|Summer Evening, 1947 by Edward Hopper|
POI and I were chatting online.
“I’m thinking about going home the weekend of June 20th,” he wrote, “There’s a baseball game. Are we doing anything that weekend?”
I checked my calendar.
I was sitting at work, my mind flitting between whatever task was at hand and the myriad of windows I had open from NYTimes.com. Then it occurred to me that POI’s question was a bit strange.
The last time he had gone home to visit his family he had booked his tickets without informing me. Not that he had to, but it had been on the weekend of his birthday, a weekend, I thought, quite suitable for taking me along to meet the family. But when I brought it up casually, carefully, at a dim, dive bar in Brooklyn while celebrating a classmate’s birthday (“You’re right,” POI had said, looking around with raised eyebrows at the characters smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and dressed in purposefully mismatched thrift store rags, “You MFA’ers are a weird bunch.”) it was apparent our thoughts were misaligned.
“I’m not in any rush to meet any parents,” he had said. The implication was that I probably felt the same way. He put a hand up for emphasis. Waved it, like washing a window. Or backing away from it.
I nodded, shrugged. Okay, good to know.
Now a little over two months later, he was going home again.
A lot can happen in two months.
I considered his question, then typed, “This is just you going, right?”
“Well I don’t know,” he wrote, “We’d have to figure that out too.”
I paused. In the world of clear responses, POI’s words had no place. I didn’t have time for limbo. I had things to move around on spreadsheets.
“Do you want me to go with you?”
“Do you want to go.”
My boss asked me to spellcheck something for her. Two seconds later, a sales intern leaned over his computer to inquire if a sell sheet he’d requested was coming along.
“Sure,” I said, and to the intern, “Yeah yeah.” The whole time, eyeing POI’s chat box.
POI is typing…
“You would probably have to hang out with my parents.”
Oh really? Meeting someone’s parents entails spending time with them? I rolled my eyes, pursed my lips. If the intern saw, he smartly deduced his sell sheets would have to wait.
I took a deep breath. “Do you want me to go?”
Of course I wanted to meet his parents, but… I exhaled as I typed the rest:
“…only if you want me to meet them.”
POI is typing…
Betty gets ready to fume…
It was nearly 6PM. POI was readying to leave for a beer while I still had another hour left at work. It was, as Gchat conversations about serious things tend to go, veering into the valley of miscommunication, where grassy slopes are strewn with the corpses of relationships cut short. Strangled by misinterpreted words sent digitally rather than face to face. I am no good at avoiding this valley. I could probably have typed us both into nooses. POI, thankfully, is not.
“This might be one of those things we are better off figuring out in person,” he said.
I paused. My instinct was to “yell” at him in capital letters, something along the lines of, “YES OR NO! YES. Or. NO,” But it was such a simple call to reason and I felt an odd wave of relief.
I nodded to no one in particular and typed an answer in agreement. It would be much better in person.