“Yes, Mr. Callahan?” I turned to face him and rested my elbows on the cold counter.
“What is this?” Mr. Callahan slid a bookmark in front of me. It was one of our digital library bookmarks. We had put them all over the library a week earlier to try to call attention to the digital materials we had. there was a big debate in the library about starting this initiative. We didn’t have much say, to tell the truth, as we were guided by the los angeles public library system, but still, some people thought we should be doing more, some people thought we should be preserving the past. I have to say I was leaning toward preserving the past. I loved holding books in my hands. I loved smelling their pages.
“That is a bookmark about our digital library.”
“What?” he said to me, asking politely but bemused.
“It’s a website we have that you can go to and download materials instead of coming to the library to get them.”
He nodded, recognizing what I was saying. “oh, like if I wanted an i-book.”
“An e-book, right,” I said. I didn’t mean to correct him.
“Wait, is it e or i?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake. this whole time I’ve been thinking my granddaughter, lucia, was saying ipad.”
“No,” I said. “she was. you read an e-book on an ipad.”
Mr. Callahan started laughing. “listen to yourself,” he said, smiling. “you sound a little ridiculous.”
I laughed with him. “nevertheless,” I said. “that’s what it’s called.”
“All right, so if I get an ipad, I can read an e-book on it that I download from the library.” He emphasized iPad, e-book, and download as if they were made-up words and I was a toddler.
“Right,” I said. “that’s actually quite impressive how quick you got that.”
“Oh, please. I’ll forget tomorrow.” He touched my hand and patted it as if to say good-bye. “anyway, it sounds like I don’t want anything to do with it. too complicated for me. I much prefer the real thing.”
“Me too,” I said. “But I don’t know how much longer the real thing will be around.”
“long enough for me,” he said, and I was struck by the sadness of realizing your own mortality. He didn’t seem sad, and yet, I still felt sad for him.
My boss, lyle, came by and told Mr. Callahan we were closing.
“Okay, okay! I’ll leave,” he joked, putting his hands up in surrender. I watched him walk out the door, and then I tidied up and sped away to ana’s house.
What the hell happened?! Start at the beginning. Who is this guy?” ana said to me. I was lying on her couch. “ana, I don’t even know how to explain it.”
She sat down on the ottoman next to me. “try.”
“On saturday night I ordered a pizza—”
“Oh my God! He’s a delivery guy? elsie!”
“What? no, he’s not a delivery guy. He’s a graphic designer. that’s not . . . Just listen. I ordered a pizza but they said it would take too long to get there. so I went down to pick it up and there was this guy waiting too. that was him. that was Ben.”
“Ben is the guy?”
“Ben is the guy. so I notice him, he’s really cute, like too cute for me cute, you know? But he starts talking to me and it’s, like, when he starts talking I just . . . anyway, I gave him my number; he called me yesterday morning and picked me up for lunch at twelve thirty. It was the best date I’ve ever had. I mean, it was one of the best days I’ve ever had. He says all the right things and he’s so sincere and cute and . . .”
“Sexy? Is he sexy?”
“Oh my God is he sexy. I can’t describe it, but when I’m with him, it’s like I’m with myself. I’m not worried about anything, I feel like I can say whatever I’m thinking and it won’t freak him out. I’m nervous.”
“Why are you nervous? this sounds amazing.”
“It is, but this is going so fast.”
“Maybe he’s the one. Maybe that’s why it’s going so fast. Because it’s right.”
I was hoping she would say this. I didn’t want to have to say it myself, because it seemed absurd. “no. do you think?” ana shrugged. “Who knows? It could be! I want to meet this guy!”
“He’s really great. I’m just . . . What if I’m getting ahead of myself? He says I’m perfect for him and he likes me and it doesn’t feel like bullshit but . . . what if it’s all . . .”
“Yeah. What if I’m being played?”
“I mean . . . being played how exactly? did you sleep with him yet?”
I shook my head. “no, he just slept over and we slept next to each other.”
“That sounds pretty sincere.”
“Right, but what if he’s like . . . a con man or something.” “you watch too much television.”
“I know I do, but what if he’s a con man? He’s just like this really sexy, really charming, perfect man who figures out your wildest fantasies of being swept off your feet by a man who loves pizza and bribes gelato workers and is an only child and then boom. My money is gone.”
“You don’t even have very much money.”
“Right, that’s why I need all that I have.”
“No, elsie. I mean if he’s that good of a con man, he’d target a rich person.”
“You know what I think?” ana moved toward me and sat so my head was in her lap. “I think you’ve got a good thing going, and you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. so what, it’s moving fast? Just chill out and enjoy it.”
“Well . . . okay . . . What if there is a limited amount of swooning in a relationship and if you use it all up too fast, then it disappears?”
Ana looked at me like I had three heads. “you’re starting to stress me out. Give it a rest and stop trying to poke holes in a good thing.”
I thought about this for a moment and decided she was probably right. I was freaking out about nothing at all. I did the best I could to put it out of my head.
“You good?” ana asked me, and I nodded.
“I’m good. I’m gonna chill.”
“Good,” she said. “Because we need to talk about me.” I lifted my head, finally remembering the normal dynamic of this relationship and feeling much more comfortable about it. “oh? What about?”
“Jim!” ana could scarcely believe Jim wasn’t on the forefront of my mind.
“Right! How did it go the other night?”
“I slept with him,” ana said, sounding disappointed in the act itself. “totally not worth it. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t even like him. I think saying I wasn’t going to sleep with someone made me want to sleep with someone even if I didn’t really want to sleep with him. does that make sense?” I nodded again. Just then my phone rang. It was Ben. I showed the ringing phone to ana, who excused herself from her own couch and I answered.
He was on his way home from work and asked if I was free. “If you don’t have plans, I could come over and see you again tonight. I make no assumptions about sleeping over but I should be honest and tell you it’s a goal of mine.”
I laughed. “that sounds good. When were you thinking?” “Have you eaten dinner yet? I could pick you up and take you out. are you free now?”
“Oh, okay. I haven’t eaten. um . . . now? I don’t know.” I knew full well now was fine. I was just a little worried about looking too available, as if I had left my evening open for just this purpose. that is, in fact, exactly what I had done, but you don’t ever want to admit that. “I can make that work.” I said. “Want to meet me at my place in twenty minutes?” “yes, ma’am. I do. I’ll see you then. Wear something fancy. I’m taking your ass someplace special.”
“Fancy? okay, I need thirty minutes then.”
“I’ll give you twenty, but I’ll wait patiently in your living room for the other ten, how’s that?”