Ping! She grabbed the phone. On the Maps app, she saw his photo in a range of 2 km from where she lived. Frantically, she opened the wardrobe and ransacked her dresses. Which would be the most appropriate one for Saturday early afternoon? Not too fancy, but not too casual either. Finally, she decided on the green dress with small white figures and mid-length sleeves. It was perfect for September. Next thing, make up. The natural look took half an hour. Shoes with thick heels of medium height, small bag, the mobile in her hand. In the lift, she looked at the Maps again. He was closer, 1.5 km. What was there? A pizza place. But just popping up would be too obvious. What to do? She was out of the building, walking in his direction, eyes fixed on the map, when another face appeared, smiling. L. She didn’t want to see her. Avoiding the encounter would require a detour. She took one of the side streets. For the time being, it was sunny, but dark clouds were looming. She checked the app again. Last seen 2 min ago, a line appeared next to his face. And now, another surprise – R., who, according to the map, was just around the corner from her. Had she continued, they would have inevitably met at the end of the street. She knew very well what would happen then. He wouldn’t let her go without having a coffee with him and listening to his dull stories and cheesy compliments. No, not really, not today. She took the first branching street. It was a long street with trees. The wind was gusty. Colorful leaves were falling. On another day, she might have watched their lingering beauty. Today she just removed one from her hair without shifting her gaze from the screen. R. was now even closer, somewhere behind her. She quickened her pace. A few meters further, she made another turn, stopped, opened the settings of maps, and made herself invisible for R. Then she continued strolling. Now only she could see him, and, hence, it was easier to avoid meeting up. But L. was still a problem. She too was near her target - he had signed in again and was only a few streets away. Her heart beat faster as she approached his location. She was very close now, very, very close. She pressed the mirror app and looked at herself. It was ridiculous, that image. It was you, and it wasn’t. A funny version of the way you look, too close, too detailed, brutal. And what if this is how I look, she wondered each time. What if this mirror is more correct than the other mirrors, the real ones. These days everyone was using the mirror app. It was instant; it was more practical. But then did this image become more real than the real one? Every morning, she stared at the mirror in her bathroom and repeated out loud: that is me, that is me…
But why was she musing like this? None of this mattered now. What mattered was that in a moment, she would meet him, and she must be able to present her most attractive, most glamourous self while being all-natural, casual, and authentic. She raised her hand and adjusted her hair. Then she closed the mirror and opened Maps. He wasn’t online. She sighed and continued walking in the direction of his last location.
He finished his pizza and asked for the bill. A moment ago, he had seen her on the map; she was in the neighborhood. He paid, went to the bathroom, washed his hands, and ran his fingers through his hair in front of the mirror. Now, back on the street, he wondered which direction to take. The most important thing was not to create the impression that he had been stalking her. It should be all very natural and nonchalant. Otherwise, she might think he is a psycho or, at the least, a jerk and block him. He couldn’t imagine a life without being able to see her cute face on the map from waking up until falling asleep. There was an inexplicable intimacy in this, a privilege which he had been entitled to – to know her whereabouts at any time. It meant ultimate trust; it meant constant connection; it meant a bond stronger than any other… But… A shadow fell on his face. Was he the only man she was sharing her map with? And if not, how many others? How many others were following her on their maps in a desperate attempt to meet her? He found the thought unbearable. No, he wouldn’t walk directly towards her. He didn’t want to be one of many. He wanted to be unique for her; he wanted to be special. So he would act differently from all the probable others. Yes, he would. He would make a U-turn and walk somewhere else. If only he knew where she had headed to. Then he could arrive there first, and when she comes, it will look as if he has already been there by his own choice and not following her. But how could he know? He stared in the map. Her cute face was 5 min away. But there was nothing there - only residential buildings.
He had moved away. She rushed in his direction and took the parallel street. They would meet at the end; it should come across as unforced. She didn’t live far away from there; it was normal to be out on a sunny Saturday afternoon. But now the smiling face of L. appeared again; it seemed she was walking towards him. Did they have a date? Did they know each other? She wasn’t sure. Ah, yes, of course, they did. L was with her in one of their ‘encounters’ last week, and she had introduced them. She didn’t say anything to L., clearly, she’s got such a big mouth! It was enough that L. asked her every two minutes: are you listening to me? Why are you looking at your phone? Why are we constantly changing direction? So annoying! She had to craft an explanation. What did she say? Ah, that she was trying to find this very cool bar. What’s this bar, what is it called? So THAT’s why she was now trying to avoid seeing her. With time she had realized that it was best to be alone in these outings, to be able to track him, undisturbed, and come up with a strategy of how to best meet him without evoking any suspicions. And who knows, maybe when she meets him today, he would suggest that they walk together, or have a drink, or… even dinner. Would she go then? But if she accepted, wouldn’t he think that she didn’t have a life, that she must be an unpopular and uninteresting person, if she was walking alone on a Saturday afternoon without any exciting plans and anyone waiting for her somewhere… Wouldn’t her agreement to join him for a drink or anything ruin the chance of him asking her on a proper date? Should she go with him, they might spend some lovely hours together, and she would certainly very much enjoy his company. She would cherish him looking at her with sparkling eyes, possibly admiring her beauty and wit, but what if he wouldn’t ask her out afterward? What if then all that was left was that thrilling – for her – encounter? Perhaps, he would find her less irresistible for being so accessible, so open, so alone on a Saturday afternoon? She looked at the map – he and L. were just about to meet. Would they recognize each other? Or perhaps meanwhile they had connected (FB, Instagram, whatever), and had a date now? How embarrassing it would be to have to face them!
He looked at the map. She was on the parallel street; both of them moved in the same direction. Now, this could indeed look natural. He hadn’t followed her, and this gave him confidence. He wasn’t a jerk. He wasn’t going out of his way to meet her. He was just walking towards something, something important which he had to do. What would he tell her? Where was he going to? A meeting. A meeting sounded neutral and showed he had got plans; he had got a life.
A female voice took him out of his trance. He looked up. Who was this woman? A familiar face. Who was she?
‘Don’t you remember me? We met last week. I was with…’ She pronounces her name. He made an effort to remain unruffled, not to show the spiral of excitement her name had swirled in him.
‘Sure, I remember you.’
‘What are you up to?’
‘I have a…’
‘Listen, why don’t you join me? I’m going to this very cool place around the corner, and it would be nice to have company.’
‘Come on, just a quick drink.’
A thought flashed in his head. What if they meet her together? Then this girl could ask her friend to join, and the three of them could spend the evening together. It couldn’t be e more spontaneous and less contrived than this!
She saw their heads very close to one another. They must have met. What direction would they take? The text: Active 2 min ago now stood next to both their faces. What to do? How to escape running into them? It started to rain. She was forced to take shelter in the entrance to a residential building. Active 3 min ago, the app said. She couldn’t stay still; she needed to move, go home, away, away from any chance of seeing them. She walked back, reached the corner of the street and there they were. As they walked towards her, L. produced such an unpleasantly triumphant smile, while his smile was contained, reserved.
‘What a coincidence!’ L. said, ‘Isn’t it funny how the three of us meet all the time!’
He looked on the side as if he hadn’t heard the remark.
‘It's awesome, indeed,’ trying to look and sound as relaxed as possible.
‘Why don’t you join us? We’re going to this cool place nearby.’
The rain intensified. She was getting anxious that it would ruin her makeup and hairstyle; the circumstances couldn’t have been worse - not only was he with L. but also, he would see the most disgraceful version of her. L. was giggling; her face turned to the sky as if she was trying to collect with it as many drops as possible. L. had nothing to worry about - she didn’t wear makeup and as for her hairstyle… well, there wasn’t much style there anyway.
‘Come on, join us! It will be fun!’
‘I’d have loved to, but I can’t. I have a meeting. Sorry, I must go now.’
She walked past them, hastily, her hair, face, clothes wet. A couple of more minutes, and she will be home. She will change and make herself a tea. She will then spend the rest of the afternoon inspecting the map. Sooner or later, he would go online. Sooner or later, she would find out where exactly that cool place was. Where they would go next. Would he spend the night in his bed and would L. be there with him…
But more importantly, most importantly: tomorrow was another day.