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[Ok.]

[Ok.]

A text from you.

You want to meet me. For coffee. Something quick—so when it doesn’t work out—we can both leave unscathed.

Of course, I say. Why not?

I try not to—but I start imagining a cozy cottage for us by the Baltic sea, like the one my Polish grandparents lived in. A garden to sunbathe in. A kitchenette to boil pierogis and make cabbage rolls and fry potato pancakes. A view of the blue that stretches to Sweden.

How nice it would be to meet and have coffee there, a place so far away from here.

I force myself to lower my expectations. Consciously, I add a minimum of thirty-five pounds to the image of what I think your body will look like. I scrutinize the angle and lighting of the picture you posted on your profile page. What double chin or baggy eyes are you hiding? I visualize your hairline a good inch or two farther north. You smile, but you don’t show your teeth. More troubling, the smile does not reach your eyes. On some level, what you posted looks like a Proof of Life photo.

Send me a video, I say.

[Ok.]

Wearing a baseball cap with an American flag and a sports jersey, you appear in the digital flesh, walking your big brown dog. You flash a dazzling smile towards the iPhone camera, your eyes hidden by dark sunglasses. It occurs to me that I should wonder who is taking this video. A roommate? An old girlfriend? A current wife? I watch your nine second video a dozen times in a row. I slow it down, frame by frame. I analyze it like the Zapruder film.

I google the logo on your sports jersey because I don’t recognize it. It looks like the Gatorade logo—without the G. Come to find out, you are wearing a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey. This means two things:

  1. You have a abruptly emigrated from Florida. This is concerning, as people generally move to Florida, not from it—a black swan event. My grandfather would say people do this type of thing na święty Nigdy—on St. Never’s Day. So a red flag. This begs the question of why someone would leave Tampa for Baltimore. Gambling debts? Job loss? Women trouble? Child support complaints? Arrest warrants? I need answers.

  2. I also need to learn everything about the sport of hockey.

I wonder if you will tell me the truth. I text you, politely asking you to share your story of the mysterious hockey jersey with me.

[Ok.]

And you do. You’ve loved hockey ever since you were a little boy, hiding from the Florida heat and humidity inside hockey rinks. You played hockey in high school, but not in college. You have moved to Maryland to take care of your elderly mother, who needs palliative care during the final stages of her terminal illness. You are the only one of her children in a position to do so. After renting your condo on Tampa Beach last year, you moved to be near her, working remotely until she passes. Then you will need to settle her estate. You can’t wait to return to the Sunshine State. Maryland is depressing this time of year. You ask me if this makes any sense.

Of course, I say. Why not?

You are a good son, I text you back. I look at my iPhone. What I don’t text you is that I find all of this wholly attractive, utterly charming. It gives me pause, causing me to think of you far too often, far too deeply.

I scour your social media, as little as there is. Your big brown dog is named Thunder, possibly after ThunderBug, the official Mascot of the Tampa Bay Lightning—as I’ve recently come to learn. ThunderBug is a terrible name for a mascot, and I question the decision making of the Lightning management in the early 1990’s. But I think of us, walking Thunder together.

I try not to—but I start imagining a downtown New York City loft for the three of us to live in, like the one my first generation American parents always talked about. A short walk to restaurants, museums and theaters. A kitchen to toast freshly made bagels and serve smoked salmon and cream cheese and capers. A view of Central Park.

How nice it would be to have coffee there, a place so far away from here.

I force myself to lower my expectations. Maybe you won’t like me? Sure, I am well versed in hockey (now) and know that the Lightning’s main defenseman is out for possibly weeks with an upper body injury, not to mention the Ducks’ general manager is under investigation for improper professional conduct. (Who knew following sports was so deliciously gossipy and fun?) I text you that I happen to have two tickets to the Washington Capitals game in a couple of weeks. I explain to you that a friend from work gave them to me. This is a lie, as I purchased the premium lower center seats myself, but I cannot think about anything else other than sitting next to you in the stands, shelling peanuts, and watching grown men (mainly Candians, surprisingly few Poles) skate on ice and occasionally punch one another.

So, will you come with me?

[Ok.]

Your reply thrills me.

I try not to—but I start imagining a rustic cabin in the Pocono Mountains for us, like the one my ex-husband promised me we’d build one day. A short hike to pine needle-covered walking trails. A kitchen to cook up vats of white bean and kielbasa chili. A view of mountain ranges.

How nice it would be to have coffee there, a place so far away from here.

But I am here, waiting in the coffee shop we decided on, wondering if you’ll bring Thunder since this coffee shop is dog-friendly. Instead, I look up every time the door opens, and it’s everyone but you.

Fifteen minutes past the time we decided on, you text me that you aren’t coming. You’re sorry, but it’s complicated. You hope I understand.

[Ok.]

A text from me. But I don’t understand.

I try not to—but I start imagining our cozy cottage by the Baltic swallowed up by the sea, our New York City loft gutted down to the studs, and our rustic cabin burned to the ground.

You just wanted to meet me. For coffee. Something quick—so when it doesn’t work out—we can both leave unscathed.

And it’s [Ok.]

And I’m not [Ok.]

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