Natalie was nervous.
She knew she shouldn’t be. She was out-going and friendly, always ready with a smile. She shined at social gatherings-the girl everyone seemed to gravitate to. A magnet that drew others to her. But that was then.
Now? Well, now was something different.
She had met Raphael in line at Starbucks, she standing on her yellow line and he standing on his yellow line, exactly 3ft behind her. On the streets, even brushing against someone in a crowd felt like certain death. They were reminded of the dangers they faced every minute of every day, thanks to a caring media. The yellow lines exactly 36″ apart were a comfort.
He dropped his briefcase, startling her, and as she whipped around, she was met with the bluest eyes she had ever seen staring at her from over a mask. Eyes so beautiful it made Natalie bite her lip behind her own mask.
“Sorry about that,” he said, his voice muffled behind the thin protective covering. His voice was deep and she wondered what it sounded like without the mask, not that she would ever know, of course.
He hoisted the briefcase up, laughed and said, “I might have to burn this now. It touched the floor. It’s my third briefcase this month alone.”
Natalie giggled and said, “I hear that. You have no idea how many shoes I’ve lost because I left the house without my shoe-booties.”
They engaged in small talk as they made their way up the line. Natalie couldn’t tell if the stranger with the blue eyes was wearing a wedding band. Damn those protective gloves. She sure hoped not.
“NEXT!” Natalie made her to way to the counter to place her order. “What can I get you?” asked the barista. His shamrock green hazmat suit reminded her that St. Patrick’s Day was Saturday. She had planned to meet up with friends at “Coron O’ Shanter,” the local Irish pub.
She knew her friends wouldn’t mind one more.
Natalie lingered at the Starbucks air lock, waiting for Mr. Blue Eyes.
“Hey,” she said, as he approached. “My friends and I are getting together Saturday for St. Patrick’s Day. Would you…like to go?”
Those blue eyes crinkled into a smile. “I’d shove to,” he said.
“What?” Natalie asked.
“I’d DOVE to,” he said, a little louder behind the mask.
“I”m sorry,” Natalie said. “I can’t understand you. It’s the mask.”
With a sign of resignation, Blue Eyes yanked down his mask and said, “I’D LOVE TO!”
No sooner had the words left his mouth than the contamination alarms sounded. He grabbed her gloved hand in his and together they ran through the air lock and into the crowd. It was magical. A man she didn’t even know risking contamination just for her.
But that was a few days ago. Today was Saturday.
Would he remember to meet her at “Coron O’Shanter?” And if he did, would they hit it off? And if things went well, and they decided to pursue the evening further, would there even be an available room for them at the local motel, The Dis INN Fection? Would he bring his own condomronas? Or should she be ready with her own?
Questions swirled fast and furious in Natalie’s brain. What if she goes through all the preparation: the fee for the room, the required decontamination shower before sex, including but not limited to the germicide spray into every orifice of her body; what if she goes through it all and receives her online approval from the state… and then, after ALL OF THAT, she happens to sneeze in front of him?
OMG. It could be over before it even started.
And that was why Natalie was nervous.