Lauren and Phil - A Short Story Based On A Picture
Lauren thinks Phil might be The One...
Lauren hit the "ENTER" key.
Phil was brilliant. So insightful. So charming and funny, too. She felt like she lived for the evenings when they could be together.
"Okay, answer me this one..." He was always giving her brain teasers that she delighted in figuring out, coming to him when they were solved, dropping them at Phil's feet. And he responded with the same fervor to the puzzles she gave him, tossing back the answers across cyberspace to her, challenging her once more.
And he was so sweet - always telling Lauren how smart she was, always letting her know how much he looked forward to talking to her, always making her feel, well, loved.
She knew it wasn't the ideal relationship, but she told herself that nothing is ideal, that if she waited for ideal she'd never find a man.
Her mother felt differently.
"Sweetheart, I'm happy you're happy, I really am. It's just that..."
"Mom, I'm 29 already. I met someone, and you've already admitted he sounds wonderful. I know you only have my best interests at heart, and I love you for it, but..."
"But Lauren, you've never met him."
And there it was. It sounded so insane when you said it like that, of course, but technically she hadn't PHYSICALLY met him, no. But who cared? They'd met by accident when she was blogging a comment about a Public Television production of Romeo and Juliet. He'd disagreed with her assessment that the decision to change the location from Verona to Brooklyn was hackneyed and poorly executed. And they'd gone on from there. The guy had opinions on everything from literature to rap music - he was obviously the real deal. And he was kind and patient and hilarious and Lauren was in love.
She hadn’t told him yet, and he hadn’t come out and told her, but it was obvious. And Lauren had been around the block. That’s what she tried to explain to her mom and all her friends. That she had dated tons before, been in relationships, and there was simply no match for Phil.
Her gay best friend Terrence sat down with her one evening over trout almondine. “Sweetheart, darling, pumpkin---WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?! Excuse me, let me compose myself,” he laughed, and Lauren laughed too. “But seriously, I know I’m being shallow, but do you even know what he LOOKS like?”
Lauren was ready for this one. “Terrence, we don’t want to know. We exchanged childhood pictures, so I know he’s not a Siamese twin or anything, but looks don’t matter to me.”
Terrence snorted. “Yeah, that’s what my ex-roommate said about his last cyberdate - until he met him and found that the GUY WAS A TOAD! Honey, I don’t want to rain on your parade - Barbra would never forgive me - but come on!”
Lauren smiled, ate her dinner and said nothing.
That night she told Phil of the conversation.
“Well, honey, it has been 8 months---aren’t you curious?”
“No, Lauren. I already love you and nothing could change that.”
“I’m so happy to hear you say that,” Lauren typed back. “I was scared to say it but...I love you too.”
She wished she could kiss him.
“Phil?” she typed.
“Yes??” he answered.
“What about...you know...”
“Sweetie, I’m just not sure meeting is a good idea. I thought we’d agreed...”
“But Phil, you live 2 hours away!”
“Look, I know you have blue eyes and brown hair and you know I have brown eyes, two, and brown hair. Do you really think...”
Feeling suddenly emboldened, Lauren typed quickly.
"What would be so terrible?". She took a deep breath. “Maybe you just don't want to meet me."
No reply. A minute went by. Then two. Then five. Lauren felt a lump in her throat the size of a grapefruit. She couldn't believe she'd fallen for him and he'd...
It was step-by-step directions to a midpoint between their homes.
The next day, Lauren chattered
happily on the phone to Terrence.
"You do know that you're really pretty, right?"
She blushed. "Uh, yeah. Thanks."
"So...HE'S not going to have anything to be disappointed about..."
"And neither am I. I'm not as shallow as you, remember?"
"Yes, doll, my obsession with skincare products aside, I...don't have a good feeling about this."
"Look - we're meeting at a public place, so he can't hack me to pieces on the first date."
"It's not just that...Lauren, seriously, you have no idea if you're even attracted to him."
"Is that all?" Lauren was relieved. For a minute, she'd thought it was something important. "Terrence, don't worry about me. I'm actually talking about a man and I'm happy, for a change. Can we just savor the moment?"
Terrence took her hand and looked at her intently. "...Sure. Sure."
Lauren pulled up to the diner where she was to meet Phil. She was an hour early. She wanted to be relaxed and seated when he walked in. She got a table against the wall and sat facing the door. Lauren was wearing what Phil had told her was his favorite perfume, Chanel no. 9, and he was going to be wearing a brown watch with roman numerals. She'd decided on a blue-green loosely fitting top to bring out her eyes, and a black skirt. She had to admit, she felt pretty. She smelled pretty. She was a pretty girl, waiting for the love of her life.
The manager of the place, it seemed, a fat, red-faced weird looking man, was looking at her. She was in such a good mood today, Lauren smiled back at him.. He went about his work.
Lauren sat at the table until 2PM, their agreed-upon time, having finished her last-minute primping in the small but serviceable ladies room at the back of the diner. She couldn’t possibly imagine eating anything, but she ordered a coffee from the unkempt but friendly waitress and jumped every time the door opened. Finally, a handsome teen-aged looking boy sauntered in. Lauren’s heart thumped, then dropped. He was a kid! No matter; he met his buddies and laughed loudly at another table. Then, an older man walked in.
Not bad. Brown hair, brown eyes, looked intelligent, and...he turned around to open the door for his wife and baby.
Lauren honestly thought she would faint if this went on much longer. Finally, the manager came up to her shyly. “Can I...help you with anything?” he asked, seeming almost frightened of her.
“No, it’s just that I’m here to meet someone and he’s a little late, that’s all.”
All of a sudden Lauren had a strange sensation in her chest. The Chanel No. 9 made her want to gag. She looked at the sad little man in front of her and down at his wrist...he was wearing a watch with roman numerals.
“Lauren?” He whined at her.
He shook his ruddy face up and down quickly.
Lauren stared at him. Then she saw the pain in his eyes.
“I told you, Lauren, I told you...”
“No, it’s...fine...I mean, it’s...great to meet you...”
“You see, it’s exactly how I thought it would happen. You’re beautiful....that’s why I couldn’t even...I pretended I worked here because I didn’t know what else to do. I was so scared to approach you. And you looked so nice...I knew it was going to end like this, I knew it.”
“Let’s just...have our first date and see what happens.”
As she continued staring into his eyes, she thought of all the conversations they'd had, the moments they'd shared, the compassion he'd displayed. All of a sudden she didn't see anything except kindness, intelligence, and love.
They smiled at each other and summoned the waitress.