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I drove out to the beach, and sat down in a coffee shop. Carl was a little late. While sitting, a strange man who looked similar to Carl’s pictures walked up to the coffee shop. He smashed his face up against the window and looked inside. He looked directly at me and then looked away. He picked up a discarded newspaper, awkwardly dusted off a patio chair, and sat down. As a result of my previous dating experiences, I thought he might be Carl.
I did not approach him.
A few minutes later the man entered the coffee shop, said hi to me, and rifled through the sugar packets. He walked back out of the shop and waved to me again. I still wasn’t sure if this was Carl but was paranoid it was. I watched him suspiciously through the corner of my eye. He definitely did not look 6’2” but so few of my internet dates told the truth about their height. This man also appeared to have a smaller build than Carl did in his photos. He had similar features but was wearing sunglasses, making it difficult to examine him.
The strange man walked into the coffee shop again and smiled at me before going up to the counter to ask a question. He checked out some of the chocolate covered coffee beans and overpriced mugs, repeatedly looking over his shoulder to see if I was watching. It was disturbing. He was clearly putting himself on display in the most awkward way possible.
The minutes ticked on and I started to lose hope. Like a ray of light, the real Carl walked into the coffee shop and said hi.
“Hi,” I said slightly too loud so the strange man would know I was not alone.
Carl commented on the man walking aimlessly around the coffee shop and I mentioned I was worried he was my date.
“We do kind of look alike,” he said. “And sorry I’m late. Traffic was really bad.”
“No, you really don’t look alike but I thought maybe you were one of those people who alters your photos,” I said.
“I guess there’s a lot of that online.”
Carl was extremely nervous. I was having a really nice relaxed time but he was trying to hide his anxiety with relentless jokes. I wanted to tell him to relax but it’s the worst way to comfort someone. We talked for a couple of hours but he never calmed down. When he walked me to my car he asked me out again. I said yes but I wasn’t sure how I felt about going out with him again. I just couldn’t get excited about dating anymore.
The rest of the story is in the book which you can find here.