An email from Our Time, the online dating site, alerted me to a new message: "How about 2 p.m. at Meinle, the coffee shop at Addison and Southport?"
I was pleased to see these details from my latest match. In an earlier email, I told him I was going to be on Southport for a 3:30 movie at the Music Box, and since he revealed he lived near Lakeview High School, I gave him the option of naming a place for our first meeting.
"Sounds good," I wrote back. Then, "I'm going to take a chance and give you my real name and phone number." I was aware this was a risk, but our previous messages signaled a safe bet. In those, I learned he was a former journalist and PR guy, kept fit, was divorced, traveled, and had two kids. On paper, he deserved a look-see.
I added: "I'd also appreciate your contact information. This way, we can do background checks and text if there are delays or cold feet."
A few hours passed as I prepared my wardrobe and kept busy with tasks to prevent obsessing about the meeting. Although I had had several dates with Our Time matches, and they turned out pleasant and interesting, I still became anxious about initial sightings. Those opening minutes always felt to me like a Broadway audition, where I'm probably all wrong for the part.
Soon it would be time to get dressed for my 2 p.m. coffee date, but I hadn't yet heard from Match6. Now I had a dilemma: Did he not read my online email requesting his contact information and would just show up at Meinle?
Or, had he read it, done due diligence to check me out and learn that I frequently write about my dates. Did that scare him off? Then, the phone rang. It was a 773 area code, but no caller I.D. It could've been a marketer, but I decided to answer it.
"Hello, is this Elaine?" From the sound of his voice, I knew I'd be exchanging my date wardrobe for everyday clothes.
"I know who you are," he said. "We've met. Tommy and I worked out at the Y together. He used to bring me his old golf magazines. Remember, I'd run into the two of you at Dapper's diner? Tommy introduced us; I remember you being nice."
Match6 told me his real name and I tried to picture him and place him in the setting he revealed. I couldn't get a sharp image, but think he was tall and good-looking. Despite his compliment, I knew our date was in jeopardy.
"I don't feel comfortable," he said. "I hope you understand. It's a little too close to home."
"Of course I understand," I said, but thought: S**t! Why did I give him my real name? If I had waited for our meeting to exchange details, Match6 might have thought me appealing enough to give loyalty a pass.
"Maybe we'll get together at some point," he said. "Trade war stories about online dating."
"That'd be great," I said, knowing it wouldn't happen.
With time on my hands, I pondered why I had sabotaged myself by prematurely revealing my identity. Soon enough, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my dearly departed, moving in my imagination from the past tense to the present.
"Hi Wifey," he said. Tommy was smiling, devilishly. "How's your dating life going?"
"It was you, Hubber, wasn't it? You put the idea in my head to out myself. You knew Match6 would look me up and get cold feet."
"I'm not confessing to anything," Tommy said. His smile grew broader and soon he was laughing.
It was wonderful to envision him joyous, but then I sobered. "Why didn't you want me to meet him? We could've had a date. Not marriage, as I've often promised, but a companion."
"Listen sweetheart," he said. "I know you're trying to find a boyfriend, but I have boundaries. The guy is my friend, off limits. It'll be easier for me if your fella is a stranger."
"OK," I said. "No one in your circle. No Y or golf buddies."
So, on my list of criteria for potential dates -- which already included "must love animals, be connected to his children, be under the age of 85" -- I added, "no one who's a pal of Tommy."
With that, I felt a soft kiss on my cheek. Then, my Hubber was gone.