This post is about the first meeting between me and someone I’ve spoken to off and on and known online only through OkC and Fet for the last 4 years. We met on Thursday, May 16th 2013.
“How can you meet someone you’ve never seen?”
My oldest friend asks me this after I met him. After introducing her in fact and saying good night to him. “The hand off.” It’s 17 years now with her. We may go years without seeing each other, sometimes without contact, sometimes with. But it’s never really different between us. We haven’t outgrown each other yet. Don’t know if it will happen. We’ll see.
She asks me this while we sit and talk, preceded by “I don’t like surprises. Good or bad.”
I hadn’t seen her in some time. She looked incredibly different. Unbelievably so. Took a moment, watching her come towards me, but all I needed were the eyes and then the smile. That hadn’t changed.
She remembered me talking about him years ago too.
I don’t know. It’s odd really. Was I ever really concerned with how he would look? I had an inkling at the least that he was fit. Other than that. No I wasn’t concerned.
Not as concerned as what his impression of me would be, ironically.
Odd. I wrote odd but that signifies something that is out of the ordinary. And this is not out of the ordinary for me. Not online. I connect with people here on a different level. I am attracted to people here on a different level. I can be open with people in a way here that I am not generally in person. And in more than one case, it was through talking to people here that I was then able to become closer to them offline.
Even her. Long ago as adolescents, we didn’t really get along. Enter AOL Instant Messenger and several conversations later, there was suddenly understanding. Why? I could describe it and I have but not everyone understands. Many still see the internet as a place where people don masks rather than where people drop them. A place where true closeness and depth in relationship is impossible. I disagree.
The walls drop. And I can pick the genuine from the disingenuous usually. I do that pretty well in person also but without the walls dropping. The distance takes longer to span.
On the train the next day, I remembered the previous evening. Snatches of conversations here. Snatches there. And as is my wont when I’m pleased about something, I’m grinning off into the distance. Lost in memory, daydreaming and smiling. Unable to stop though I try. No sooner do I snap out of it, do I slip right back in. People surely must have been looking at the woman over there smiling all weird on the train for no reason.
The evening of our meeting, I walked from work to the rendezvous point. Still early. Stopped and looked at the place from across the street. But I couldn’t stand there waiting. Waiting to be discovered. I knew the park was nearby. Maybe I could get there and breathe a little easier before the time came.
Setting a time had made it concrete. As I knew it would when I set it on the phone the night before. I couldn’t not meet after that.
I only made it partway to the park before reading his text describing what he’d be wearing and turning back.
At this point there was nothing to remedy the nerves except meeting.
His voice was the same.
We talked and it was nice. Comfortable conversation. So nice that I forgot I had my phone muted and couldn’t very well hear when my boyfriend made the check in call I asked him to make. I looked at it just in time to see my boyfriend calling for probably the third time.
At this point in my re-telling to my old friend:
“And here I thought ‘this lady has it together’ with all the info you texted me. Even the restaurant phone number. Had you given me the same direction you gave your boyfriend, I’d have been out of the office with the police at that restaurant, in moments.” It turns out she works right around the corner. The Universe is funny like that.
I was nervous. Not crazy nervous. I never am crazy nervous in the actual moment. That seems to be exclusively reserved for the build up. This was a more subdued nervous that made it so I couldn’t describe the similarities between existentialism and objectivism as I saw it or remember names to simple things. Or maybe I was just tired from work.
I was determined to focus on the fact that we were just two people eating and talking as people do. Not that I had shared all manner of things with him online. And to be honest he made it easy to do. For the most part.
“See, you haven’t hyperventilated or run away.”
“Do you feel better now?”
Something happened on Tuesday. That’s the best I can get to describing it. I had no intention of doing what I ended up doing. It wasn’t planned.
I knew he was coming for some time. But I couldn’t really focus on that while dealing with a personal crisis. Couldn’t focus on it or the possibilities until suddenly it was right there looming before me. I hadn’t had the time to get comfortable with the notion.
I was scared he wouldn’t like me.
It all boiled down to that one thing.
Not even the thought that he could be other than what he had portrayed himself to be here in the shroud of secrecy our connection was wrapped in, was more important.
I had gone back and forth over it in my mind. All the superficial things about appearance. First impressions. Perhaps I would make a better first impression in a year rather than that week.
Several things converged on each other. New place that I wasn’t accustomed to. I had been alone the previous weekend. Alone with my thoughts. Needing my boyfriend after having endured an extended number of nights alone already without being cuddled and without being able to evaluate recent decisions in the secure circle of warmth. A warmth I was essentially deprived of for the duration of our stay with family. Months. Almost a year.
To reassure and be reassured. To move forward with confidence, accepting what had come to be, concretely. That was what I needed.
I could have done without the incessant Mother’s Day talk that surrounded me as well.
So I decided I wasn’t going to meet him.
Except that I wanted to meet him.
Desire and insecurity clashed against each other.
Tuesday night, we talked a lot and I wrote a lot. The last person who should have known about that particular inner conflict was the person I rambled on to for an hour and for pages after that. Though not because he said I’d eventually have to tell him what was bothering me.
“Mind you, there are many people who would have thought you *were* crazy,” says my friend while laughing. Well har har.
References to this moment and my previous preoccupation were made a few times by him and even once by my boyfriend while we were all three of us together. Joy. It had the effect of nails on a chalkboard. Or rather electronics dropping on the floor. All the fine hairs standing on end and feeling that jarring sound vibrate down one’s spine.
Essentially Tuesday wasn’t supposed to have happened. Not the way it did anyway.
Pulling the hidden to the surface when I had worked to keep it submerged for this moment. To maintain courage. And just when I wasn’t thinking about it anymore, pop, there it is again.
Yes, I was embarrassed at having imploded a few days prior. No… it wasn’t as big a deal maybe as it seemed to be before we met.
I threatened that I wouldn’t write a word about our meeting because he teased me on just what I might write.
But once he mentioned it, I knew I would.
I waited. Trying not to shake outside of my own skin.
Any moment now. And then he was there. Familiar and unfamiliar. About my height. Maybe a little taller. (People my height always seem shorter than me. People a little taller than me, seem my height. You gotta be several inches taller to actually seem taller to me.)
His voice was still the same. His voice was the first thing I heard in fact because my back had been turned to him.
I had looked at that menu online. Looked at it outside the restaurant. Looked at it in the restaurant. Yet I still couldn’t figure out what I would order.
I wanted to take him in. To remember the details of his face. This was my first time seeing him, but it is hard to completely do that when someone is looking back at you. And as I didn’t want to be more awkward than I was sure I had been that week already.
We talked and it was easy in moments. About the same things we’d talked about online. Some things were repeated but it was still new, hearing it said, no electronics involved.
Now if Time Lords can make a TARDIS control room at all with controls for several functions, why cannot those functions be simply routed to one console? Isn’t the hardest part of the work done already? Actually making a device that works the way they want it too. Why have 500 remote controls, one for each channel? That’s what I was trying to wrap my head around.
As advanced as they were, it sounds like they still had computers filling whole rooms as opposed to laptops and tablets.
And next, I thought the sky changed color as the sun set because of the changing angle and length of the light’s rays hitting the atmosphere. A thought that I could not articulate just then. But I think next time I’ll be more lucid. Hopefully.
At one point a cover of “Leaving On A Jet Plane” played on the radio in the restaurant. He commented “Wouldn’t have been my choice of music.” I didn’t pick up on that really until a few moments later.
We went walking in the park after eating, talking all the while. The sun was setting over the water. I don’t think that was by design but it certainly was amusing to me in its cliché timeliness. I took pictures. He showed me how to take panoramic pictures with my phone. We sat on stone benches that were marvelously warm from the sun’s earlier heat. We talked for a while longer.
I had a moment of feeling I had done all this before. Deja vu. But not a usual one. More along the lines of something I’d dreamed of and forgotten. This has happened several times since I was very little. One of the reasons clairvoyance and divination fascinate me. I sometimes think I will be able to unlock whatever latent ability I have there one day.
My impression of him was that he seemed pretty “regular.” Not necessarily someone you’d pick out of a crowd and not someone who I’d imagine was into what I know he’s into. Someone you could meet at the library or theater or a convention. I liked that. I won’t say mild-mannered. That always puts me in mind of Superman and transforming in telephone booths.
Soon the evening was done and we were walking back. I got to introduce him to my boyfriend and to my old friend. Not pre-planned but funny how that worked out.
He hugged me, the first contact we had that day, said it was good meeting me. Then good night.
Then I spent the rest of the night catching up with my friend until it got cold even for me and we took the train home.
I’m glad I finally met him.
I’m still not sure what he thinks of me now. I know what he thought of me here, online.
My friend says the easiest way to find out is to ask. Obvious I suppose. We’ll see if I ever get around to that. I know he’ll be reading this at some point in any case.
What more is there to be said?
It was a good evening and had me smiling all the next day.
So maybe I’ll be a little less neurotic in connections with others who I meet online. Less neurotic, more courageous, but still cautious.
I think I’m done with this post. If anything comes to mind, I’ll add an addendum lol.