Alright, she wants to get coffee. You haven’t been on a “coffee date” since you were 19 and a little less intelligent than you are now, and way less sure of yourself than you are now. You know you hate the coffee date. She gets out of work at 5:30, wants to meet at six. Six o’clock in the evening isn’t the greatest time to drink coffee. Maybe you can get something else. Get a fucking tea.
You’re a suburbanite. Going downtown is just a very easy way to become irritated, stressed, and lost all within a matter of seconds. You’ve never been to this cafe. You’ve been told there’s convenient parking, but where the fuck is it? The lot behind the cafe connects to a tattoo parlor and it looks small anyway. You figure you can’t park there, so you turn around and go back to the huge lot that is connected to nothing yet has a sign that tells you your unauthorized vehicle will be towed at your expense.
At the crosswalk, you feel awkward and assume every stopped car contains a person staring intently at you.
You struggle to find the main entrance of the cafe, which is actually in the back of the building. You also find out that you totally could have parked in this lot, and you’re an idiot. Inside, you barely glance at the menu. There is no line. There is immense pressure to order immediately. You order a small iced coffee. The surly male barista utters nothing else aside from “$1.75.” You pay with a twenty and drop a dollar in the tip jar, not because it took him any effort to make your drink or because he was friendly, but because when you approached the counter he was adjusting the tip jar to face you directly. You don’t believe in karma but you wish you did.
Without thinking you add some skim milk to the coffee, but no sweetener, since you think the sweetener has been making you break out, although it probably hasn’t been. You circle the cafe then settle on a small round table near the main entrance. Two young men, probably not much older than you but clearly much more social, established, well-dressed, and financially stable than you, sit by the window. They’re talking about business. Some event this one dude is going to, he’s taking his ex as his date. You try to determine if they’re on a date or just friends but can’t tell. The one who’s talking more gets a phone call. He has an industrial piercing and this irritates you.
Your date texts you, asking where you are. You look over and see her, but she’s not looking at you. You tell her to look to her left. She slowly approaches the table, clearly unsure of whether or not you are her intended target. You are, and you’re slightly insulted she can’t recognize you – you have blue hair, after all. She sits down, but then you ask her if she wants a drink. She says she does, so she gets back up.
She sits back down with a large cup of steaming coffee. It’s begun. The opening act of small talk. The development into actual dialogue. You agree on a couple of key issues. You discuss technology, how much dating sucks, writing, art, how much it sucks that you can’t smoke anywhere in this godforsaken state.
You can’t tell if you’re attracted to her or not. You can’t read her, but you’re shit at reading people in general. All you know is that this person is intelligent and probably even more shy than you are, which could be a problem. You begin to compare her to someone else and you have to remind yourself to stop.
After a while, you both decide going outside would be nice, considering the live band playing is, of course, extremely loud. You walk down Alexander until you reach an obscure corner of the street with large stone benches, a chess table, and a couple of boring sculptures. Later, a Google search tells you that this place is called Nathaniel Square. You follow her to the furthest bench, nestled in the dark. You light a cigarette, offer her one, she takes it.
You want to know what the name of the apartment building looming overhead is. The flashing blue light of the traffic camera is a distraction, as are the pedestrians that enter the Square. An older man, possibly homeless, probably not, sits on a stone across the way and lights a cigarette and stares at you as you talk about how much debt you’re in because of school. A young-ish couple with a toddler in a stroller appears, disappears, then reappears. They sit down next to you and talk loudly, occasionally scolding the child for coughing, for doing it “on purpose.” The woman repeatedly spits onto the ground. You want to light another cigarette and despite what this child is probably exposed to on a daily basis, you decide not to allow it to breathe in your silly secondhand smoke.
She checks her phone. It’s after nine and she says she should get back. You agree. As you walk back, two young men on a porch say something about how “she was with another motherfucker, acting all TV.” You reach the corner where it’s time to part ways. You say it was fun, encourage a second meeting. You tell her to walk home safely. As you wait for the orange hand to turn into a white figure, you watch her walk away, an all-black figure swaying with each step.