Tonight the plan was to head to a cafe bookstore for some book browsing and beverage sipping. I biked to the store, and through the windows saw a large group of people. I'd recently heard a book-reading at this store, so I thought perhaps another book-reading was in progress.
I entered the store and was surrounded by talking. A lot of talking. Everyone was talking. I thought this odd, until I realized I'd walked into a speed-dating event. People sat across from each other at tables. There were lots teeth, animated conversation, careful hair, and dark clothing. The lights were turned down a bit for ambiance, and a votive candle sat on each table.
I froze, then backed slowly to the book stacks. As I browsed, the hubbub of the eager hummed behind me. I felt my breath get faster and more shallow, and my heart started pounding. I found a book and a store attendant took my money.
"Didn't realize this was going on," I said.
She looked at me. We exchanged looks.
"Yyyyyeah," she replied.
I biked over to the coffee shop, my heart pounding even faster, my hands shaking. Inside, I went to the counter where two young men stood.
"I just walked into a speed-dating event by accident. I think I'm having a contact anxiety attack from being around all of those blind dates."
"Wow, that's rough."
"Yeah. I mean, I thought I was past all that-- I'd decided no more blind dates, and then I walked in and I started flashing back, and I'm, I'm..."
"It's OK. He patted my arm. You're safe here."
"I'm going to need a large cocoa. And a chocolate croissant. Heated."
I sat down alone to my sci-fi book and cocoa, without any worry about what I looked like or how I was coming across, or whether the person I'm sitting across from and don't even find all that engaging is lying about wanting to see me again.
It was heaven.