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American Romance

[Ok.]

A text from you. 

You want to meet me. For coffee. Something quick—so when it doesn’t work out—we can both leave unscathed. 

Of course, I say. Why not?

I try not to—but I start imagining a cozy cottage for us by the Baltic sea, like the one my Polish grandparents lived in. A garden to sunbathe in. A kitchenette to boil pierogis and make cabbage rolls and fry potato pancakes. A view of the blue that stretches to Sweden. 

How nice it would be to meet and have coffee there, a place so far away from here.

I force myself to lower my expectations. Consciously, I add a minimum of thirty-five pounds to the image of what I think your body will look like. I scrutinize the angle and lighting of the picture you posted on your profile page. What double chin or baggy eyes are you hiding? I visualize your hairline a good inch or two farther north. You smile, but you don’t show your teeth. More troubling, the smile does not reach your eyes. On some level, what you posted looks like a Proof of Life photo. 

Send me a video, I say. 

[Ok.]

Wearing a baseball cap with an American flag and a sports jersey, you appear in the digital flesh, walking your big brown dog. You flash a dazzling smile towards the iPhone camera, your eyes hidden by dark sunglasses. It occurs to me that I should wonder who is taking this video. A roommate? An old girlfriend? A current wife? I watch your nine second video a dozen times in a row. I slow it down, frame by frame. I analyze it like the Zapruder film. 

I google the logo on your sports jersey because I don’t recognize it. It looks like the Gatorade logo—without the G. Come to find out, you are wearing a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey. This means two things: 

  1. You have a abruptly emigrated from Florida. This is concerning, as people generally move to Florida, not from it—a black swan event. My grandfather would say people do this type of thing na święty Nigdy—on St. Never's Day. So a red flag. This begs the question of why someone would leave Tampa for Baltimore. Gambling debts? Job loss? Women trouble? Child support complaints? Arrest warrants? I need answers.
  2. I also need to learn everything about the sport of hockey.

I wonder if you will tell me the truth. I text you, politely asking you to share your story of the mysterious hockey jersey with me. 

[Ok.]

And you do. You’ve loved hockey ever since you were a little boy, hiding from the Florida heat and humidity inside hockey rinks. You played hockey in high school, but not in college. You have moved to Maryland to take care of your elderly mother, who needs palliative care during the final stages of her terminal illness. You are the only one of her children in a position to do so. After renting your condo on Tampa Beach last year, you moved to be near her, working remotely until she passes. Then you will need to settle her estate. You can’t wait to return to the Sunshine State. Maryland is depressing this time of year. You ask me if this makes any sense.

Of course, I say. Why not?

You are a good son, I text you back. I look at my iPhone. What I don’t text you is that I find all of this wholly attractive, utterly charming. It gives me pause, causing me to think of you far too often, far too deeply. 

I scour your social media, as little as there is. Your big brown dog is named Thunder, possibly after ThunderBug, the official Mascot of the Tampa Bay Lightning—as I’ve recently come to learn. ThunderBug is a terrible name for a mascot, and I question the decision making of the Lightning management in the early 1990’s. But I think of us, walking Thunder together.

I try not to—but I start imagining a downtown New York City loft for the three of us to live in, like the one my first generation American parents always talked about. A short walk to restaurants, museums and theaters. A kitchen to toast freshly made bagels and serve smoked salmon and cream cheese and capers. A view of Central Park. 

How nice it would be to have coffee there, a place so far away from here.

I force myself to lower my expectations. Maybe you won’t like me? Sure, I am well versed in hockey (now) and know that the Lightning’s main defenseman is out for possibly weeks with an upper body injury, not to mention the Ducks’ general manager is under investigation for improper professional conduct. (Who knew following sports was so deliciously gossipy and fun?) I text you that I happen to have two tickets to the Washington Capitals game in a couple of weeks. I explain to you that a friend from work gave them to me. This is a lie, as I purchased the premium lower center seats myself, but I cannot think about anything else other than sitting next to you in the stands, shelling peanuts, and watching grown men (mainly Candians, surprisingly few Poles) skate on ice and occasionally punch one another. 

So, will you come with me? 

[Ok.]

Your reply thrills me. 

I try not to—but I start imagining a rustic cabin in the Pocono Mountains for us, like the one my ex-husband promised me we’d build one day. A short hike to pine needle-covered walking trails. A kitchen to cook up vats of white bean and kielbasa chili. A view of mountain ranges. 

How nice it would be to have coffee there, a place so far away from here.

But I am here, waiting in the coffee shop we decided on, wondering if you’ll bring Thunder since this coffee shop is dog-friendly. Instead, I look up every time the door opens, and it’s everyone but you. 

Fifteen minutes past the time we decided on, you text me that you aren’t coming. You’re sorry, but it’s complicated. You hope I understand. 

[Ok.] 

A text from me. But I don’t understand. 

I try not to—but I start imagining our cozy cottage by the Baltic swallowed up by the sea, our New York City loft gutted down to the studs, and our rustic cabin burned to the ground. 

You just wanted to meet me. For coffee. Something quick—so when it didn't work out—we could both leave unscathed. 

And it’s [Ok.] 

And I’m not [Ok.] 


November 11, 2021 18:26

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54 comments

Ray Dyer
04:54 Nov 12, 2021

I'm so glad that you're still writing, Deidra. I've been gone a little while (written some on Vocal, over the summer and more recently), but I got the bug to come back and write for Reedsy again this week. The new $5 fee is...interesting. Looking at my old circle of reading compadres feels a little dispiriting right now. But that's me, and I swung by to read your new story and tell you how awesome it is. Your voice stands out just like always. I love your word choice, your phrasing, and the way you use both to make me smile even while the s...

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Deidra Lovegren
14:12 Nov 12, 2021

Ray - WELCOME BACK wooo hoooo I'll have to check out Vocal. It would be fun to mix it up a bit. I've been using Submittable and acquiring a treasure trove of rejection letters. Reedy's new $5 policy definitely changed the culture, but there are pros and cons. I have met such amazing people here, though. Surprisingly, I met a great colleague in Australia - and we're doing a weekly podcast with burgeoning writers. (Maybe come on to talk about your writer's journey?) The links to Spotify & Apple are here: https://sites.google.com/view/deid...

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Ray Dyer
16:26 Nov 12, 2021

Wow, that's exciting! I feel like my journey is still just starting out, but hopefully that's not really the case. I published an adventure in Dungeon Magazine 23 years ago when I was 23, and I just won a Vocal competition now that I'm 46, so at that rate I might not have anything else to talk about till I'm 69. I'll check out that link!!! (And I'll check out Submittable, too. I'm not familiar with that. Can't have too many rejection letters...)

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Deidra Lovegren
14:36 Nov 13, 2021

We'd love to have you on the podcast -- with your 20+ year history of being a published author :) Check out Episode 11. Jonathan Blaauw reminds me of you :) https://www.readlotswritelots.com/wp/

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Kaylee Tinsley
19:59 Dec 06, 2021

That poignant last line... wow.

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Gerald Lanning
19:00 Nov 25, 2021

This the second piece of your work that I've read and, again, not disappointed. Very clever; very rich; very well constructed. Keep writing!!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:08 Dec 06, 2021

Thanks for the kudos. :) Very encouraging -- yay!!

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Faith Ogedegbe
20:41 Nov 22, 2021

Your story was fascinating.Good job,Deidra

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Deidra Lovegren
23:08 Dec 06, 2021

Thanks, Faith. I appreciate the read.

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14:09 Nov 20, 2021

Nicely done. i really enjoyed this. Some really great bits: but I cannot think about anything else other than sitting next to you in the stands, shelling peanuts, and watching grown men (mainly Candians, surprisingly few Poles) skate on ice and occasionally punch one another. Thanks for the work you put into your writing

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Deidra Lovegren
23:08 Dec 06, 2021

Thanks for reading the work. Loved the comment. :) :) :) Huzzah Huzzah

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Faith Ogedegbe
20:44 Nov 17, 2021

It's a great story.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:09 Dec 06, 2021

It's a great comment.

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Lorna Carruthers
07:18 Nov 17, 2021

Hello, this is very cleverly written, nice work! I'm Lorna, I'm brand new to this and have just written my first ever short story. I hope to read more of your stories soon.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:09 Dec 06, 2021

Come on over any time. Welcome to Reedsy! Tons of talent here. Everyone is awesome :)

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Lorna Carruthers
08:43 Dec 09, 2021

Thank you! Everything is very new to me, but I'm enjoying reading other stories and learning from them :)

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Jarrel Jefferson
00:40 Nov 17, 2021

You really take that show-not-tell rule seriously. But what I really love is how modern and relatable your protagonist is. I read it, however, from the perspective of a loser at love who’s too hopeful, and not from the perspective of a psycho stalker, which you could have been going for all along. Great story, though.

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Deidra Lovegren
00:56 Nov 17, 2021

Thanks, Jarrel! I'll all about the show. Let readers figure it out the tell. They usually bring something more intelligent and interesting to the table than I do. Haha I think the protagonist is everyone looking for connection, hoping the next date brings them someone special. This was inspired by a divorced male friend of mine who tried a dating app at age 50, and he hit the jackpot on his third person! Woo hoo! However, the first two dates were excruciating for him, but fortune favors the bold :) He went through all the overthinking and ...

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Keya Jadav
17:02 Nov 16, 2021

Again, a wonderful story driving through the troubled mind of a lady. Beautifully described the way tides of expectations meet the reality which leaves nothing but a tsunami of disappointment. Also, I loved how you highlighted the word [Ok] and let it dominate. Great read!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:10 Dec 06, 2021

"Tsunami of disappointment" -- what a great way to describe online dating, and really, life after high school (haha)

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Keya Jadav
05:25 Dec 07, 2021

😂😂 Idk where that popped from but thanks! lol

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Robin Owens
15:23 Nov 16, 2021

I love this. It gave me goosebumps, which is my favorite reaction to a story.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:10 Dec 06, 2021

I feel sorry for the poor girl. Fantasy castles are nice, but you can't live there.

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Rg .
19:28 Nov 15, 2021

Well devolved and descriptive!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:10 Dec 06, 2021

Thanks :)

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Lisa Neuvelt
11:33 Nov 15, 2021

I really like this story. (By the way I’m from Tampa and love the Lightning). Great job.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:11 Dec 06, 2021

I'm in Orlando. Tampa is the greatest -- love the people :)

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Chris Riffle
02:35 Nov 15, 2021

Great story! I can’t tell you how many times I went through these exact emotions after matching with someone on a dating app - and then for them to cancel last minute. It’s brutal out there!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:12 Dec 06, 2021

Fortune favors the bold. Keep going!! There are some amazing people and a shit ton of crazy ones. :)

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Dustin Gillham
19:58 Nov 14, 2021

Just fantastic Deidre!

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Deidra Lovegren
23:12 Dec 06, 2021

Always appreciate seeing you on my feed, Mr. G. *tip of the hat*

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Mary Jane Martin
19:04 Nov 14, 2021

I really enjoyed reading this story! You really captured the overanalyzing and overthinking that comes before a date, especially today with online dating and meeting up with people who are essentially strangers. One might try to gleam as much as they can about a person before a date in a way that can come off as obsessive at times, and you toe that line in this story very well.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:14 Dec 06, 2021

Sigh. The course of true love never did run smooth :) Shakespeare always could capture human foibles in the turn of a phrase. I wish we all just had numbers and could call out #748329899 in singles bars and on line forums. It would be so much easier (haha)

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H L Mc Quaid
12:31 Nov 14, 2021

small but perfectly formed (as they over here). Clever (as usual) with some great lines, including: "I analyze it like the Zapruder film." I suppose my only critique is the ending. You could up the creep factor by having her stalk him (or at least think about finding him). But really, as a fun story, the ending is fine. :)

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Deidra Lovegren
12:45 Nov 14, 2021

Maybe in the sequel, our sad protagonist will turn her disappointment into obsession. She seems like a dog kidnapper on some level, just to get his attention. Very much a nascent Glenn-Close-in-Fatal-Attraction kind of girl. Glad the hockey guy dipped. :)

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Gip Roberts
20:42 Nov 13, 2021

Usually, text message stories are written as a series of text messages with little or no narrative in between, so this was a really brilliant way of handling it that I never would have thought of. Instead of the actual texts, you describe what the character is feeling in response to them. I like this. Favorite line (paraphrased): 'My grandfather would say people do this type of thing on St. Never's Day.'

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Deidra Lovegren
21:30 Nov 13, 2021

The dude in the story dodged a bullet :) She's a little "intense."

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Michael Regan
18:24 Nov 13, 2021

Another great read. I liked the emotional roller-coaster, the high expectations tempered by reality. What I liked the most was the gender rolls could easily have been reversed - same hopes, fears and disappointments.

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Deidra Lovegren
18:43 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks, Michael. I think (per normal) the Bard put it best: "The course of true love never did run smooth." Who knows? Maybe all Dating Apps and Artificial Intelligence will help out hapless humans with their desire for finding their other half? Or as Aristotle puts it: "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." On second thought, that actually sounds kind of creepy...oh well.

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10:00 Nov 13, 2021

Wonderful story, Deidra! The way you've presented the events and character's thoughts leading up to the end was nothing like I've seen before, it was captivating to see the narrator's thoughts unfold the way it did. You really captured the essence of that one feeling of elation, then later being crushed by ugly disappointment. I've also checked out some of your other stories before, and this was truly something, always looking forward to read more of your work.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:16 Nov 13, 2021

Danny, you've officially made my day :) I am personally glad to be far, far away from the contemporary dating world (it must be exhausting). I see friends and family struggling to make their way through a very challenging landscape in an attempt to find connection. Finding someone has always been a mystery; technology just seems to add another level of horror, hope, and embarrassment. Thanks for the great comment and the read. Onward :)

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Eric D.
03:59 Nov 13, 2021

I love this story so much for two reasons. 1 I love hockey and you've done your research 2. I'm meeting a girl from a dating app in a week and you've captured the emotions so well, the overthinking the overanalyzing the paranoia, the exaggerated infatuation, it's a concoction of emotions and it sort of makes you sick in your gut thinking about it all. I wish there was a way to save stories for later on this site. I love this.

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Deidra Lovegren
14:46 Nov 13, 2021

I'm relieved (!) I passed the hockey exam as I was totally winging it. (Red Winging it, ha?) HEY -- Good news! If you LIKE a story on Reedsy, it goes in your LIBRARY on your homepage. See? Now you have it forever. I have to say, Eric, I'm now totally invested in your semi-blind app date. PLEASE keep me posted, if only to tell me how it went on a scale of 1 (horror show) - 10 (Mrs. D potential). Note any red flags or even yellow ones or hopefully green ones?? I need to write the sequel . . .

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Bruce Friedman
16:12 Nov 13, 2021

Deidra, you say to Eric D. the following: If you LIKE a story on Reedsy, it goes in your LIBRARY on your homepage. I have been on Reedsy for five months and am still discovering new features and functions of the site such as the one you mention above that was new to me at the time but VERY useful. Is there some reference available about features and functions and navigating through the site. Another such feature that is useful is Home page>Stories>Activity feed to see all of the stories by authors that you follow.

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Eric D.
21:11 Nov 15, 2021

That's very punny Haha 🤣 yeah your story was one of those you run into and think they're about you because they're so relatable at the time ! Update update ! Actually was normal and went really well and I freaked out for an entire week not sleeping not eating much, exercising until my body hurt for no reason ! I know boring answer, but it was a very sweet date no flags, who would thunk! :]

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Deidra Lovegren
23:58 Nov 15, 2021

And the crowd goes wild (*cheering*) All the best as you move forward, slow and steady. Don't buy her anything. I'll never forget some guy showed up with a necklace on a 2nd date. Cringe... Pro Tip: if we girls really like you, it doesn't matter where you guys take us out. Picnic. Walk around the lake. Ice cream. Don't spend a lot of money trying to impress her. Look for red flags. If she hates her dad -- run. Above all, if you worry too much about if she liked you, you already know the answer: Nope! Move along. That's enough advice you do...

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Eric D.
23:05 Nov 17, 2021

🤣🤣🤣 damn deidra, didnt realize I was speaking with the love guru, your advice are so good !! Hahah. Oh No a necklace! Ah man. Thank you, thank you. Lots of wisdom on these tips. True gentlelady and a scholar.

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