Day Fifty-Three: Coffe Shop Catfish

by Tom Noonan

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a small café owned by two women who didn’t quite speak fluent English in that awesome way where there’s more pointing than verbs.  I was waiting on an interview appointment about an hour and a half in the future and running over the type of person I wanted to be in that room.  I just bought a coffee and caught up on some work.  Their iPod speakers played the Austin Powers theme song at one point.  It was a confusing place.

About 23 minutes into my wait, the door flew open, a skinny, half-bearded sweater severely overestimating its weight.  He stared down the door’s handle, as if it was supposed to warn him, then closed it quietly, cutting off the waves of cold air.  I made eye contact with the sweater, who seemed perplexed at my existence because, as I’d realize later, my being at this particular café on this particular morning was not in his plan.  I went back to work.

“Hey,” the sweater had the exact voice I was expecting, quiet and guarding something hidden shallowly below it, “Do you guys have any soup?”

“Soup?”

“Yeah, soup.”  The older owner pointed to a menu that looked like it had been laminated to the counter about 14 times.  The sweater took a few moments to take in all three choices of soups they had.  “Can I try them all?”

“All?”

“All, yeah, all.  I’m bringing a date here later, and I want to know which one to suggest.”  After that, he had my full attention.  This was an unbelievable development.  Could this possibly be the truth?  Could this sweater really be putting in this much effort for a date?  Or was this a lie being told to cover up some sort of wound that the sweater didn’t cover, a growing, infected sore of soup addiction?  I stopped to consider the first option:

So he got here early, or maybe even came all the way to the café before going to pick up this girl (or guy, he never specified and I won’t assume here), to act like he had been to this place before.  The sweater was attempting to completely sell this date on an entire life that isn’t actually him.  If everything goes as planned, then the sweater’s date will be sold a version of this guy that doesn’t exist.  Let’s call this version Pete.  Here is what we know about Pete:

  1. Pete likes soup
  2. Pete knows the difference between good soup and bad soup
  3. Pete eats at cafes owned by heavily accented, middle-aged women
  4. Pete is cultured, most likely
  5. Pete speaks at least 3 romance languages
  6. Pete deserves a second date no matter what
  7. Also, that sweater is way too big on Pete

But the sweater is not Pete.  Judging by the older, foreign women’s reaction to his presence and odd requests, the sweater has never once set foot in this café before.  He probably doesn’t even like cafes or regularly eat soup.  But none of this matters because the sweater’s date is going to meet Pete, and probably fall in love with him, because Pete seems like a great guy.

This is what we’re up against, these forms of manufactured identities.  I only hope he’s a soup addict.  I only hope that’s a real thing.

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