Kaelin Mace

As Kaelin Mace, a 17-year-old Austin Community College student, toured the UT campus and glossed over the various message boards, she encountered the most romantic gesture she had ever seen: a boy looking for a cute, mysterious girl.

“It seemed like something out of a movie,” Mace said of the flyer she saw on campus offering a $500 reward for information on the girl. “That kind of romance just doesn’t exist anymore.”

Out of curiosity she emailed the man behind the flyer, Joshua Key, to find out why he went through all the trouble just to find a girl he met once at a Target in Fort Worth. Regrettably, he said, it was because he didn’t ask her name.

“You might see a beautiful flower in a garden, but you don’t have to pick the flower and take it home, you can just see it, and observe it, and appreciate how beautiful it is,” Key said. “I think that’s what I was thinking, I don’t have to know this girl’s name; I can just look at her, appreciate her, and that should be enough and not complicate it.”

Key recalls this mysterious girl telling him she had her bachelor’s degree from UT-Arlington in marketing and international business and would be studying biology as a graduate student at UT beginning in the fall of 2011. He remembers her a a beautiful, half-Korean girl with an ambitious attitude toward life. But sadly, he said, his memory of their 10-minute conversation is beginning to fade.

Key posted flyers near the biology building in mid-September, in hopes of having even a cup of coffee with her.

“It bothers me at night, I mean I don’t sit around and think about her every night, but I do think, ‘man, I should have asked for her name,’” Key said. “So if I do this, I’ll never have to kick myself again.”

Key, a graduate student at UT-Arlington studying economics, was going through a difficult breakup when he met his mystery girl in 2011. He says he hasn’t let go of their interaction since, even going as far as creating the email address strangerthingshappensometimes@gmail.com just to serve as the means of contact for the flyer.

Key’s cousin, Matt Bramlett, a 38-year-old Austin resident, said Key once climbed a water tower in small-town Elgin to attract the attention of a female Sonic employee when he was 18 years old. They eventually went on a date.

“He was walking around up there just doing anything he could to impress this girl,” Bramlett said. “He even got in trouble for it. He would do anything for a girl he’s interested in.”

Bramlett and others closest to Key originally thought the odds were against him when he failed to find his mystery girl at UT’s graduate school orientation for biology in the fall of 2011 and failed again when he cross-referenced her on social media websites with graduates from the business school at UT-Arlington. He was also unsuccessful when he posted flyers on campus last year, although it should be noted a reward wasn’t offered as incentive.

“What would disappoint me would be never trying. That’s the only thing that would bother me,” Key said. “Failing, I don’t care. I’ll fail all day long, but trying, that’s the thing that gets me.”

Even with the money up for grabs, his closest family has some doubt.

“I’d have to admit, I’ve never heard of anything like this,” Bramlett said. “It seems kind of like a long shot, but you never know, some girls would be flattered.”

If Key’s girl isn’t at UT anymore, or never even made it to her graduate program, he says he has still held on to the brief conversation they shared and the hope that everything she said was true. When Key shops at Target he can’t help but wonder if his mystery girl is there too.

“I don’t really expect anything from her, she’s an attractive girl, she’s got a lot going for her, odds are, she probably has a boyfriend,” Key said. “But even if she didn’t, she may or may not be interested in me. But at least I know I tried.”

Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2012 as: Student searches for ephemeral mystery girl