A while before, a friend told me about "Margo" and suggested we might make a good pair. I knew her name through a handful of other friends, and I gathered my friend had also made the same suggestion to Margo. At some point I added her on Facebook. That is how all great millennial love stories begin - that, or a swipe right.
The relationship progressed with Facebook likes, comments back and forth on mutual friends' posts, and at another point we exchanged numbers when she discovered I was visiting her city soon. We made plans to grab coffee that turned into gelato. Of course, I left Richmond late (by two hours), so I had to move our meeting back. I also had to stop at my friend's before, where I was staying that night, to drop off my luggage.
My friend asked where I was going, and I said gelato. She asked if she could come.
"Yeah, of course!" I replied. "Margo won't mind."
"Oh, you're meeting a girl? For gelato? Is it a date?"
"I don't think so."
"Are you sure? I don't want to crash your date."
"No, you won't be. I mean, it's not a date. I don't think it is. We haven't been flirting. Actually we've never actually met. We just know each other and wanted to meet today. You can come."
"You've never met before? This sounds like a first date."
"I'm not even sure she's single. You can come."
We began to head toward the gelato shop. I pulled up her Facebook on the way - after texting Margo if she minded if "Katherine" tagged along.
"Of course not," Margo replied as I scrolled through photos that revealed a prior male in her life who was conspicuously absent from recent profile pictures.
"Maybe she is single," I mused aloud.
The meeting turned into nothing more than a humorous union of three strangers who walked away friends - so I thought. On the drive back to Katherine's apartment, Katherine observed, "I think that was supposed to be a date."
I recounted the details to another friend and was returned the same verdict. "What do you mean you don't think it was a date?" my other friend ranted. "What about gelato between two single strangers doesn't scream date?"
"And I sabotaged it," I pondered.
I'm notorious for not reading the signals. In college, a crush told me she lost her car keys and I offered to pay for her Uber. "You don't have to do that," she said, but I insisted.
"Are you sure she wasn't trying to just stay over?" my roommate asked afterward.
Back to Margo: in the following months, we texted sporadically until an invitation arrived to a mutual friend's birthday dinner. I asked if she would be attending, and of course she would go if I was going, she said, duh. On the day I drove up for the dinner, she texted me that it was the anniversary of our Facebook friendship. This had failed to make my newsfeed, which didn't surprise me since we weren't that close of friends, but if it made hers... did this mean she looked at my profile a lot? That she was interested? That this dinner might commemorate more than a birthday?
I told another friend this exciting development, and he agreed as we drove to the dinner. I spotted her immediately, and she beamed, I beamed, and we went for a hug, which is something I don't even do with best friends. As we untangled, she said, "And this is Daniel, my boyfriend."
Me internally: Your what???
I held myself together as I faced Daniel.
"Hi, I'm Cazey, nice to meet you."
Me internally: Who is this????
But I knew: this was the guy from her profile pictures, but from months ago.
As if reading my thoughts (or maybe my face), Margo interjected, "I didn't know Daniel was going to make it. He only decided to come this morning."
Me internally: Did he now?
Daniel and I shook hands. Within five minutes, I discovered Daniel was from my hometown, had attended my rival high school (of course he did), and worked as an engineer. But he was also nice, relatable, and funny. I began to forget I showed up with romantic expectation.
Daniel soon got wrapped up in another conversation, which left Margo and I nursing drinks. Our conversation meandered. At some point we holed ourselves up on sofas outside the dinner party. I forgot Daniel existed until she let slip she and her boyfriend had been on a hiatus until recently.
"Were you single in April - when we got gelato?" I asked.
She nodded. She had been single when we last met.
"Don't tell anyone," she said, "but you're the only reason I came tonight."
I drained my alcohol. "Do you want another?" I asked.
The bartender asked if I had a tab as I approached. "Daniel, right?"
I tried not to gape at the bartender. "No...I'm...I'm not Daniel. I'm Cazey. Williams."
No, I'm not Daniel. No, I'm not with his girlfriend.
When the party ended, Margo and I didn't hug goodbye. We simply put our hands together and went separate directions.