The classical music, ambient lighting, and general bustle of Starbucks make a perfect atmosphere for our chat. As the light begins to fade outside, I can imagine us spending hours talking: long after our drinks are gone our voices continue. We take in each other’s inflections, learning the corresponding facial expression for certain tones of voice. As I concentrate on a story I’m telling, I look into the bottom of my cup, as if expecting there to be something in it besides a dry coffee ring. That’s all that has been in there for over an hour.
But, for now, all of this is just my imagination. Today, you’re miles away, and all I can make out of your face on my roommate’s Mac is its general shape and blurry blobs that I assume are your eyes, nose, and mouth. I turn my webcam on and see one of the blobs move. You are smiling. My memory fills in what your smile actually looks like, and I smile back, happier than words to be with you from so far away. I want to reach my hand through the screen and rest it on your cheek. I want to do more than that.
I approach the counter once you’ve told me what to order. One of my friends is the barista today. She has a big, red flower made out of fabric in her hair, a symbol of her devotion to Saint Valentine, a subtle reminder that, today, we are supposed to love each other. I order a “medium drip coffee with room.” My friend convinces me to try the roast of the month while the other barista (her head is shaved and she’s beautiful) tells me I’m cute and she likes my outfit. I smile and thank her sincerely, glad that someone else could appreciate it.
Soon, we are talking and sipping our drinks. I’ll realize later how comfortable I’ve become talking to you. I can talk to you about so much more than just first date sorts of things. I’m glad when I make you laugh, even gladder when I make you smile, real smiles, not your psychotic-looking, plastered-on grin. I realize that, in some ways, you remind me of my dad. He doesn’t have a chin either.
The time doesn’t go as quickly as I expect it to, but our conversation is still over too soon. You have to go, but we make plans to talk again before the day is over. Again, I silently lament the screens and miles that keep us apart. Finally, after lingering goodbyes, the screen goes blank.
Even though Skyping on Valentine’s Day is less than ideal, we seem to make it work. More than that, it’s almost magic. Maybe it’s just the hormones. Maybe the internet makes us seem cooler than we actually are. I’d like to think it’s because we’re becoming part of one of those epic love stories, not just the ones people write or sing about, but the kind that people want to live, because we all want to live poetry, not just write it.