Very soon, I began to consider my meal at the IHOP as the highlight of my day. I eagerly
anticipated my walk along the beach to talk with her. The meal became almost incidental. No
matter, I thank God that more than pancakes and waffles were on offer. I also realized that I
really missed Mia on her days off.
On one memorable late afternoon, the relationship took a turn. It was rainy - cooler than
it had been for over a week. There were not as many people in the restaurant. Mia took her break
and arrived at the side of my table with a mug of coffee in her hand. She asked if she could join
me. This was a first. Our interaction had always been “on the fly”. We had never sat down and
looked at each other while discussing anything. I could see no harm in her sitting with me. In
fact, I felt a tingle of fearful excitement at the prospect. Living alone can be lonely. I nodded and
mumbled that sure, she could join me. She sat down. At first, there was an awkward silence.
There were no jokes, no shots, just silence.
We just sat there like two very different beings from very different worlds considering
those many differences as we looked at each other across the Formica tabletop. For whatever
reason, confronted with the mental fantasy that I had created through the recent weeks, I did not
know what to say. Perhaps it was the mutual awareness that we had just transcended some
invisible boundary and moved into the new territory of a relationship that kept us quiet.
She was better at that game than I was. Too quickly, I began to feel even more
embarrassed and awkward. Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea after all. I didn’t know what she
expected. Flip banter was one thing; intelligent and meaningful conversation was another.
Finally, just as I was about to say something about the weather, she broke our uneasy silence.
“You know that my name is Mia,” she said quietly as her sharp blue eyes found
something to intently study on the tabletop. She didn’t smoke, so she picked up her coffee cup
and took a silent sip. I realized that although I knew her name, I had never said it to her.