ereal or wheat bread?” asked the clerk in a hurry. The question confused me. Once upon a time I’d just ask for bread. Now I had options. This taste, that taste, organic or not. Since I’m not on a diet I picked the one that sounded best and headed for the bar where I usually meet up with Daniel.
I was startled when I saw he wasn’t alone.
“Sweetie! You finally got here,” he winked at me. “Meet Carlo.” I guessed his umpteenth Saturday night conquest would probably last through Tuesday at best. Only the ones that managed to survive through Thursday afternoon stood much of a chance with Daniel. That’s just the way he is with relationships.
A few seconds after the pleasantries, Carlo went outside to make a phone call, leaving us to order when the waiter came by.
“I’ll have a caffè macchiato, so will Carlo,” said Daniel. “You?”
One look at the “coffee menu” and I officially knew I was having a bad morning. Espresso, decaf, short, long, coffee-in-a-glass, corretto, American, Neapolitan, nuts, ginseng, Mocaccino, on ice, barley… two-and-a-half pages of coffee.
The coffee list had always been there. I just never noticed it before.
I ordered tea, after which Daniel shot me a surprised and vaguely disgusted look: “Stomach ache?”
“No, choice ache.”
“You should have ordered what I ordered…”
That’s when I knew Daniel was on top of his game. It’s the feeling you get when a Saturday night goes your way. The week changes tone.
“So, you met him at a club?” I asked.
“No,” said Daniel, sounding pleased with himself. “Online actually, on a dating site. You just give them your details and preferences and… whoosh, they find your perfect match.”
I mulled this over for a second. “So basically there’s also a menu for relationships,” I said, feeling a real stomachache coming on.
After an hour with the newly matched couple I went home. Though I had a ton of work, all I managed to do was to light up a cigarette and think.
There’s a tendency to believe modern society has all the answers. Need to know something? Just turn on your laptop or dig into your phone. Ask and you shall be answered, like getting Mac fries minus the ketchup.
Feel sick? Check out the symptoms on your search engine.
Work problems? Trawl Google.
House-hunting? Yahoo can help.
Here’s another truth. Questions are a plague and we don’t even know it. Global awareness — endless answers to endless requests — leaves us more confused than ever.
But damn if there isn’t someone out there who wants to pose a bigger question, namely what it means to feel human, and decides not to go hunting for answers in cyberspace.
That would be me.
Adrenalin had me roaring. I was on a high. I had hundred pending projects and a thousand more in mind. I probably would have added world hunger to my to-do list if I’d had the time. I could literally feel the energy welling up inside me. But all that energy and enthusiasm was also creating problems. As in deciding what I wanted.
Which bread? Which coffee? Choice was destabilizing me. Only one person restored my balance: him. He knew how to placate me. He was like a warming balm. All I needed was a sign — a kiss, a message, and everything racing through my head fell into line and made sense. He illuminated my darkness — the kind Scorpios seem to swear by. And he had no idea how grateful I was.
A few days after our coffee, Daniel called me late at night. “Don’t tell me, you’re stuck in a bad neighborhood and don’t have a car…”
“No, sweetie, I’m the one who let someone else take a walk.”
And there you have it. Carlo hadn’t made it past Tuesday afternoon. Another typical disaster.
“Since you’re the smart one, maybe you can tell me why it always ends up this way. Why me? I feel like a roach motel.” Daniel sounded nervous, which was strange for him.
“Listen, you’re the one who dumped him, so what’s the problem exactly?”
He sighed. “I’m tired, sweets. I ask myself questions and I don’t get any answers. Am I too special to exist in this world?” His voice went up a notch, sounding mischievously girlish.
I laughed. “I have a suggestion: ask Google.”
I think I heard him swear before the phone clicked off. But I wasn’t worried. Daniel is special. I can tell him anything. He called me the next day to make sure we’d be meeting for our usual coffee.
And him? Even though I wasn’t asking him too many questions he was still giving me answers, but in his own way. The way I needed most.