Today's Reading

Greeting Card

You're lovely in the way you dress,

And how you fix your hair.

You're lovely for the way you always make me feel you care.

And though we're just beginning on this path

To who knows where . . .

I'm glad you smiled.

I'm glad we talked.

I'm glad we met.

Heartlite'® 'Greeting Card Co., Number 03-6293E

February 4, 2003

"Mind if I sit here?"

I looked up, already disgusted. I'd been hit on four times in the three hours I'd been taking up space at Mugs & Shots, my neighborhood coffee place. As a thirty-year-old in a typical java joint in downtown Culver City, just seven miles from UCLA, I didn't usually have to concern myself with such things. The caffeine-fueled flirting and socializing usually skewed a bit younger, freeing me up to write and think and enjoy my latte in peace. I wasn't sure if the typical female demographic had all been detained by sorority pledging or if the management of the coffeehouse had decided to add Old-Timer Tuesdays to the endless list of theme days written on the chalkboard, but I just wasn't interested. And while the man who spoke to me presently was more attractive than the first three had been, I'd had enough.

"You can sit wherever you like, but I'm busy, so if you don't mind..."

He set his espresso on the table in front of the couch where we both now sat. He hadn't even waited for me to finish my sentence before he made himself at home.

"Not a problem," he said in some European dialect. Maybe Irish? I'd never been good with accents. Or geography in general. I'd always lived in locations where such things didn't matter much. The first twenty-two years of my life, in Boston, I'd only had to keep track of the water. Near the Harbor. Across the Charles. After eight years in Southern California I knew I could get pretty much anywhere as long as I never lost track of the Pacific and the 405. "I won't bother you. Man, I've never seen this place so busy."

I looked up from my notebook full of hopeless plot ideas and conversation starters, headed nowhere, and felt like a fool. The seat next to me on the couch, where the possibly Irish stranger now sat drinking his coffee, had in fact been the only empty seat in the building. I could have no doubt that my earlier indiscreet declarations to various men that destiny in fact played no role whatsoever in our mutual love of java were all that had kept other earnest would-be sitters at bay.

"Sorry if I was rude. I didn't realize there was nowhere else to sit. I guess I've been kind of lost in my own little world."

He smiled. "And you thought I was hitting on you?"

"No! I mean, maybe. But not because...I mean, a few other guys..." I sighed, grateful that now I was in my thirties I at least seemed to know when to cut my losses and shut up. I was pretty sure I hadn't possessed that skill even weeks before when I was still twenty-nine. Maybe when I turned forty I would be gifted with the wisdom to never open my mouth in the first place. "Never mind. I am now thoroughly embarrassed, and I believe that's my cue to leave." I closed my notebook and threw it and my pen into my purse, which had been secured between my hip and the end of the couch.

"Hey, hey. No need to be embarrassed. And no need to leave. You appear to be working on something important. I, meanwhile, hope to ingest enough caffeine to make my blood hop. This is a place that can accommodate us both. Stay. I won't bother you."

He smiled at me and guzzled down more of his steaming drink before turning his attention to the Backstage magazine rolled up under his arm. An actor. Of course. I'd been in Los Angeles long enough to know that everyone was an actor or a writer despite the fact that our paychecks came from In-N-Out Burger or Trader Joe's. Or, in my case, Heartlite Greeting Card Company. Those of us sitting around with pens and notebooks, boasting normal, nonperfect teeth like most mere mortals possess and shamefully neglected dark hair roots tied up in a messy bun—not of the intentionally messy variety, mind you—and dressed in layers of casual, unflattering clothing that made us look like we'd just gone for a run, though we most assuredly had not? Writers. We were easily set apart from our attractive onscreen counterparts who were tied down by the necessity of putting effort into their appearance.

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