Steven Ivory: Pain and Sunshine at the Way Station of Love

Steven Ivory

*Sometimes, Dalia feels as if she’s seen it all.  Almost  daily, in  the span of a couple of hours, she can witness both the bright and tender ascension of hope and the unsparing, muted  crush of disillusionment.

At 29, she’s learned more than she thinks fair  to know regarding the beguiling allure of Maybe and the fleeting fickleness of love at first Like.

Make no mistake, the girl bows  down  to  the unyielding power of love. But she  absolutely despises the baiting ambiguity of “I’ll call you.”  For Dalia, it’s a tricky phrase that prompts  meditation on the mechanics of  communication, monogamy and the reality of  “coincidence.” On a daily basis,  she considers these and associated thoughts from her distinctive station in life: Dalia works at a Los Angeles Starbucks.

And, as anyone dating in the 21st century well knows,  Starbucks is modern culture’s way station of lust and love for the Internet dater.

Figures.  After all, you can’t just invite a total stranger-–to whom you’ve been texting your life information  and photos for a week-–over to your place or go to theirs,  although you’d  be surprised at how many people do that.  And it’s downright inhumane to arrange to meet someone in,  say,  the parking lot of a strip mall,  covertly drive by, check them out and then decide whether or not you want to reveal yourself, although people do that,  too.

No, there are social rules of thumb, rules that existed way before the Internet,  when patronizing  personal ads in newspapers was seen as a perversion.  And those rules are:  when  meeting someone from a dating site for the first time face to face, you (A) rendezvous in a public place that is (B) conveniently located for both parties. The ridiculously ubiquitous Starbucks is public as can be for two strangers looking to meet inconspicuously.

But Dalia can spot  them. After almost three years of peddling the world’s favorite drug, caffeine, she’s developed a discerning eye for the lonely, hopeful heart.

They are men and women of all hues, from varied  backgrounds,  mostly in their early 30s and beyond,  whose eyes,  when they enter,  have in common  a telling, cautious  anticipation.

They survey the place for a certain description.  If first to arrive,  they quickly order a drink and take a table strategically off the beaten path but in plain view of the entrance.

And then they wait.

Sometimes they’ll  try reading  a book or nurse their smart phone.  But it’s clear they’re not into it; their attention is too easily broken  every time someone   comes through the door, as they hope THAT  might be their date, instead of  the person bringing up that person’s rear.

In any case, Dalia knows all will be revealed with the introduction. The elongated   pronunciation of a name-–”Marrrrrk?” “Sarrrrah?”-–speaks volumes.  Yup, those two are strangers from a dating site, meeting for the first time.

What happens after that depends on how both feel.  But when Dalia sees one of them with forlorn face, she knows that through …read more