Carrie hadn’t told me about her fear of germs, but she did tell me the last woman she dated walked out on her when she went on about the benefits of liquid soap over bar soap. She told me she liked a clean bathroom and kitchen. She told me she had a case of walking pneumonia. She told me she had been in a long-term relationship that ended two years ago, or was it three? She told me her gut felt happy after our first Skype date.
Before traveling to the West Coast for my book tour, I thought I’d do some rogue “marketing.” Since I was single, why not invite women I met through online dating websites? I emailed women who sounded like they might read books to say, “Hey, I’ll be reading from my new book at X bookstore and looking for interesting women to have coffee with while I’m in town.”
Soon into my marketing campaign, I met Carrie, a sporty, dark-haired radiologist from Seattle.
“Would love to meet up,” she said, and so started our email exchange. Both of us New York Jews, we loved dogs and old Woody Allen movies. My marketing campaign slacked off.
Because my school term had ended and Carrie was housebound with pneumonia, we had plenty of time to communicate. Over Skype, we watched movies, took naps and ate meals. We even had a dance party to celebrate the start of my summer break. A three-month respite from teaching courses in creative writing and women’s studies at a local university.
“It’s like having a roommate,” she said.
And I said, “It’s nice to have a roommate.”
It would be a solid month before flying into Seattle where we’d meet in person. She asked if I’d come out earlier so we could spend more time together but, alas, I couldn’t. “I wish we met,” she said, “when I was healthier. I lost a lot of weight.”
I told her it didn’t matter; she was cute nonetheless. I’d be in Seattle for a week. We had plenty of time to get to know each other.
Welcome! she texted when my plane landed. Can’t wait to finally meet you! I stayed with a college friend the first night, but before going to bed, Carrie and I Skyped.
“Things will be different,” I told her, “after we meet.”
“How so?” she asked.
“We’ll be in another dimension,” I said. “We’re still in projection mode.”
She nodded, patted her Yorkie’s head.
“Hopefully,” I said, “things will be different in the best ways possible.”
I’d met personal-ad women on Skype before. In person, there were no surprises, or few surprises; one appeared slightly older—our fuzzy video connection erased the wrinkles; the other was taller than I thought, since I had only seen her upper body on Skype. Both were just as, or more attractive in person; both became girlfriends. What a relief to finally hug them, hold their hands, hear their voices live instead of through crappy laptop speakers.
I imagined hugging Carrie, maybe for a minute, maybe two, perhaps gazing into her gray-blue eyes that went so well with the orange scrubs she put on before leaving for work. I imagined us giggling the way we did when we told each other stories or when we had our dogs meet over Skype. Her dog stared at the screen. My dog wanted nothing more than to get out of the way of the camera and run from the room.
Carrie and I met on a street corner near her apartment. Taller and leaner than I had imagined, she wore jeans that practically fell off her slender frame and a Life is Good “Running is My Happy Hour” t-shirt. She ejected her arm and veered her eyes down. I shook her hand.
“Hey,” she said and introduced me to her dog. “This is Fred.” He jumped on my leg and licked my hand.
Carrie talked and talked, about the weather, her dog, the mold in her living room. She told me about brunch options, the café down the street – but they had loud music – or the cool art deco place with good food but was always crowded, or the diner with decent food and nice booths.
I wondered why the hell she wouldn’t look at me. It wasn’t like she could be disappointed in my appearance—she saw me, day in and day out on Skype, not like the pre-photo personal ad days when you took chances and, because the photos were decades old, you’d have to make conversation with a person you didn’t expect when all you wanted to do was run.
After a month of laughing and dancing and napping together, my heart sunk, just as it did when I was fifteen and finally met a boy with whom I had been communicating over the CB radio. Although he had a soothing voice and I had imagined him to be a cute boy with a bowl cut, in person he was obese and pimply faced. Carrie gazed in every direction but mine.