They were getting irritated looks from the Barista, who clearly wanted to be elsewhere.
Carlton knew the perfect place. A hip counter-culture coffee shop with an independent label brand. The kind of place where poets and students hang out. The coffee had a slightly burnt taste, like they were trying too hard, but it was cool. Carlton liked it. It was in downtown Salt Lake City, an hour away, but Carlton lived near there and it turned out, Rachel did too. This was the place where, in his daydreams, he had gotten down on one knee and asked this woman to marry him many times.
Rachel was a constant bubble of questions about the computer, Salt City, and Carlton’s life. She kept it up quite easily which was fortunate, because if the conversation was left up to Carlton it would probably been a few nervous murmurs. Carlton felt like a kid again. They laughed about old times, old friends, and 10 years of lonely life evaporated out of Carlton’s mind.
She would not stop asking about the computer. Every time the conversation strayed to some childhood event, Rachel steered back to Carlton’s computer at the library. It wasn’t so bad, Carlton got to explain how it worked, and how he had developed the systems that ran it. He felt self-conscious and he checked over his shoulder more than once.
Carlton had rehearsed conversations like this one, with Rachel, in his daydreams. Now that he was speaking with her for real it was strange, not like he had thought at all. He had imagined her gazing at him with big school girl eyes like a star-struck kid. Not so. Here was a mature woman who was not going to take any crap, and was not going to swallow Carlton’s usual line of bull. Yet she kept on asking questions, and he kept on answering them.
At times his answers became deeply technical and he was afraid he was boring her. Rachel, however, did not have any difficulty grasping the details. Rather, she was quite familiar with the back story of how the blood-based computer system came about. She knew about some of the recent breakthroughs and developments too.
After a while he relaxed. It was delightful that all the time he talked he could gaze into her face. It was the face of his dreams, both awake and asleep, but now it was not a girl in his memory, but a woman in his presence. It was a far more beautiful face than anything his imagination could have dreamed of, and she kept on smiling, listening and asking questions.
As time ticked by Carlton noticed that the coffee shop had emptied out. They were getting irritated looks from the Barista, who clearly wanted to be elsewhere. Carlton tried once or twice to wrap up the conversation and move on, but Rachel was a lively stream of questions and comments so he gave up.