“This is basically like a menu for people.”
She wasn’t wrong. Dating had become a strange phenomenon. There wasn’t any spark or meet cute involved anymore. Now it was similar to the way a couple picks a sperm donor or, as Melody said, the way a person picks their food off of a menu.
“Yeah, but Mel, attraction plays a role things anyway right? I mean, come on, when you’re seeing someone from across the room, as all the songs say, you’re only noticing them because of their looks right? So, here you are. Seeing someone from across the city.”
“Not the same,” she was still a romantic.
“Of course it is,” I wasn’t.
She shook her head in response, “no it isn’t. Not even close. You can’t get that feeling from a picture of a person you’ve never known before. Someone you’ve never seen before. It’s not the same.”
“Fine, tell me why then.”
She turned towards me with her hands in front of her. They were pointing at me like arrows and she was attacking my assumption that online dating and meeting someone in the real world for the first time are the same. She was riding her horse and she was going to die on it in battle.
“So many reasons!”
“Pictures lie, for starters. Its a snapshot of a person. They might be pretty but what if they have a terrible voice. What if they walk funny. What if they smell bad?”
I laughed, “so you’re reason why online dating isn’t as good is even more superficial than online dating? Wow Mel. Wow.”
“No!” She laughed and pushed me, “it’s the reality. The reality of all of your senses telling you that someone is the one. Or, potentially. You can watch the way they interact with other people. You can see the way their smile slowly creeps across their face. The sound of their laugh, a genuine laugh, when someone says something funny.”
She stopped for a second and dropped her eyes from my face and looked at her shoes.
“The way your body trembles the first time they brush up against you in the slightest way and you catch the scent of them whether its cologne or the soap they use or just their natural smell.”
She paused again and fidgeted.
“You remember those things. They mean something. They develop in your head and fester until you become obsessed with them. You make up fake conversations that you have with them about the first time you noticed them and you pretend they noticed you for the first time then too. It’s a story you create in your head because the reality is they don’t know you exist and you’re too afraid they won’t care when they find out you do.”
Melody wiped her eyes and sniffled then picked her head up and smiled at me.
“Why would you want to deprive yourself of that by meeting someone online, huh? Isn’t it grand? Doesn’t it sound wonderful?”
She tried to laugh it off and turn to the computer. She clicked through a few profiles. She found someone who looked nice. He wasn’t too attractive but he wasn’t someone who spent most of their life in dark hallways either.
“He’ll do I guess.”
“I guess?” I looked at her with my forehead making all kinds of squiggly lines.
“Yeah I don’t know. He seems nice.”
“Mel, you don’t want someone who seems nice. You want someone who seems amazing. You want-,” I stopped this time. She picked her head up and looked me in the eyes with tears floating on the brink of escape and I stopped talking just to stare at her.
You don’t always remember the moment you really noticed someone. You always knew them and who they were and you looked at them hundreds, if not thousands of time, but you never can remember the moment when you first noticed something specific about them. Like the way they smile or the motion they wave their hand in when they pull their hair behind their ear.
Right then I noticed the way she looked at me with her teary, reddened eyes and I looked back at her and my mind spoke up out of turn and asked if I had ever noticed how beautiful she was when she cried.
I shook my head. I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t say out loud that I hadn’t and talk to myself like a psycho, but I did notice. I saw her looking at me and staring into my eyes and she was so beautiful that I wanted to kiss her.
I didn’t though. I couldn’t. I didn’t even know what that was. Why was I looking at her like that after all of these years of knowing her? It didn’t make sense.
I shook my head and mumbled something. She turned away and we decided that online dating would have to wait. We went out for ice cream instead and sat on a bench until the sun fell and the moon splashed stars across the sky. We talked and laughed and sat in silence. It was one of the best days of that summer and I’ll never forget it. It was the day that I realized I liked her. It was the day when I truly understood what she meant about online dating. It was the day I saw how beautiful she was when she cried and when I vowed to never see her cry again.