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Week #15
Blind Date Café (Part 2)

(Looking for Part 1?  Blind Date Café PI)

Green and Red were no more interesting than my original Yellow. One was saving the world one kilowatt hour at a time, which I interpreted to mean he worked in some part of the renewable energy industry, and the other made ouchies go away, which meant something in healthcare. I appreciated they were in good lines of business. Things I value, as services needed to keep the world turning a lot more than a hedge fund. But I wasn’t looking for a relationship and it didn’t matter what noble profession any of them were in. I was walking away.

Brown, Blue and Purple cards were still in my hand. I decided to try Brown and Blue before checking back on Purple. I really didn’t want to face Irene again, heartbroken or otherwise.

Blue was occupied. I waited a couple minutes but Mayan’s laughter that spilled out of the booth said move on. I was glad at least one of us had hit it off. I silently wished Mayan luck as I walked to the other end.

Brown had the best answer to the ‘what do you do’ question. He said, “I predict what is yet to pass… I can tell you the future.”

If Jojo hadn’t told me that Mathias was here because he had hopes for "us", I would’ve fallen for the answer. Because that is one of my most used tag lines when I introduce my team. He wanted me to relate and he was showing how he respects my intellect by using it. But I also knew, despite how much he might respect me or like me, there was zero chemistry between us. In my experience, chemistry doesn’t grow over time. It’s either there or it isn’t. So, at the end of 2-minutes I got up and left with a silent prayer that whoever walked in to the booth next would give Mathias a real chance. Everybody deserved that much.

It was time for Purple.

I knew I could rationalize that I had tried Purple already to Mathias but in my heart, I also knew it’s a lie. Plus, I wanted something other than Brown to be my last memory of the Carousel. So, for the sake of my mental health, I walked back to Purple. The booth looked dark. Irene seemed to have moved on. Perhaps the booth owner never returned. If so, I’m going to have to try out the bar to replace Brown in my head.

“Hello?” I called out tentatively as I took the seat opposite the screen.

The screen immediately lit up and the first question came on it with the timer. It blinked three times before the countdown began.

“Hi… thank you for coming in. I help people to remember the magic that surround us all and help them to dream and hope and never give up. What do you do?” The booth owner spoke up.

“Huh? That’s beautiful…” for a moment I was lost in his answer and couldn’t catch my own train of thought. “I make sense out of chaos, bringing clarity to disorder.” For the first time that night I was grateful I had practiced that line so many times today.

“That’s an interesting answer. A riddle worth solving…” it sounded like he was talking to himself. I wondered if the Purple booth sound system was broken. Even the distorted voice had inflection and feeling. It conveyed curiosity and interest. It wasn’t as alien as the others.

“Hmmm… agreed.”

Lost in my own reflections I was surprised when the alarm chimed to indicate the clock had run out. We had stayed silent for half the 2-minutes. On impulse I reached out to touch the screen. He must’ve done the same because the screen lit up immediately and the words started appearing as if someone was writing on the screen. The sense of anticipation made the hair on my arm stand up. I quickly pulled my hand off the screen.

'What are you looking for in your life partner?'

 

“That’s easy. Someone I can love.” I could hear the smile in his voice and I knew immediately he was making a joke. The sound distortion system was definitely broken here.

“Ok… what is someone you can love like?” Despite myself, I was leaning-in, every cell in my body listening intently.

“Hmmm… someone gentle, patient, fun, intelligent, talented, disciplined, hardworking, committed and of course beautiful.”

“You don’t ask for much, do you?” I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice, even though he made me laughed.

“Yeah? You think that's too much? Let’s hear what you are looking for then?”

“It’s simple really. I want someone I will always respect and I have great chemistry with.”

“Oh no, no, no… that’s a compound answer. Respect and chemistry are code for like 300 characteristics. You are going to have to break those two words down. Let’s start with respect. What do you respect?”

“I respect intellect and a good work ethic. Someone who can see where they are going clearly and gets there without apologizing.”

“So you like intelligence, discipline, hard work, commitment and results. That’s more than I had. I was willing to settle for someone who tries versus you want results.”

“It’s ‘do or do not, there’s no try’… haven’t you heard?”

“Right… Yoda to the rescue. But you know you can’t Do without Trying, right?”

“Seriously? We are going to debate Star Wars here? Fine… I’m game. The point of Yoda’s saying is not that you shouldn’t try. He’s simply saying your objective can’t be To Try. It has to be To Do. Which essentially means you commit to achieving the result. If you commit only to trying then you will walk away when the going gets tough because you have reached your objective and there’s no reason to expend any more energy to get to the results. Since nothing worth doing in life comes without trials, committing to trying is as good as saying I’m looking for the easy way out. So, no I don’t respect anything less than commitment to results.”

“Agreed… that is a good explanation of Yoda's cryptic wisdom but now you have to agree that you are asking for a lot more than I am from a partner.”

“Fine. I have my standards.”

“Let’s breakdown chemistry then. I asked for beautiful. You laughed at me but you want chemistry. Let’s hear what goes into chemistry for you?”

“That’s a little personal” The sudden sense of self-consciousness was far more alien to me than his voice in that instant.

When the chime sounded, I breathed a sigh of relief. But it didn’t stop me from putting my hand up on the screen. It was like my hand had a mind of its own.

Since the screen came to life immediately, I decided his hand must have a mind of its own too. I watched the letters looping together to create the words for the next question.

 

'What is chemistry to you? what happens when it fades?'

 

“And you thought you were saved by the bell, didn’t you?” I could clearly hear his laughter reverberating around the enclosed space this time.

“You are just evil, aren’t you? I should’ve left after the last round.” I grumbled.

“Peace, peace… don’t leave. In fact, to show you I’m not evil I will answer the question first. Deal?”

“Let’s first hear it and then I’ll decide whether you are evil or not.”

“For me, chemistry is in everything. Touch, smell, taste, the way someone walks and the way they look at me. It’s the entire experience and how it registers in my world... Some time ago, someone who had lived a long life told me about their soulmate and how it felt when she met him. She said, the first time you meet your soulmate you’ll recognize them even though you’ve never met them before because an imprint of them is already in you. That they are at the same time familiar and exciting in equal measure. Her guidance was to experience it with all five senses and validate with the sixth. That is what chemistry is for me.”

“… and I thought I was reaching” I whispered.

“Are you making fun of me again? Let’s here your definition then.”

“I feel like mine is wholly inadequate after what you just said.”

“Spit it out… you are just killing time now.”

“Are you worried the clock will run out?”

“No. Because we are not going to be done even in 5 rounds.”

“Really? Confident are we? How do you know? I don’t admire arrogance you know.”

“But you respect confidence. You said as much in the first 2-minutes.” The playfulness in his voice changed to a quite thoughtfulness as he continued. “But its more than just that. You feel familiar. Like I’ve talked to you before. Like today is a part of a much longer conversation I’ve just been waiting to begin again.”

That caught my breath. I didn’t have words to respond.

He was right, I did respect confidence. But it was more than that. I knew exactly what he meant about the sense of familiarity. I just didn’t have the courage to admit it yet. I debated the response as the timer counted down.

“You are really going to run the clock out without answering the question then…?” Only someone who had known him a lifetime should’ve picked up the uncertainty in his voice.

My palm was already pressing the screen when the chime sounded. The screen immediately lit back up and the letters started appearing again. But I wasn’t paying attention to the new question anymore.

“I’ll answer but like I said, my definition of chemistry is quite simple. I just want someone I want to kiss every day. Someone who makes all the butterflies wake up when I do. Someone I want physically as much as I respect them mentally.” I keenly felt the inadequacy of my response compared to his.

“You know, I’ve kissed enough to know a good kisser. I’ll even go so far as to admit there’s a certain enjoyment to it. But it all fades over time. The butterflies wake up less often and then one day they just decide to stay asleep.” His voice was calm, almost an apology.

“So what are you saying? Kisses are not a good metric for chemistry?”

“I’m saying you can’t write the entire equation for chemistry with kisses as the only variable.” The trace of a smile was back in his voice.

“Right, you need to have all five senses and then add a dash of the sixth to get the complete picture of chemistry. Got it. That's a complex equation... Wanna do the next question then?”

“Sure”

'Of all 5 senses, if you can unlock one right now what would you choose? Choose from the list by tapping the option. Then explain Why?'

“You think they are listening to us? These questions seem very personalized.” I couldn’t help but observe.

“The person writing them probably have some insights.”

“Are you saying everyone has the same conversation when they are here so the questions would be these every time? No way. I’ve never heard the soulmate description you gave for chemistry before.”

“No, but the person writing the questions obviously has a part to play here.”

“Hold on… are you writing them?” that would make a lot of sense. I felt like an idiot for not guessing that earlier.

“Maybe.”

“I suppose I should be mad that you get to and I didn’t. But honestly, I’m just glad no one else is listening in.” The short laugh that escaped me was a combination of relief and joy. The conversation I enjoyed wasn’t engineered by some unknown third party. It was really us talking. That should have scared me but it no longer did.

“Since you are not mad, how about we answer the new question together?”

“Ok… on 3?”

“Sure”

“One… two… three…” we counted together.

We both picked Hearing.

“Huh… that’s a coincidence. We both picked the same. I know why I picked it.”

“Ok. Why?” I was genuinely curious.

 

“It was a process of elimination. End of this round, which is just a few mins away, we get Vision. So no reason to waste this chance on it. Plus, honestly, I’m not in any hurry for you to see me. The whole point of coming here was to see if I can connect when someone doesn’t see me. Touch and Taste were a bit too advanced to ask for in the first ½ hr of meeting someone. And I can already smell a little of your perfume so Voice was it.”

“For once I have a better answer than you.” I said jubilantly.

“Really? I thought most of your answers were good. But that’s fine. Let’s hear it then”

“Here we go... are you ready? I always fall for the Voice. A deep, husky voice can make me fall faster than anything a rational person should do.”

“Oh great. So the pressure is on. I’m not sure I like knowing that. What if my voice is not your type?”

“There’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?”

“All right, you want to press the button then?”

The screen said, touch here to remove voice distortion. I happily put my palm on it and applied pressure.

“Hello?” I asked tentatively

“Hello… So what do you think? Does my voice pass the test? Am I going to get to live another day?”

His voice was a deep baritone, like the most complex dark chocolate with hints of chili that burst on your tongue. For a moment I almost forgot to breathe. There was no turning back.

“Hey… are you still there?” the uncertainty in his voice was almost comical to me. Some one with that voice had no right to have insecurities.

“Your voice definitely passes the test.”

“Phew… you had me sweating bullets for a moment there.”

“Your voice is so familiar though…” is this what he meant about the soulmate being familiar... my mind wondered.

“Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s probably familiar for a reason other than the one you are thinking of right now.”

“Hmmm… really? Like what?”

“Well, in about 30 seconds you will know the answer when it’s the 5th round. But before that..”

“Stop, I get the last question”

“Ok… that’s fair I suppose.”

“You said being beautiful is one of the characteristics you want in your partner. Will you agree to go on a real date before you see me?”

The timer was down to the last 10 seconds. I knew he could run it out before responding. It wasn’t his answer I was looking for. Though a 'No' at this moment would leave a scar. It was his integrity and decision-making ability. Lack of either was a deal breaker in a real relationship for me. This was my last chance to gauge it.

“Yes. I was going to ask you out for dinner tomorrow, if you hadn’t cut me off 30 seconds ago.”

The chime sounded. The clock had run out. I stood and slowly put my right palm on the screen. His left was on the other side of the glass.

The screen started clearing from the spot our hands were touching. It was like fog rolling off the countryside in the early morning hours. The anticipation that built as his arm and then shoulder came into view was almost unbearable. My left palm had unconsciously wrapped itself around my neck as if it could hold my breath in while my right arm was glued to the screen.

When the deep caramel eyes that were framed by the oval face came into view I suddenly understood everything. Why Irene acted the way she had, why his voice was familiar and why he was wondering if he could connect with people when they didn't see his face.

“Oppa?”

He smiled, eyes crinkling, lips curving up. The most beautiful smile I've ever seen in real life, because of the hope blossoming behind his gaze.

“So… will you go on a real date with me tomorrow?” Oppa asked.

   

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