The Coffee Shop was nearly empty. A young man was over in the corner talking with a woman, making notes on a yellow legal pad. Otherwise the place was empty. Even though it was early, the cold gray light outside and the dark fixtures made it seem much later than it was. "He mustn't be here yet," Jenny thought, placing her coat neatly over the back of a chair at a table just across from the coffee bar. She hated being the first to arrive.
"What can I get for you - the usual?" Summer asked already checking off the appropriate boxes on a "tall" white cup.
"Yes, thank you. How are you, Summer?" Jenny liked Summer, they shared dating stories sometimes. "I'm meeting someone. Do I look nervous?"
"Jen, if I say yes you'll be more nervous, so I'm gonna go with no. You look great. What's this guy's story?"
Jenny was about to answer when she noticed a middle aged man, well dressed, though casual, enter The Coffee Shop. He was graying at the temples. Jen couldn't tell if he colored his hair. He had looked younger on his Match.com page, but not by a lot. She looked at Summer who simply nodded and handed her her coffee and smiled in a way that said good luck. Jen smiled to herself as she placed her coffee on the high table. Richard was ordering now.
Richard was trying to stay focused on Summer who was taking his order. Normally, this wouldn’t be difficult. He frequented The Coffee Shop enough to know all of the baristas and Summer was definitely one of his favorites. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a long pony tail reaching all the way down her back. He’d pictured that long curly hair splayed over her firm white back, following it down and down. “Rich, the usual,” Summer asked waiving the cup and waiting for instructions.
“No,” he paused nervously reaching for his wallet. “Actually I’ll have a large green tea, iced, please, thanks.”
Summer figured he was just nervous. Richard came in often. He liked to sit at the bar and talk with the baristas. Though she couldn’t really say she knew much about him based on those conversations. Jen was sweet and shy and April hoped they might make a good match. They at least seemed, on the surface, to be well-suited.
Jen was nervously sliding the cardboard sleeve up and down her coffee cup. When she realizing what she was doing, she stopped so suddenly she almost knocked over the cup. She told herself this was going to be fine. After all, how many times had she done this? At least ten times, maybe more. At first it had been particularly nerve wracking, but it was getting easier and besides this guy looked ok. One time, looking into the restaurant where she was supposed to meet her date, she saw the guy, a short squat balding fellow with a face like a bulldog, picking at his nose. She didn’t go in, and later declined a chance to reschedule. It hadn’t been all bad. She particularly liked this one guy, a tall blond named Jake. He was a Pharmacist, new in town, and was using the service to meet people and, as he put it, make friends. Though they had a nice evening and were even agreeing to see each other again, Jen had to beg off saying that she usually didn’t sleep with new friends, at least not on the first date. She bumped into him from time-to-time, now they were friends, sort of. That was the problem. It seemed to her that women were going online to meet friends and start a relationship, or at least try, while men were just trying to get laid. This train of thought was making her more nervous.
She liked his voice, then looking up slowly, “Richard, hi.” Jen said tentatively, between a question and statement of fact. She started to stand and reach out her hand. “Hi,” they continued holding hands as they settled into their chairs, as if neither one wanted to be the first to let go.
Richard placed his green tea on the table. “Did you want anything to eat, need more coffee?”
“No, no thanks, I’m fine. It’s nice to meet you finally.”
“Yes, the same. I’m glad this place worked for you. I actually come her fairly frequently, he said, casting about the graying room as if to lay claim to the ill-defined tables and chairs before they vanished in the twilight.
“Me too,” she said, taking a sip of her coffee and spilling some out of the corner of her mouth. “Oh, I guess I missed, excuse me. I’m so embarrassed,” she laughed, taking the brown napkin he offered her and trying to dab demurely around her mouth and chin. Looking down she saw a small brown spot on the sleeve of her white blouse that appeared to be spreading. She pulled her hand into her lap.
“So, did you come straight from work?” Richard asked in an effort to get past the spill.
“Actually, no, I was off today. I went into Newport to do some shopping and met a friend for lunch.”
“So you’re pretty social huh?”
“I guess so. I grew up in Tiverton, so I know a lot of people on the island from school.” Jen was starting to settle in. “You grew up in Mass right?”
“Yeah, Marlborough, out off Rt. 20.”
“How long have been you on Match?” Jen asked.
From Richard’s experience, the answer to this question could prove decisive depending on the woman asking it. On the one hand, some women liked it if you had been on the site for awhile. It implied that you were discerning and not going to settle for just anyone. Others thought that if you’d been on a longtime that you were playing the field and your motives were suspect from the start. He usually went with not long, but instead decided to risk it. “Actually, I’ve been on for awhile now. How about you?”
“I’ve been on and off a couple times to tell you truth. It seems like the thing to do these days. I really don’t want to meet people in bars anymore.”
“I agree with you there,” he answered quickly, looking into her blue eyes and actually taking her in for the first time. She looked back unblinking. “If you’re going to go on blind dates, you might as well arrange them yourself.”
“I know what you mean,” Richard continued. “Friends try introducing me to their friends and when it doesn’t work out, it can be a little awkward for everybody. I prefer this.”
“Me too,” she said successfully sipping her coffee. “You say in your profile that you’re a big music fan. What do you like? “
“Oh, I’m all over the map. Really, I run the gamut from rock, through pop to jazz and even classical. I took piano lessons as a kid and still noodle around a bit. How about you?”
“Well I don’t play any instruments, but I enjoy all kinds of music as well - I listened to a lot of reggae and punk in college. Now, I’m more middle of the road I guess, folk, some pop stuff - I have to admit I like Justin Timberlake’s latest. I like funk and a little country now and then.
“Oh, funk!" he, said laughing at his own joke. "I’m a huge Prince fan.”
“Really? Me too.”
“That’s cool.” Rich had finished his green tea and was bouncing the cup nervously on the table. The music conversation was an important one for him and he was glad she brought it up. The last woman he met who claimed to love music was a big Celine Dion fan. That didn’t turn out well. He mentioned Prince for very specific reasons and was pleased with Jen’s response.
“It looks like you’re finished with that,” Jen said, reaching over to take the cup from his hand.
“Hey, the sun’s coming out.” The room had suddenly filled with light lending definition to the walnut stained fixtures. “What do you say we drive to the beach and continue this there? I mean unless you’ve got to be somewhere, or have other plans.”
“No, no, I don’t have any plans. That sounds nice, let’s go.” Jen slipped her coat on while Richard threw away cups and napkins. Summer was watching as the two of them headed for the door. Catching her eye for only a minute, Summer thought Jen looked happy enough.
If you missed the previous installment of Success Through Failure click here: