It appeared the plan about the flowers had backfired. He'd tried to roll a paper rose out of a napkin. It was a pretty cute thing to do, though perhaps he wouldn't be winning awards for the thing any time soon.

Hulky was okay looking. I didn't like them all tan and short-haired like he was, but he had a nice body. It was all in the soft, gentle hands that his charm lay. He had been in band with me since last year, and I recalled that his real name was Paul. We'd spoken once or twice, but I had no idea how the kid could have developed a crush on me, unless it was all the backtalk I ventured at band practice. "Hi," he said in a tortured baritone.

My encounter with Dan had calmed me. "Hi, Paul. I didn't know you did arts and crafts."

He blushed and offered me the napkin-rose. "So I'm really sorry about all this," he started.

I smiled serenely and got in line. I have a weakness for caramel lattes, especially when I'm not paying. "It's cool," I stopped him, waving away the liberties he'd taken. "Sometimes you forget the internet has real people on it!"

"Exactly," he agreed. I ordered, and he tried to I'll-have-what-she's-having me, but I was having none of it. So he got himself a peppermint simmer and we found a seat by the window.

"So….." he opened. "I feel like you're trying to avoid the issue."

I shrugged. "I see no issue. I'm on a blind date with a pretty nice guy, whom I met in an unusual manner."

"But you obviously know how I feel about you. That isn't fair."

"You pretty much outed yourself. And, as I've really just met you, I have no strong feelings one way or the other." It was cold, but true.


"You're going to have to do this the hard way, yes. There's this old way of doing things, where a boy and a girl go on a few dates and then later there's time for pledging undying love." I felt so witty at that moment, like I'd made a great discovery.

"Aw, that's how old people do it." But he was smiling. "Okay, but just to warn you, Minerva, I made up my mind the day you stuck your trumpet mute in Grace's--"

"Oh, wow, I thought everyone had forgotten that!" I giggled, at ease with being ill at ease with this new friend. "By the way, call me Minnie or die."

He whined, "But Minerva's such an awesome name!"

I whined back, "But I have traumatic memories of the fifth-grade mythology pageant!"

"But you were really cute in the mythology pageant. Those girls were just jealous," he concluded.

"There's something else," I admitted. "The goddess Minerva knew all the answers. I've always felt that's the exact opposite of me."

He nodded. "We'll figure them all out together."

"Not at all," I responded. "Never."

The conversation continued, steady but with periodic lulls. I was only half listening. In the back of my mind, I contemplated the future of that most elusive and irrepressible demographic, American youths. I thought about fifty years in the past, when our parents told us things were simpler but there were probably just as many kids doing stupid things to each other for no reason but ennui and just as much over-thinkery, only with diaries instead of blogs. I thought about fifty years from now, when there would probably fanfiction in the form of movies, or something, and internet dating might not be sketchy anymore, and maybe kids then would have the process of selecting a compatible member of the opposite sex with which to spend Friday nights down to an exact science, but I really hope not, because I for one would miss the adventure. And I thought a good deal about the present, as I sat there with Paul Heron and made fun of him and his friends and woodwind-playing-people in general and he stared a little too hard at the lines in my forehead. It was nice. I didn't care where it ended up, even. There wasn't a single fantasy in my mind at that moment that could trump sitting in an empty café on a cloudy afternoon at the end of a scavenger hunt with a guy I was only just getting to know, who liked music and the internet and worrying for the fun of it. You can't dream up something like that.

Now, what's that mildly pretentious word I'm looking for? Oh, yes—