In Which I Meet Benedict Cumberbatch... But Not Really

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17:  Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends 'The Imitation Game' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends 'The Imitation Game' New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on November 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

I am sure that you, too, have fantasized about what "The Meeting" would be like. Perhaps there is a small crowd of fans outside an event, with you at the front. Your fingers brush his as you hand him a Sharpie to sign his name and you exchange meaningful looks and maybe a "hello" or "thank you." Or you pass him on the street and you manage to both acknowledge his presence and respect his privacy with a quick wink and nod of the head. Or he saves your life on a busy London street by pulling you out of the way of a speeding car. Or he comes up to you at the launch party for your new book to tell you how much he wants to play the main character in the movie version. I am just saying -- it could happen.

In reality, "The Meeting" will not really be a meeting at all, and it will go down like this: By some weird, uncharacteristic stroke of luck, you score tickets for you and a friend in New York City for a screening of his new movie, The Imitation Game, followed by a Q&A with him. It's only two hours away from where you live! It promises to be a fabulous evening with dinner and drinks and a city shimmering in early Christmas excitement and lights.

You get ready. You wear skinny pants and big earrings and sparkly eye shadow, because if any occasion calls for sparkly eye shadow, it's this one. You draw the line at wearing Spanx. A girl has to be comfortable for "The Meeting." You accidentally spray perfume in your mouth right before you leave the house, so for the rest of the evening everything tastes slightly of daisies and alcohol.

Dinner is lovely. You and your friend arrive at the event and decide to wait outside for a bit. Because clearly, there is a chance that the man will pull up at the front entrance, in a cab. The sight of every black Suburban gets your heart racing and you clutch your phone in your coat pocket. There are a lot of black Suburbans in New York City. You feel a bit ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as you thought you would. So you keep waiting in the cool evening air.

At some point, you realize that this is sort of silly, and not wanting to miss the main event, you head inside. You watch his new movie and it is everything that you hoped it would be and everything the critics say it is. You laugh and cry and think deep thoughts and feel hopeful and sad at the end. Mostly sad.

Then you have to pee. You may or may not knock down a couple of old ladies on your way to the bathroom and thus you only have to wait in line for 10 minutes. When you get back to the auditorium, you settle in your seat and just as you get your camera out of your purse, the light in the auditorium blinks once, maybe twice.

The curtain on the stage goes up.

And there he is.

Just like that.

Like it's his job to be sitting behind all curtains on all stages. Like he belongs there. No big deal.

You may or may not whoop and screech a little with the crowd, but it's all so intoxicating and your voice gets lost in all the noise and excitement anyway. You try to not grin like an idiot. "Dignity, woman, dignity!"

He is far enough that your camera only takes crappy pictures, and you sort of give up, because you just want to watch and listen. He is close enough though to see his face and his expressions and he is exactly like you imagined him. You are sure that he talks about really, really smart and interesting things, but what those things are exactly is a bit of a blur. Some people start to leave and you think, "Really, people? Really?" But you get to move up a couple of rows and you get a less crappy picture. And you see that his suit fits him like a glove. Like a very tight glove. This is important information.

And then it's over.

Before "The Meeting," you thought that you'd be sad when it's over. But you are not. This is exactly how it was supposed to happen. You catch a late train home and feel a sudden rush of excitement and creativity that you haven't felt in a few weeks and that, frankly, sort of worried you a bit. But now you are full of ideas. It's not like this one evening has changed your life. You never expected that. But adventure inspires. Talent inspires. Intelligent, interesting people inspire. You feel grateful that you were able to soak all of that up tonight.

It's 2 a.m. by the time you put on your comfy pajamas and check on your little boy, who is sleeping curled up like a cat. Your husband left the hallway light on for you. You crawl into bed and think about how tomorrow, there are lunch boxes to pack, emails to answer, appointments to keep, conference calls to attend. You think about the long, dark winter ahead and feel sort of OK about it. You feel like something has shifted, but there, in the early morning darkness, you can't quite put a finger on it. Your insides are buzzing and you just feel like you can tackle whatever comes next.

You think about how odd it is that such fuel, such spark can come from the most unexpected places: from a city, a movie, a crowd. From a man in a nice suit, saying interesting things.

From a man you never really met.

Zsofi McMullin blogs at