It was on a Saturday,
before Saturdays even existed,
before civilization, before humans
before apes, before saber-toothed tigers,
before wooly mammoths, before t-rexes
and velociraptors and before the triceratops.
Before jellyfish and eels and trout and sharks,
before snails and slugs and mussels.
Way, way back, at the beginning of the fossil record,
on a Saturday night, a single-celled organism
Millions of years later,
I am waiting alone in a café,
sipping a coffee, no sugar, two creamers.
I check my phone for the fifteenth time,
looking for some kind of explanation,
secretly hoping for a cancellation.
This is the first time we’ve met “in real life,”
as though our previous interactions took place
in some kind of parallel universe
or pink unicorn fantasy world.
Anyway, I am looking for an unremarkable-looking man,
in his forties, proudly holding a hefty silver fish in his profile picture.
And now he’s late.
Back to that Saturday, millions of years ago,
the single-celled organism—let’s call him, “Bob”—
met another single-celled organism—let’s call her “Gladys,”—
somewhere in the middle of a brackish sea.
Bob and Gladys didn’t need each other to reproduce;
they could easily split themselves in half,
as they did on occasion, creating Bob A and Bob B,
and Gladys A and Gladys B,
and went their separate ways,
perhaps being absorbed into some larger amoeba.
But usually some part of Gladys and some part of Bob
stayed together. They just liked the company,
in their unthinking, single-celled way.
And they were the first living beings on earth
to mate for life, however long that might be,
maybe a few hours or a day or two.
Robert has arrived with apologies.
stuck at work and traffic.
Now I am alarmed
because he’s smiling at me expectantly,
waiting for me to start some kind of conversation.
Fortunately, we can kill some time
with the restaurant business
of browsing menus and ordering food.
And then the food arrives,
and you ask how it is,
and it’s fine, everything’s good.
How was your day? Good, good.
And then…well, sparks aren’t exactly flying, are they?
But I don’t feel like I need to run screaming out the door.
Robert pulls out his cell phone, oh God.
Stares at it, typing for a bit.
It’s unbelievable, really.
I stare at him, slightly open-mouthed.
Suddenly, I hear a ping on my phone.
It’s a text, from Robert.
He writes, “Is it easier to chat like this?”
“Yes,” I text back, “I think it will be.”
“Oh, that reminds me!” I type.
“My bridezilla cousin emailed me…”
“Tell me all about it,” he wrote.
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