The plastic tree stump underneath which I perched barely elevated me high enough to reach the concrete counter attached to the storefront window. Peering out at the bustling crowd, scurrying up and down the Sunday street, I eagerly waited for the arrival of my next date. I glared down and discovered a little black ball. Peculiarly it was able to lay still atop Brown Owl Coffee’s lookout surface. Curious, I palmed the tennis-ball-sized object and flipped it over. Secrets revealed. Its bottom was flat, with a thin layer of translucent plastic exposing a hollow core filled with dark blue liquid. A magic 8 ball. The three sisters of fate were tempting me. Despite having the unavoidable urge to use the fortune telling device, I resisted.
Returning the tool of superstition to its original resting place, I pondered about the triangle inside and its many faces. Yes. No. Maybe. As the triangle rotated on its axis, within the hazy sphere, each of these answers were represented, each communicated differently. A straight “Yes.” A simple “Perhaps.” The dreaded “Ask again”. And the even more dreaded “Percentages are dismal.” And each of these fortunes were equally possible to receive because the triangle balanced the odds. I think of love like this triforce. The three requirements for perfect balance are mind, heart, and (insert sexual organ here). Social, emotional, and physical attraction, mutually experienced. Since moving to San Francisco, I’d only met one that grasped even two points of the triforce. They were an important step in my schooling on love. They proved my philosophy to be sound. I could not see myself enjoying extended time with them, despite having an intellectual and physical connection.
Another temptation lay to the right of the mini magic 8 ball: a book titled “The Art of Dating”. I could almost hear the three sisters of fate cackling at me, breaking from brewing whatever insidious potion they were boiling. Published in the 1930s, I knew this light, bathroom reading, pamphlet sized how-to was far from harmful. I picked it up and began flipping through the pages, expecting the ironic humor to lessen the stress of waiting.
“Are you happy?” I glared at Anne, taken aback by her bluntness. She repeated, “Are you happy?” After more thought than was necessary, I responded. “I’m happier. I think it’s all relative. I’m happier than I was earlier this week, earlier this month even. I’m generally happy. But I’m not satisfied with where I am personally. Is that what you’re asking?” Anne laughed, and pulled up the polaroid in her hand. “Well this says you are!” She pointed at the red splash over my right shoulder. The red had fainted since my last reading. The anger had fainted. The methods I’d applied over the past couple months had succeeded. A proud, yet bashful, half smile spread reflexively across my face.
Anne glanced back at the polaroid, holding it up to the light. “You see the light red that’s almost pink above your head? That is a sign of self love.” She tilted the picture slightly. “And my guides are telling me you’re using your left brain too much. You’re being far too analytical. And there is some confusion over where you are personally, professionally, geographically. It’s not necessarily that you’re dissatisfied with any of these things, it’s that you are unsure if the steps you’ve taken, the decisions you’ve made are leading you toward the places you want to go, the places you’re meant to go. You need to trust yourself, your wisdom, your intuitions. You have made all of the right decisions, even if there’s nothing to prove that yet.”
Across the street I noticed the one I’d messaged on the dating website I’d equipped myself with. Reality was confirmed. The online pictures and profile matched. “Oh fuck”, I thought, “I’m way out of my league.” I was stunned enough to get an online response, let alone actually arranging a successful meet-up. What was to be a trifecta approached the cafe.
“You’ve all heard of 1001 Arabian nights I take it?” Scattered nods, yeahs, yeses, and uh huhs shot back at Ira Glass, who had come to the final point in his speaking engagement. The heat inside Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium was blasting. I shifted atop the bench seating uncomfortably. My feet dangled off the edge and it was nearly a sweat inducing task to avoid nudging the audience members in the preceding row. All day I’d been sitting, in cars, in restaurants, at my aura reading. It was not the best way to distract my mind from the pending coffee date, which was less than 24 hours away. And all day I’d been going from the freezing air of December to the pulsing swelter of air conditioning, whether indoors or in a vehicle. When in the numbing cold, all I wanted was some warmth. But once inside a toasty space, all I wanted was to cool down.
Glass grasped his ipad with one hand, then poked it with another. Familiar orchestral music used from his radio show buoyed across the auditorium. He retold the story of 1001 Arabian Nights in cliff notes form. A woman is taken by a murderous King. Her fate is a one night stand, with death before sunrise. Each night this woman tells the King a part of a very long story. Because she is so skilled at storytelling, using the method of action, action, reflection on that action, and because she stops each night at a climax, her life is spared by the King. The King cannot bring himself to kill her; he must hear the end of the story. 1001 nights pass, during which the King slowly develops a sense of empathy. The woman’s characters and their actions transform the King into a human who is humane. When the story is over, he cannot kill his lover, as he’d done to all that came before her. His conscious won’t allow it. “That empathy is what makes us sane. It’s what makes us human. That empathy is what rescues us.”
I walked back to my car after my coffee date had taken a turn into a stroll through Stern Grove, all the while questioning what had just occurred. Could this be good? Could this work out? I felt all of my triangular desires were met. Yet, how would I know if the feelings were mutual? And how could it be possible for someone so far out of my league to be attracted to me for, well, me? The intellectual, emotional, and physical me? Have I always been cutting myself short? Am I a bigger catch than I realize? I mean, how would I know if I’ve never been in this position before? When is too soon to contact again? How long should I wait before not expecting a response back? What should the second date even be?
Days passed, and my mind wavered between questions and confidence. Actions lead to tortuous sojourning. A carefully thought out and timed text here, a delayed, cryptically encouraging response back. Meanwhile I found myself imagining what it would be like to finally share my life, the music, the stories, the friends, the body, the hobbies, the passions, in a more complete way with someone. It was intoxicating to recognize the vitality a partner could bring to my life. However, the question over whether the dreams would become reality left me hungover. Anne’s reading and Glass’s talk clashed in my head and melded. Love involves high levels of spiritual empathy. Had my story touched a nerve? And despite Anne’s insight on days of confusion, I could not help but repeatedly ask myself: How will I know if it’s working?