Love in the Time of Computers


Nick and Allison met at a little non-chain coffee shop halfway between Nick's office and Allison's home, from which she mostly worked. The place was as relaxed and noncommittal as the time, 5:30 on a cool spring Tuesday evening.

Neither had been there before, which was one reason it had been selected for their first date. Others were the simultaneously public and intimate atmosphere provided by the place's dim lighting and comfortable sofas; the wide varieties of coffees and teas on the menu, which—though Nick was a dark-roast, regular, one sugar man, Allison a Darjeeling, two sugars, slice of lemon woman—would give them something obvious and safe to talk about; and the entertainment, which would give them something just as obvious, but a bit more conspiratorial.

This was a mic, a guitar, and a guy in a fashionably ratty wool cap who introduced himself, frequently, as Randall. They listened to Randall's strummy versions of classic rock and folk, and his more heartfelt renditions of his own compositions, during the spaces in which they were not discussing their jobs, or their tastes in movies and music, or the place's amazing variety of beverages.

Powers-Smith / Love / 2

During one such space, Nick leaned toward Allison—not having to lean far, each having moved slowly but steadily toward the middle of the sofa during the course of the evening—and said, “This guy's great!”

She blinked, hard, then caught the sarcasm, and smiled a large, lovely smile, laughed a small, girlish laugh; her first uninhibited laugh of the evening. Not her last.

Later, at her car, they exchanged a short, close-mouthed kiss. In his own driver's seat, eager to relive a moment of what was already crystallizing into fond memory, Nick got his phone out and scrolled through his emails. Sender: GeTogether.com, but there were many of those; it took him a few seconds to find Subject: Suggested Phrases. He scanned the familiar list. There it was, right between “Seriously? Come on, I love this song” and “Why would anyone hire this hack?:” “This guy's great [Sarcastic].”

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