation. Talk to me for ten minutes, and you’ll know all my favorite ships. Another five, and sorry friend, I may have just spoiled Avengers 3 for you, because I have theories and of course they are correct.
For some reference, this is how excited I was to see a replica of his shield in New Orleans.
A replica of his shield.
Forget about the idea of being nearby clothing that had touched him…
And let’s not forget that one time, in Spain, when I followed a child down a few city blocks even though he was walking away from the parade I had set out to see.
That’s a normal thing to do, right?
And I suppose it’s also normal to follow Chris Evans fanblogs for news and, of course, photos.
At 11:30pm on Thursday night, I was scrolling through my dash when I happened on a post. An anonymous commenter wrote: “Jealous of New York fans. He’s doing a meet a greet.”
I’m a New York fan. What? What does meet-and-greet signify? What does it mean?
It meant, apparently, skipping out on lunch at 11:15am Friday morning and sprinting towards SoHo.
And reminding myself, Do not puke on Chris Evans.
Of course there was a line, and of course it was agony to wait. Time seemed to slow. I thought of Einstein. To make matters worse, the security guards came out and told us no. Then they told us maybe, then yes, only to tell us no yet again. We made friends in line, bonding over the stress and the almost-secret optimism we hardly dared admit even to ourselves.
It’s always nice meeting people at these events, because they tend to have so much in common. A girl who shared the same name as me admitted that she was feeling a bit queasy herself.
Eventually, we made our plea to the guards. A girl dressed up as Black Widow from the second Cap movie was speaking in hushed tones to one of the bouncer-types, I was crossing fingers and toes, and then it was all happening. We funneled down yet another set of lines, but this time we had a specific destination in sight.
It was all too soon that we were standing a few paces away. I snapped photos like a maniac, but I’m not a good photographer and too much adrenalin makes my hands shake.
“I’m gonna hug him,” the other Sarah told me as I held my phone in shaking hands.
“No, I can’t,” I said, clutching arms to knees in a bout of emotion. “Nooooo I can’t, I can’t.”
What is it about attractive celebrities that turns us all into hormonal pre-teens with limbs that are suddenly too long and nervous energy that turns into octopus-like flailing? (Or is that just me?)
The publicist put her hands on my shoulders and guided me into position like a horse in a starting gate. Did she know how dizzy I was, that I felt like I might faint? Another employee took my bag, and then I turned around.
“Hello,” my voice said. I was talking. Words were coming out of my mouth. “I’m Sara. So nice to meet you.”
It was weird, because it was my voice. When I met Emerson Spartz back in Cincinnati in the mid 2000s, I had tried to get a book signed for my friend. I forgot the alphabet. Not like I couldn’t remember if J came before or after K, but more that I forgot what that letter with a line and a dot above it is called. I squeaked like a goose. My voice cracked.
But here I was, talking in coherent sentences to Chris Evans, the guy I had dressed up as Halloween basically three years running. I followed a blog that once mathematically calculated his shoulder-to-wasit ratio.
I think we shook hands. In fact, I will choose to remember it as we shook hands. He had a broad palm. It’s a weird description, so it must be real.
“Thanks so much for doing this,” I was saying. I meant to thank him for everything: for the movies, for somehow being this weird guiding force for some of the craziest years of my life. For somehow being a rock or a tether or a moral compass. What had I joked about saying to him, only hours before to my coworker?
I had to tell myself: don’t you dare Rosalee Futch this up.
No, but here I was, talking, with the words all in order and everything.
The weirdest thing was, while I was talking, he was looking at me.
It had been a whirlwind of waiting in line, of staring hopefully, of watching him have this same interaction over and over. I didn’t expect it to be special. I didn’t expect anyone’s lives to change or hallelujah angels to descend from the ceiling.
I’ve seen celebrity meet and greets: the distracted stars, the way they flick their eyes away, the faces they make at their publicists. At the end of the day, it’s a business transaction, and it feels like that.
But dang, could this boy make eye contact.
Now, I realize this man in an actor, but if he was acting, I was buying every second of it. The carefully peaked eyebrows, the lips pressed together: it was like he was actually listening to me.
Regardless of whatever fantasized connection I thought we were having, I reminded myself to be respectful of his time and just lean in for the photo.
Cameras flashed. Photos were taken. His hand rested on my shoulder. I could feel his hand, but I couldn’t feel my face. I hope I smiled.
When we stepped apart, I looked up at him.
“Thanks,” I was saying again. And then. And then. “Can I get a hug?”
He stopped pressing his lips together in polite concentration and his face broke into that smile, the same one that had the other Sarah in line calling him a “goob.”
In my life, I have had a few extraordinary hugs.
The hug with my high school crush in the winter of my freshman year of college, even though it was through two layers of winter coats (one mine, one his), will always rank as the most sexual hug I have ever experienced, even if that chemistry was one-sided.
When my sister and I parted ways from Cincinnati (to to LA, me to NY), that was the sweetest hug I’ve ever shared, the sort of hug that you remember when you’re lonely because it reminds you that somewhere, someone cares about you.
But the hug with Chris Evans… I’ve never felt more secure. Of course he’s strong, and his shoulders are broad, and he’s tall. (I will not answer other questions regarding his musculature, even weirdly worded ones from my roommate that went along the lines of: “Was he hard?”)
I’ve had a few extraordinary hugs, and this one definitely makes the list.
Immediately after the encounter and the hug, Sarah and I were screaming at each other. More flailing ensued. I was starting to feel like a particularly deflated air dancer at a car sale.
He must have known, have caught me giggling and snapping photos of him as I backed away, tripping over my feet in the process.
There’s a reason at other celebrity events they put up drapes and make you put your phone away. I’m not a good photographer. But these photos mean so much to me, because they remind me how kind and compassionate and respectful Mr. Evans is of his fans.
If I had to describe his overall demeanor when meeting me with one word, I would say: gentle. Like he knew how fragile and ridiculously-important those five seconds were to me. Like he was trying everything in his power to live up to whatever fantasy I had constructed in his head.
“He really is,” Sarah and I were saying to each other as we danced around in line. “He really is him.”
“Actual Captain America Chris Evans.”
They say never meet your heroes, but clearly “they” have not been picking their heroes right.
Thank you to Samsung Studios for hosting this event; to Medha for encouraging me to go; to my roommates who had to deal with me picking out an outfit at midnight on a Thursday night; to my supervisor who let me leave early; and to my favorite actor for making this moment so special for me.