Inside the coffee shop, I sat pressed right against the front window, looking out. She was late. Figures. She’d probably stand me up too, and I was falling for it, like the loser I am.
I pushed my lukewarm coffee aside and turned a page in my sketchbook. I’d already been here for twenty minutes, waiting for her to show up. Denise, she said her name was. Some girl who’d found my profile on Tinder, and said she wanted to meet.
I looked up as the bell above the door rang, and then glanced back down at my sketchbook as a couple middle aged women walked in, probably grabbing lattes after a day of shopping.
Picking up my pen, I could hear them ordering, and mispronouncing cappuccino. Whatever. I studied my sketch, and continued crosshatching, shading the underside of a spaceship – just a rough sketch, but still pretty cool. I had some jot notes scribbled beside it, ideas for other things I was working on.
“Hey, you must be Dave.” I nearly fell out of my seat as a blonde approached. She smiled, “Sorry I’m late – I couldn’t find any parking nearby.”
“Uh,” I stared at her. Stunned. Denise was actually good looking. I know everybody filters their profile pics, but I thought hers was a fake. Apparently not.
She smiled again. “I saw you from outside – you look just like your picture. Nice tattoos.” She nodded at my forearms, covered in dragons and wizards and otherworldly stuff all in black ink design. “They’re really cool.”
She glanced down at my half-empty cup. “So, can I buy you a coffee?”
“Uh, sure. Just a regular, thanks.” I watched her walk up to the counter, and then picked up my pen again, doodling along the side of my spaceship picture. I’m a compulsive fidgeter, and if I wasn’t drawing I’d be shredding napkins and sugar packets to bits. And she made me nervous. I mean, a guy like me gets dates every now and again, but my last relationship was practically lightyears ago.
And she was totally hot.
I was adding some shading to the craters below the spaceship when she placed two coffees on the table and sat down, setting her phone on the table beside her. She smiled. “What’re you working on?”
“Just a rough sketch for something.” I slid the sketchbook aside. “You found the coffee shop OK, then?”
“Yeah – it’s a bit out of the way.” She looked around, staring, as though actually seeing the place for the first time. “You know – I might have been here before, a long time ago. On a date or something.”
She shrugged and glanced down at her phone. “Yeah, it gets kinda hard to keep track of things like that.”
“You’re busy on Tinder?”
Not looking up from her phone, she shrugged again, and swiped her finger across the screen. “I just like to get out – meet new people.” She looked up at me, “Have you been on Tinder long?”
Now it was my turn to shrug. She’d obviously seen my profile going back years. “Uh – a while.” I forced a smile, hoping she wouldn’t see through the lie. “When I’m not busy with other things.”
“Uh huh.” She glanced down at her phone again, and hastily tapped out a message on the screen.
“So you work in an office, right? How’s that?”
“Oh, you know.” She seemed to be reading something off her phone, her lips moving silently, and then swiped across the screen, and resumed tapping.
“What do you do at the office?” Left on my own and struggling to make conversation, I stared at the top of her head; her dark roots were showing through blonde highlights.
“Huh? – Oh, admin assistant.” She bent back over her phone, her fingers flying over the screen.
I glanced out the window. So much for dream date. I can’t even get this chick to look at me. Pulling my sketchbook toward myself, I picked up my pen again, and said quietly, “You know, if you have something else to do, we can just give this a miss.”
“Uh – what?” She looked up at me.
I nodded at her phone. “You look pretty busy – maybe now’s not the right time.”
“Uh – no – sorry, I was just, er, dealing with something.” Her flushed and turned her phone face-down on the table. “Sorry about that.”
“So – how’s the office job?”
“Good, good. Can’t complain.” She smiled brightly, “And what do you do?”
“Stuff like this.” I tapped the sketchbook. “Illustrations and things.”
“Cool – very cool.” She glanced at the drawing, and then her eye wandered back to her phone. “So what’s it for – it’s a spaceship, right?”
I nodded. “It’s for a magazine – they asked me to do something that fits their featured story.”
Her fingers reached for the phone, and picked it up, turning it over in her hand. She appeared to make an effort to maintain eye contact. “What’s the story about — space?”
“Yeah, it’s a sci fi thing.”
“Oh, like Star Wars –” She glanced down at her phone. “Or is it Star Trek? I can never remember.”
I ignored that. “Uh, yeah – it’s a pretty cool story. About mind control.”
“Oh really?” Her fingers slid across her the screen of her phone, and she seemed to catch herself, and put the phone back on the table. “Mind control, huh? Sounds really out there.”
“Not really, governments have been doing that kind of thing for years. If you’ve ever seen the docs on –”
From the table, her phone chirped, and picking it up, she glanced at the screen, reading while moving her lips silently.
“Like I said, if you’ve gotta go…”
“Uh, no – sorry about that.” She placed her phone back on the table, still face up, I noticed. She smiled, “Mind control, right?”
“Yeah. Having your thoughts and actions controlled by something outside of yourself.”
“Wow, crazy idea – I mean, who would think of that?” She glanced down at her phone, and slid her finger across the screen. “Totally impossible.” Her fingers a flurry tapping on the screen, she shrugged. “Guess it’s a good story though.”
As a Canadian, Liz McAdams has always liked the rock band the Northern Pikes for song lyrics like ‘‘She ain’t pretty, she just looks that way,” and this story captures that element of the dating scene in a sci fi way. Liz’s work appears in Spelk, Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, and Twisted Sister. You can connect with Liz through https://lizmcadams.wordpress.com/
But don’t expect her to answer the phone any time soon.