Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Perfect Date

Dear me,

I’m not sure that I’m cut out for the online dating thing. Last week I went out with the third guy. He was pretty sweet and nice and everything. It’s just—

Just what? She scanned the coffee shop, looked out the giant window in front.  Couples passed by, holding hands, cloth grocery bags of bakery bread and vegetables under their arms. They were all wearing fancy sweatpants and casual, messy hairstyles.

The guy, whose name was Fred, lived in San Francisco. “Let’s meet in Oakland!” he wrote in his email. “I never go there!”

Okay, fine. Good. The first guy was from San Francisco and he acted like Oakland was Compton, so this was different. She had met with him right here, in her favorite coffee shop on Piedmont Ave. A potential mistake to let him that far into her life—pick someplace you never go was the usual rule—but he never came to Oakland so it wasn’t like she’d start seeing him here all the time.

Maybe this just isn’t the right way to meet people. It feels mean. I have to judge each one and make a quick decision based on superficial factors. I would never do that in normal life. Like, the first guy was just way too nerdy, and the second guy was a food snob. Reject, reject. I feel like such an asshole.

Plus this coffee shop was the perfect place to meet somebody.  Big, relaxed, nice decorations. Lots of people talking, catching up with friends. Not too many people working on laptops, usually just her, writing stories, writing journals, staring past her screen at all the social people. Always lots of internet dates here. She could tell from the awkward hug at the beginning, the inane conversation: “So what is your family like? How are you liking that new iPhone?”

Everything with this guy was good. We had coffee, talked about bands. He’s way into bands. He goes to shows like every weekend.  I should totally go with him (he says)! 

Like that girl in the corner--definite internet date. She was waiting for someone, checking her phone, her legs crossed stiffly, nervous but trying to look relaxed. Her outfit was cute. Not dressy but not casual. Definitely not revealing in any way. 

I asked him about his job. He’s a web designer. That seemed promising. You had to be a little creative or something to be a web designer, right?

“No, I’m not really good at art,” he said. “I got this job right out of my associate’s degree and just moved up. It’s an okay job I guess. It pays pretty well and I don’t hate it.”

After coffee, we went in the comic book store and looked at comics. He had great taste in comics—insisted on buying me one even though I didn’t want him to.

He said, “I always wanted to write comics.”

“You should!” I said.

He shook his head, all sad. “No, I’m not creative.”

Outside, a guy walked by. Short, a little bald, in hipster glasses and a pretty shirt. So many guys on Piedmont Ave like that. A little like Fred. Fred fit in perfectly here.

Is that a totally asshole reason to not want to date somebody? Because he isn’t creative? He’s got good taste and everything, like he’s into good bands and comics and books. Does he have to produce something himself? Am I a horrible person?

She’d already talked it over with her friend Jennifer, the one who had made her sign up for the internet dating in the first place because she was married and wanted to live vicariously.  

“You’re allowed not to like them for any reason,” Jennifer said. “That’s part of what makes it fun!”

It’s not fun. Meeting all these people and rejecting them one by one. It’s awful. When I emailed him to tell him that I had a nice time but I didn’t want to go out with him again, he wrote back two sentences:

“I had a nice time, too. I guess I’ll never understand women.”

It kind of made me feel like shit.

There was that same guy again, outside, looking in through the window. That guy who looked like Fred.  Wait.  That guy was Fred. Holding his hand over his face to see past the glare, searching for someone inside.

Crap. What did he want?

She waved at him as he walked in. Might as well be friendly. If the guy was stalking her, better not to piss him off.

“Hi,” she said. “What are you doing here?” In Oakland. You never go to Oakland.

He wrinkled his forehead for a second, scowled. Then smiled, polite. “So I guess you come here a lot,” he said. “I think you told me that.”

“Pretty frequently,” she said. Like as in every day.  Fuck. Time to find a new coffee shop.

He pointed to the table in the corner, where the girl had stopped checking her phone and was looking up at them. “Nice to see you, but I’ve gotta go,” Fred said. “I’m meeting somebody here.”

He sat down with the girl in the corner for a few minutes. Then they left. She could see them through the window, deciding what direction to walk.  Finally they went left, towards he comic book store.

She pulled her phone out, called Jennifer, told her what happened.

“Uncreative guy stole your date spot?” Jennifer laughed and laughed. “That’s perfect!”

That was right.  It was perfect. She clicked "save" on the file for her journal, closed it. Opened up a fresh new document and started to write.

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