Coffee in Real Life


“Damnit!”

The string of curses grew longer in my head as I stared in dismay at the inkstains blotting my fresh trousers. Why had the pen chosen this moment, of all moments, to leak its blood subtly across my fingers, only to smear in gleeful darkness as I wiped my moist palms on the fronts of my thighs.

Nothing to be done now, I’d just have to go in looking like a complete dork. So much for making a good first impression.

It wasn’t a first impression really, though – we’d been in contact for a while now, reading each others daily posts, exchanging friendly messages in the comment boxes of each other’s blogs, then through email, then Facebook, and finally we’d exchanged phone numbers and arranged to meet up for ‘Coffee in Real Life’.

Our joke for the past few weeks, because this crossover – my happening to travel to within an hour of her home town, seemed like the perfect, serendipitous opportunity. And it was going to be wonderful – we’d discussed how we thought it would go, and we got on so well anyway, our emails trailing on and on, sharing every last part of our lives. Such good rapport, and across the internet as well, it was too good to be true – we *had* to meet up and grab the chance with both hands. A truly marvellous one-time offer.

This chance, I’d dreamed of, for how often do you get to meet your blog crush? Not that that’s even a real thing, I silently admonished myself – it’s all just internet stuff – *this* is a real thing. This is going to be amazing. That cool, confident woman who wrote so beautifully about her life, who’d befriended me and joined me in, was going to actually come and meet me. 

But now I was here, regretting the decision to skip breakfast, anxiety gnawing at my insides, I felt it may have all been a horrible mistake.

With a sigh, I flung my bag over my shoulder (careful not to bash the camera – my husband’s old SLR – we were bound to need pictures) and exited the car, the sun-baked tarmac of the car park roasting my feet through the thin soles of my shoes. I hastily locked the car and scurried over to the diner where we’d arranged to meet. Nothing fancy, sadly, just a highway diner which was convenient for both of us.  

The darkness beckoned me into a marginally cooler place. It seemed clean and the girl behind the counter pointed me to a seat and came to take my order “It’s okay, I’ll order in a moment – I’m waiting for someone.” She smiled and went back to her post.

And I sat, the heat seeping in from outside to prickle across my shoulders and face, waiting.

Cars zipped past on the highway outside, their windows tight shut, keeping the air-conditioned temperature firmly within. Small, faceless people going about their day at top speed. For fear of being late. Like she was.

Still no cars pulled into the lot.

The worry which had been gnawing at me now pooled in the pit of my stomach and I began to feel sick. What if she’d had an accident or been called away?

I checked my phone. Nothing.

What if she’d just changed her mind and no longer felt like meeting me?

A bead of sweat gathered under my right shoulder blade and trickled uncomfortably down my spine, disappearing into the scheuch of my arse. I shifted in my seat and tried to look nonchalant.

The cheap plastic of the bench was beginning to heat up under me, becoming uncomfortable.  I rubbed my palms across my thighs again, watching as the waitress come back for another try.

“I’m still waiting” I told her with transparently fake perkiness “but I’d love a cold drink. Might you bring a jug of water with ice, please?”

Her smile froze, then slipped somewhat as she made a tiny note in her book and went to fetch the water. It was brought to the table wordlessly and I poured a glass, watching the ice-cubes slowly diminish. The clock on the wall, only five minutes forward from when I last checked, seemed to be taking malicious pleasure in moving as slowly as possible, each second stretching endlessly.

A fly buzzed against the glass outside with a small, fuzzy tone, indistinct against the traffic.

I found a handkerchief and wiped my sweat-beaded brow.

After what seemed a century, a minivan turned into the lot and parked. A woman got out and began walking towards the diner.

It was her!

My heart thudded against my chest and I gulped water to release the sudden glue which had taken over my mouth, dribbling some down my chin and into my lap in the process. Brushed my hair out of my eyes and tried to simultaneously unstick my top from my skin and wipe my hands on my legs again.

The door opened with a blast of hot air, and she stood, dazzled by the change in light, silhouetted by the tarmac’s reflection of the vicious sun.

I stood to greet her, lips trembling, wanting to break into a grin but too afraid.

She strode over and dumped her bag into the bench opposite me then turned to me “I’m so sorry I’m late.”  she said, with half a laugh “my second boy rang me when I was halfway here and we had an argument about something he’s been trying to do.” Her accent took me by surprise. It was so alien to me! Her skin was darker than I remembered from the photos, but yes, she’d been on holiday – she’d done a post about that – I guess she caught the sun. Her hair was lighter too, and streaked with occasional silver I’d never noticed before.

I nodded and smiled tightly “It’s ok – these things happen. I, er, ordered some water, but I thought I’d wait for coffee til you got here.”

Her grin was expansive, bemused “Gosh, I wouldn’t have waited! You should have got on and had something! Still, shall we order now?”

I nodded my acquiescence and studied her discreetly. She was different than her photos. Bigger, obviously, but more vivid somehow. Her smile was the same one I’d grown to know, but it was no longer still and seemed to shine from within her, like the sun through broken clouds, lightening her speech and bringing her features to life. She was not beautiful, but over the course of our friendship, had become precious to me and I drank in her nearness.

She studied the menu and beckoned to the waitress, her movements gathered and precise, earthy somehow, and stunningly, unavoidably real. I caught a faint scent of perfume in the air as she wafted the cheap cardboard around to show the waitress which coffee she’d like.

I ordered in monotone, feeling clumsy and uncertain. The waitress, pleased to be working with paying customers was all smiles again, and stood chatting to her about the food options available, the weather, the year so far, and I envied their easy conversation.

I watched the waitress leave, then turned back, suddenly startled to catch her staring at me, quite unabashed.

“You’re very different from how I imagined you” she said lightly.

My lip twitched (but didn’t tremble) and I shrugged it off “Isn’t it always different when you meet someone in person, having only read them thus far?”

We laughed, but my attempt at humour and sophistication sounded hollow and clutzy. The gnawing in my stomach stepped up a notch.

The coffee came and she asked about my job, my husband and my house, and I enquired about her children, her garden and her hobbies. It was like the world’s worst interview, with strained silence between each stilted question – no statement leading into further conversation but each plonked down like finished products, impenetrable, unravellable. Stacking up between us like a wall.

 After forty minutes, coffees well gone, she pulled out her phone, tapping away at the screen briefly before looking up at me regretfully “I’m so sorry, but I’m going to have to cut this short – my husband’s been trying to get hold of me – things are really kicking off at home with #2”

The backs of my eyelids prickled. “I completely understand. That’s fine. It’s been amazing to meet you after all this time, and a shame we couldn’t have more time to really chat and get to know one another in person. I’ve never done this before, and I was just so excited to meet you, I thought…I guess I didn’t really consider about how it might impact on your kids. Sorry”

Babbling. Why was I frikkin babbling? Make it stop!

She smiled widely, still friendly “Thanks for being so understanding. You’re a star. Shall we have a quick photo of us before I leave?” Phone in hand, camera already on, she slipped into the bench next to me and I slid along, ashamed of leaving a hot, damp space where I’d been sitting. I didn’t let her in too far but blocked her way. She swung a long, easy arm around my shoulders and brought her head close, looking up at the camera. She grinned and I tried, but there was no way the disappointment didn’t show up in my face.

I didn’t mention my clunky SLR, still tucked away in my bag. It was awkward, too large, too complicated and just wrong. *That’s* why people have smartphones, I admonished myself.

She picked up her bag and with a cheery wave, an awkward, arms-clashing, at-furthest-distance hug, she left, striding out once more into the shimmering heat.

I watched the minivan turn in the lot and leave, conscientious indicators on, pull out into a gap in the traffic, and disappear.

 Standing to leave, I caught sight of the waitress, smirking. I shrank from her accurate assessment of me and ran, leaving money on the table to cover the whole debacle.

In the car, the prickling behind my eyes welled up and spilled down my face, mingling with the sweat and washing clear the absolute certainty in my mind – our friendship would never recover from this, and gradually, we’d recede from each other’s lives, from each other’s consciousnesses and become once more, unknown blogs in a vast internet. 












   This was a ‘Making You Feel‘ post
Now also a part of the:

A Mother Life
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48 thoughts on “Coffee in Real Life

  1. Ha thanks Jak! Glad you liked it – as a fellow writer of stuff Other than the real, I really appreciate your feedback (I should return the favour and read you more…sorry bout that! Bad me!)

    I really hope that if I ever do meet up with a Blogger, it'll be fine.

    I've met very few people from the internet who I didn't know first.

    I didn't think of Googling it – I've been throwing the term around using my own meaning…it may already have a meaning and I don't really mean that meaning, but my own meaning…EEK!

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  2. What the ball nuts?! This apparently isn't the post I was expecting at the time mentioned in the TToT7. The entire time I was like… wait… where do these bloggers I've recently spoken with live again? Is this Kristi? Where the hell does she live again? Or someone else from the multitudes of bloggers you've associated with over the last few months.

    That was incredibly well written!

    Hopefully if you do ever meet up with a blogger it doesn't turn out quite like that 😦 I'm sure it wouldn't.

    I've met a ton of people from the internet in person, but never someone I originally met via blogging.

    This blog crush terminology has been thrown around a bit I may have to google it lol

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

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  3. Thanks Jen 🙂 I'm fortunate indeed that this is fiction – I hope to one day meet some of my favourite bloggers, and I'll be devastated if this is how it turns out!

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  4. OK thank goodness this is fiction BECAUSE I so didn't want you to feel like that in real life! You definitely got those emotions rolling, but the whole time I was thinking. She's stronger than that, she shouldn't feel that way. She's a trooper!
    OK. Well, amazing then!

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  5. Just wanted to say hi, I'm a new reader, and I totally fell for this too, I was reading it thinking, “Oh, that poor girl, just who IS this horrible blogger she's meeting??!” So relieved to hear it was fictional, and I really enjoyed your writing.

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  6. Ah right. No, y'all are equal – no-one got to meet me 🙂

    But now I know if happenstance and opportunity collide, to meet you I'd need to perform some kind of stealth ninja coffee break…

    I may write a fiction book one day, but I'm not sure I'm *quite* ready for the leap yet! XD

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  7. No, well I'm afraid that was Ms Writer Thang playing it for her (mostly) American audience. And anyone who knows me knows that most of my bloggy friends were in the US. AND I said about it being a 'once in a lifetime opportunity' or something, which means I could have feasibly been over for a visit or somesuch.

    See – I think of these little details ;P

    But thank you

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  8. That was really good and when reading it I wasn't sure if it was real or not – the only thing that confused me was the picture – clearly an American diner and we're not in the States lol, should've done a pic of West Quay food court or something 😉

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  9. The little…dagnabit…the link at the top saying 'This is a 'Making You Feel' post'…

    Strewth I'm clearly failing on the alerts here!

    That said, at least the comments make it clear, but I'll have to work on that or y'all are gonna be thinking I'm into some *weird* shiznit over the coming weeks when I try more of these.

    (and thank you dear 😀 )

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  10. Wait, where is the disclaimer? I see others' comments saying “Oh thank goodness it's fiction” but I did not get that at all and was completely taken in by the whole thing, thinking that this will be how it goes for me, meeting a blogger in real life…
    Wow, Lizzi my girl. You have some talent.

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  11. Some, but alas insufficient to make it work once the virtual became actual.

    I hope the lessons are there – still not convinced I didn't totally miss rogersville and end up right back in clarkland.

    I'll work on that.

    And thank you, sir 🙂

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  12. you know, she was a scott, and (even though this is a work of fiction*), you had a connection (in your story) that evidenced the same elements that existed before the RL encounter, when the relationship was still virtual.
    This is a great story for (us) and the 'lessons' are just a little below the surface here.

    very cool

    *very good fiction…I *so* have Post envy…*again*!! lol

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  13. I fully intend to – all part of my attempt to stretch the ol creative muscles. Glad I had you going 😉 I even moved my 'this is fiction – clickie the tag' to the top by the time you got here!

    Damn!

    I mighta sorta borrowed some of that. Ish. The thoughts anyhow.

    Next one can be about a snarky antagonist who got pwnd, yeah?

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  14. Add me to the “you really had me going” list! I was totally believing it. Well done!
    It made me laugh a little as you described your increasing discomfort. Not laughing at your discomfort, but rather the description of the physical state your fictional self was experiencing. It reminded me of Sunday when Clark accused me of it – the head swelling/facing falling. So very awful for clarks. LOL
    You should write more of those “real life” stories.

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  15. Thank you – it worked well then. Might just move that link to the top of the post, just to make sure everyone knows it's fiction.

    Was fun to write (though, having had similar kinds of experiences and a vivid imagination, it kinda put me through the wringer too)

    🙂

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  16. That was beautiful…and sad and gut-wrenching all at the same time. I could feel it all as you described it…it was close enough to other experiences that I could envision it clearly. Thanks so much for sharing. You are a gift…and so is your writing!

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  17. 😉 Ouch!

    I don't think I've ever met someone from online with a specific purpose of furthering a friendship or relationship, and I'm really happy with this bloggy thing I got going with a number of awesome folks.

    YES! Let us make it so 🙂 Facebook me 🙂

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  18. I'm totally going to make it more obvious that this was fiction. But thank you – you're very sweet 🙂

    (and also, can I be secretly pleased that you thought it was realistic enough?)

    (sorry – my bad)

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  19. Oooh. What a realistic and painful reminder of a rendezvous I once had. :/ I promised myself I would never ever again try to meet people in real life who I dearly love online as it does make the wonderful online friendship quite awkward.
    But fortunately, I never managed to stick to this particular promise and had a few of the most wonderful meetings with other online friends who then turned out to be really good real life friends, too.
    Anyway. I do really want to meet YOU in real life. Any chance? 🙂

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  20. Wow, that was a lot different from what I had thought reading the title. I'm so sorry that a meeting in person, which probably should have taken your friendship to the next level, actually more or less ended this friendship. I want to say something comforting, but honestly, I don't know what to day, the post just conveys so much disapointment.. Hugs to you!

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  21. Oops! Sorry for putting you through the wringer! May I take at least a tiny bit of smug (and possibly a little sadistic) pleasure that the story had you going?

    Thank you for your feedback, and you can be sure I'll try more of these soon.

    Disclaimer's at the end though, cos otherwise (and I don't know forsure, but I tend to be a bad reader who clicks away from obviously fictional posts. OBOY am I a hypocrite!) I worry that people won't read it and offer constructive criticism.

    And I KNOW, but, but…it's about the transition from 'online' to…ach. Sorry :p

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  22. HOLY CRAP this is fiction!!! It totally should have come with a disclaimer because I am totally tearing up thinking about how awful I felt for you and that there was no way I was going to try to meet anyone

    Other than that, awesome job my friend. You have a huge talent and need to start thinking of writing fiction more often. I felt every emotion, like I was completely invested in the retelling.

    Just, for my heart and sanity….give me a freaking disclaimer!!!

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  23. I'm glad your experiences went so well – that's really encouraging. I'm sure I'd be a bundle of nerves, but if it went ok afterwards, I reckon I'd cope better than the 'me' up there.

    Thanks for the wonderfully kind feedback 🙂

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  24. I am so impressed with this! I have had an opportunity to meet with a couple of bloggers, and those are definitely the feelings that I had leading up to it. But I'm happy to say that though there has been a little awkwardness like many first meetings have, overall it's been wonderful. Seriously, though, you described it so well that I didn't realize it was fiction!

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  25. I'm quite pleased with that compliment, thanks 😀

    I've not had the opportunity to meet any of the bloggers I'd really like to, and if I did, I'd certainly be a bundle of nerves!

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  26. Thanks Janine 🙂

    I've never met a blogger who I didn't know first, and just thinking about meeting the bloggers I'd really love to meet, I just know I'd misbehave somehow and it'd all go horribly wrong! (well, that's my fear, anyway)

    I shall keep up the new initiative and see if I can't do more.

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  27. Mine too! It's a terrifying thought that something as relatively simple as changing the relationship paradigm from 'online' to 'Real Life' could do something as devastating as end it all. That's my fear.

    Thank goodness all my local bloggers were my friends first 😀

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  28. When I first started reading, I was quite jealous, thinking, “What lucky reader is going to get to meet Lizzi, ink stains and all?”

    Good for you, breaking into some fictional writing. You described the panic of waiting for someone to arrive quite well.

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  29. I am so glad those I have met before went better then your fictional account here. But I was truly reading sitting on the edge of my seat to see where this was going. Wonderful job and seriously had me wanting more!!

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  30. Aaargh 😦 This is my greatest fear about meeting people that I've met over the internet…. Nerves will make me unable to speak and I will see all the progress that we made and the friendship that i thought we had built crumbling away slowly.

    Your writing muscles are well stretched .. I'm leering a them 🙂

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  31. Hah! Bless you Lana, at least I know it was written well, by that!

    I was thinking this morning about how it would be if I met up with any of my blog crushes, and how weird it would be, then what it would be like if it went horribly wrong. Then I twigged that this could be a really good creative exercise for me.

    (It seems likely it's the kind of thing that would happen to me though…)

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  32. I don't know about you, but as a blogger, I am incredibly socially-awkward. It is part of the reason I blog! Therefore, any meetings with any other blogger friends (who might even have some of the same traits I do) would probably be just as awkward as your experience if not more so! I am sorry you had a tough time.

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  33. Kate, you posted in the middle of my own, messy attempt at in-linking my pages. I'm trying a new thing with it – it's a fictional piece to attempt to stretch my writing muscles by evoking particular feelings in the reader.

    I'm sure your meet up will go WAY better 🙂 Hope I didn't make your anxiety worse.

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