The cafe had graphic paintings: reds, greens, pinks, yellows, triangles, lines, circles, a heart in the middle of one of the paintings, a movement toward the center were these forms, painted with thick lines. A brassy meringue came from the speakers. It was loud. You couldn’t help but be affected by the music. Before he realized it, Frank was tapping his foot. Then, he looked around the room to see if anyone noticed. He saw an Asian woman on her computer on the right. He wondered if she noticed him, just as it seemed to him that she was thinking about him, but maybe it was his imagination. She was attractive and young. She was sitting with a man, who was wearing ear buds connected to a phone. He was Asian too. They were wearing running shoes, three white stripes on his shoes and a black and gray background. They matched the stripes going down the length of his long-sleeved gray sweatshirt. His socks were red, black, and white. He scratched the back of his neck. Her shoes were hidden behind his from Frank’s point of view and her feet were together. She wore a dark, gray jacket with a fur-edged hood. Her black-brown hair poured over her hood. Her mouth was open and she wore earbuds too. It was a cold night. They sat sipping tea and looking at their respective computer screens.
By this time, Frank conceded to the truth of his limited reading. He was only touching, not even reading the books he was referring to. This was his means to a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) education or at least to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), of which he was afraid. The GRE stood as a line that he would probably not cross in his lifetime. He was not good at standardized tests and he reasoned that studying for the GRE or Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) would require the altering of his personality just to do well enough to get into the school of his choice.
“Beyond that,” Frank wrote, “it feels weird contacting you because I saw your picture and as an artist, I thought you were a beauty.” This statement belied the fact that while Frank did indeed think Nicole was a beauty, and while he was an artist, what he thought of her was sexual. Her face was “perfect.” There was no noise with the issue of her complexion, which was clean. Other photos of her were of an innocent and kind person, one showed her with two men her age. He asked her why she chose him.
Frank was hoping she was attracted. He prefaced with “As a writer” to offer her an alternative, however, which would save his face in case she simply selected him accidentally. He figured if it had been an accident, he could fabricate the rest of her interaction for a short story. It had to be “true” and thus he hoped her response would be something more interesting than if she merely had made a mistake.
Frank had made many mistakes on the site and luckily at those times the other people weren’t interested. He never had to tell them that he wasn’t interested. He also asked her what she needed, because he had read this somewhere as a question one should ask a person. The word ‘need’ seemed to embody a direct question, it cut out the possibility for misunderstanding and the passage of emotional baggage. He hoped it would open a range of responses. He wanted to meet her in person to see if she existed. This would narrow the uncertainty.
“Hahaha, this is so unique!” she said. “You’re a writer then? I love to write. It’s funny you mention writing a short story. I am currently taking a class called ‘Short stories’ and it is focused on analyzing character development. I swiped right to do something spontaneous. I’m not looking for a romantic partner. I have a boyfriend. It’s fun to talk to different people sometimes. Right?”