Picture? I typed, watching the words flare in blue on the computer screen and hit send.
Right here, he sent back almost immediately, his words glowing red beneath mine. I clicked on the link and found myself at a Yahoo site with the name, Nates picture at the top. Hmm, only one? Most guys had three or four and several had more than that. I had checked out one site where the guy had pasted himself into various exotic locations–France, Malaysia, Russia– he had about thirty of them. Pinky, my best friend since high school, took one look and pronounced the pictures photo-manipulations, and not very good ones either. She was always more computer savvy than me.
I was relieved to see that Nate55 seemed to think less was more. I clicked on the thumbnail and waited for the picture to load. I’m practically the only person I know who still has dial-up instead of broadband and it seemed to take forever for the whole shot to pop on the screen.
“Ewww, no way!” Pinky was staring over my shoulder at my computer. She tapped the screen with one shapely fire-engine red nail. “Is he kidding with that or what?”
“I don’t know,” I said thoughtfully, brushing a strand of hair out of my eyes and leaning closer to look. “But it’s interesting.”
“Interesting? Are you serious? It looks like a yearbook picture from the fifties or something. How old is this guy anyway?”
“He says twenty eight,” I told her, scrolling back through our brief conversation. “Maybe he did it on purpose–used black and white film. Maybe he’s going for the whole retro look.”
“It’s retro all right.” She plopped on my bed, making a much bigger bounce than you’d think someone who weighs ninety-nine pounds soaking wet possibly could. “Try another one,” she advised. “This guy’s a dead end.”
“I don’t know,” I said defensively. “I kind of like him. He seems very…nice.” He did too. We’d only had a brief on-line conversation but Nate55 seemed like a sweet guy. Polite. Not as pushy as some of the guys on YourTownSingles.com.
Pinky snorted indelicately. “Nice? Sammy, when I talked you into checking out this site I wanted you to find some hot guy to sweep you off your feet for a night of romantic passion. Not some boring shmuck with no distinguishing characteristics. Look at him– he’s so blah.”
I looked at the picture again. It was hard to tell since the photo was black and white but Nate55 seemed to have dark hair and dark eyes. He had nicely shaped features, nothing that would get him on the cover of GQ but then, I’d had enough of that with my ex, Brad.
Nate55’s nose reminded me of a Greek statue and his upper lip was thin but the dark eyes were wide and expressive and his chin was strong. That was good–I don’t like a weak chin. All in all, the face that stared back at me from the photo had ‘nice guy’ stamped all over it. And that was what I needed right then in my life. Someone nice– someone safe.
A small chime from my computer let me know that I had an IM. “He wants to meet,” I told Pinky. “Says he likes my picture. What do you think?”
“Oh hell…” Pinky sighed. “Well, I say go for it if you want to. I guess it doesn’t matter who you date as long as it’s not Brad.”
“Brad is definitely out of the picture,” I said. “This guy’s located here in town. He says name the time and place.”
“Tell him the DogWater. That way if he’s boring at least there’s something to watch.”
“Fine,” I said, typing rapidly. “When?”
“No time like the present. I think the Lightening are playing tonight.” Pinky is the only girl I know that genuinely likes sports as opposed to faking it for the benefit for whatever man she happens to be with the way all the rest of us do.
“Fine, but don’t get so caught up in the game you forget to keep an eye on me. This whole internet dating thing still makes me a little nervous. I’m only doing it because you wouldn’t stop nagging me.” I looked at her severely and she smiled.
“You’ll be fine, sweetie, you’re a natural. C’mon, let’s fix you up.” She hopped off the bed and started running her fingers through my long hair. “Gorgeous,” she said, twisting the thick mass it into a loose French knot at the nape of my neck. There is no other word to describe my hair but scarlet. It’s too bright to be called auburn and too dark to be carroty-orange or strawberry blond. I let her play with my hair because I knew she loved to do it. “We’ll make you irresistible, sweetie,” she promised. “Sexy Sammy– that’s you.”
“Yeah yeah, whatever,” I mumbled, finishing the IM to Nate55. He promised to meet me in an hour which gave me just enough time to get ready and get down to the DogWater if I hurried. I would rather spend the night curled up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa but Pinky wouldn’t hear of it. She had pointed out that I’d spent too many free nights on my own since Brad and I split up and she was determined to get me out in the dating scene again. I didn’t really want to get back in the scene after three long years as part of a couple—even if it had been a dysfunctional one. But Pinky wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“No pain no gain,” she had reasoned, logging onto AOL on my ancient computer and typing in the URL for YourTownSingles.com. The idea was to just meet a few guys for fun, nothing serious, to get me back in the swing of things. I had picked through at least twenty before connecting with Nate55 who seemed like a safe choice.
I logged off with a sigh. It had been six months since I finally showed Brad the door and I still didn’t feel quite up to this. But as Pinky said, there was no time like the present.
“Should I change?” I asked, surveying myself in the bedroom mirror to admire the elegant twist my friend had coaxed my hair into. Why couldn’t I ever do anything like that with it myself?
“Nah– you look fine,” she said, patting my shoulder. “That sweater looks great on you.”
“Thanks.” It was a black v-neck that made my hair look redder and my skin look creamier than usual. It also drew attention to my chest without making things too obvious. “You’re a sweater girl,” my Nanny had always said. “Girls with full bosoms look better in sweaters.” I think she said that because she liked to keep me covered up–not that I had much chance to wear sweaters living in Tampa, Florida. But it was January, the coldest month we have, and so I got a chance to wear a few now that the temperature had dipped down to the mid fifties at night. By March or April I’d be back in t-shirts again, but it was nice while it lasted. Jeans and black boots completed my outfit which was about right for the casual atmosphere of the DogWater.
“Here, wear these and slap on a little lipstick and you’re good to go.” Pinky picked out a pair of black crystal drop earrings that were just a little too fancy. Dubiously I put them on. Her taste, as always, was impeccable– the earrings took the whole outfit up a notch. I used some of the Clinique pink chocolate lipstick she offered me and I was ready to go.
We stood side by side in the mirror, Pinky looking tiny and fragile like a blond doll beside me. I’m not quite ready for the fat farm yet but I was getting there since the messy break-up with Brad. The size twelve jeans were a little tight in the waist and I hadn’t even looked at my size tens in months. I stood up straight and tried not to slouch. Time to get back into shape. I promised myself that tomorrow I would start back on Atkins and this time I would really stick with it.
“You look fabulous sweetie.” Pinky gave my hand a fond squeeze and brushed a wisp of her own luxuriant blond hair out of her china blue eyes. “You’ll knock his socks off– not that it matters.”
“What do you mean, ‘not that it matters?’” I said, patting my hair one last time and reaching for my jacket.
“Well nobody actually ever meets the love of their life on these on-line dates. It’s just for fun- you’ll see. It’s good practice.”
“Good practice. Right,” I muttered as we walked out the door.