Morning, day one.
It’s no accident that the song I’m attaching to this never-to-be-sent was used in the trailer for He’s Just Not That Into You (and, if I remember correctly, the movie itself, which I really liked but I can’t remember well right now). On the one hand, I have had an imaginary boyfriend since 2009. On the other hand, in real life as of late, I have been fixated on a very nice guy who has become a nice friend to have but seems not to have any interest in me beyond that. It’s okay. I can still dream.
I met RQ guy through one of my ex-roommates, with whom I’ve kept in touch and maintained a long-distance friendship. We began routinely corresponding this past summer, when he reached out to me because my ex-roomie, who has always been a dog lover, had endured the death of one of her beloved black labs. (It has been some time since the namesake of Baseball 2.0 passed away. But the heartbreak of knowing Sarka now exists only as memories and as a blog avatar remains fresh.) In fact, I can remember chatting with RQ guy on the plane ride to Paris. The flight had wifi and we were on Facebook brainstorming ways memorialize my ex-roomie’s late pet.
Those cordial conversations seem like a lifetime ago. The more often we IMed and texted since then, the more rapid our texts descended from the discussion of acquaintances to, often, sexting — although, even in the sext messages, we weren’t having sex with each other. That is how just not into me RQ guy is. But they were certainly lascivious and not the kind of thing that I would repeat outside of the safety net of private and pleasurable conversing between consenting adults. And actually, after our initial correspondence over the summer. we didn’t talk to each other again for a little while.
I can’t remember when, exactly, we reconnected but when we did we’ve been in nearly constant contact since then. The point that I’m trying to make is when I finally met RQ guy exactly one week ago, I couldn’t shake the disconnect of seeing in person, flesh and blood, the person who up until then had been an abstract entity. Like with you, RQ guy’s existence as a virtual person over the internet and satellite was a medium for my own projection. In this medium of engagement, it’s difficult to remember that the other person you’re talking to is actually, in fact, a person. And I would admit that 90 percent of the time I had spent texting RQ guy was out of selfish expectation, with the remaining 10 percent, while merely a slender serration from the rest of the self-indulgent pie, being a devoted attempt to get to know him and/or discuss world events.
In fact, we had met once, years ago, during another visit that my ex-roomie had made. I am fond of telling RQ guy that I vaguely remember meeting him that time and that I was actually very annoyed that he was there because I was looking forward to spending time only with my ex-roomie. I saw him as an interloper, and although living in the Bay Area for 13 years means that I’ve mastered the art of disingenuous exterior politeness that is both talent and skill in this part of the world, inside I was mentally observing the time on my wristwatch and wondering when he’d go away.
Last Wednesday morning, I ventured out to the east bay, a part of the Bay Area that I have lately begun to cultivate big dreams about — about settling down there, about starting a family there, about at long last growing up. Shortly before RQ guy left his part of the world, Chicago, he’d asked me what the weather was like so he knew what to pack. At the time he asked, there was an autumn chill and I told him to bring a sweater or at least a generous hoodie — neither of which he needed on the morning that I met him for breakfast. Both he and my ex-roomie were staying in a house owned by a couple they knew, two more people in their successful circle of friends in which I was inexplicably and occasionally a part of. One half of that couple was a designer at Apple, and the other a researcher who commuted each weekday to facilities at UC Davis. Their house was warm and modestly artsy as young couples are apt to do, the kind of decor with lots of space on the floor and framed photography on the walls. Socializing with them so early in the morning, I felt both sleepy and incomplete. The entirety of what I felt was surreal, really: here I was, reuniting with a beloved ex-roommate, but also eager to meet the handsome man with whom I’d primarily been texting at that point, and also feeling not quite as grown up as everyone else in that house.
I will skip over the reunion and catch-up conversations I had with my ex-roommate, whom I was certainly glad to see, and we had our fair share of laughs. (We still have jokes and references to which even RQ guy is not privy, so there’s at least that for me to tell myself that the purpose of this breakfast meeting was not merely to meet him.) Instead, here were the key moments of the half hour that I spent in that house while my ex-roomie and RQ guy got ready to go out for breakfast: how my ex-roomie had gone to the bathroom, leaving just me and RQ guy on the couch; how, as we were about to leave, I found myself alone again in the living room with RQ guy; how, during breakfast at the cafe that we eventually walked into, my ex-roomie went to the bathroom for about five minutes or so.
I was not at my social best. Many times, Linc, I have been mistaken for an extrovert, and I suppose that it is characteristic of introverts to convincingly portray themselves as socially acceptable. In fact, we actually enjoy being with other people — but what makes us introverts is that we have to be on our own in order to gather up the energy it takes to rejoin the rest of the world. That being said, the version of me that RQ guy got to know through text messages and Facebook chats was not entirely the person he met in real life. Joe in real life was bashful, sometimes tongue-twisted, and completely smitten with RQ guy. In the living room, for example, he had asked me a question, which I don’t even remember now, but what I do remember was staring at the floor and muttering shyly — and drawing a line on the hardwood with my foot, as if I were a five-year old. Later, at the cafe, I redeemed myself only slightly by conducting conversation more in the manner of an adult. When my ex-roomie excused herself to go to the bathroom, I felt nervous at first about being left alone with RQ guy. It just wasn’t the same. This was real life, not texting. Not Facebook chatting. Here he was, clear evidence that he was not an abstraction. He was his own person, and like every other of the billions of persons on this planet, he was unpredictable.
With my ex-roomie away from the table, it was just me, RQ guy, and the remainders of breakfast: coffee, mostly, and some scattered bagel pieces. There was a moment of silence as we adjusted to our party of three temporarily contracting. My eyes fell on the pallid steam wafting from our coffee mugs.
And then, Linc, my eyes met his.