To say I was excited — dare I say hopeful — about this date would be an understatement.

And that, perhaps, should have been my first red flag.

I’m a 32-year-old single, straight woman. One thing I’ve learned in the two years since moving to Minneapolis is that when it comes to dating, excitement and hopefulness don’t always work in my favor.

My unabashed enthusiasm for life — my job, my family, my friends, my hobbies, my travels, my favorite coffee shop, this date — can be intimidating, or so I’ve been told.

“Why do you need a boyfriend if you already have everything?” I’ve heard a version of this refrain more than once since moving here.

As for hope — specifically, my hope that an encounter, be it IRL or online, might lead to a mutual spark which might lead to a partnership — it kept leading me down the path to feeling bummed.

So I adopted an approach to dating that involved chilling my natural excitement while sidelining any feelings of hope. What I was striving for was more like hope-free, a way to loosen the shackles of imagining “what if.”

With this relaxed attitude, I found myself going on more dates, and also having more fun. While there weren’t any love connections, there were several solid human connections. Medium-excited and hope-free seemed to be going pretty well for me.

Until last month, when I received an unlikely Tinder message. Unlikely because, for once, it wasn’t me initiating the conversation.

Unlikely because, also for once, it wasn’t me asking the other person out first. I didn’t even have to plan the date. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing these things. But the confidence of this particular gentleman melted me into a puddle. I felt like a 13-year-old girl again.

“Yes,” I said, even though he asked to meet in the middle of the workday.

 

“See you then.”
 

Urban Bean coffeehouse. Tuesday, 11 a.m.

I recognized him immediately, always a good sign when it comes to online dating. He was tall, at least a foot taller than me, and broad-shouldered, at least a foot wider than me. And he was handsome, with a big smile and floppy hair. He wrapped me in a hug before sitting back down.

I arrived a few minutes early, but he’d beaten me to the coffee shop to work on his laptop.

“Go ahead and finish, I’ll grab a cup of coffee,” I said.

I chatted with the barista a bit and gave my date a couple more minutes before walking back, smiling brightly and trying to catch his eye as I sat down.

“I gotta finish this,” he said, turning his computer to demonstrate. “Unemployment forms.”

“No big deal,” I said, assuming he would wrap it up quickly. I assumed wrong.

For the next 50 minutes, he worked on the application. When he got stuck, he asked me for help, then called a buddy.

At one point, he realized he was neglecting me. So he opened a new window on his laptop and showed me the website he was building for the business he wanted to launch.

“Are you, like, a really good writer?” he asked.

I declined the opportunity to edit his website on the spot, and willed myself not to get huffy. Losing your job is hard, I thought. Starting a new business is hard. Be nice. Keep smiling.

He quickly turned his attention back to the application. Still stuck, he dialed the number for the unemployment office. Popping a headphone into one ear, he told me he’d probably be on hold for an hour. We could talk while he waited, he offered.

Alas, he “discovered the loophole” that is dialing 0, and connected with a human immediately.

As I sat and waited, I tried not to overhear the personal information he was sharing over the phone. I surveyed the scene, focusing on visuals: The luchador wrestling mural on the wall. The smattering of people silently studying and working. My date’s empty espresso cup with a single hair draped over the rim. (Is it his? Could it be mine? I wondered, considering its color and length.) The banana peel, also my date’s, sitting on my side of the table since before I arrived.

“Let’s get a beer,” he finally said after hanging up.

It was 11:50 a.m. Never mind that it was a Tuesday morning, still the middle of the workday for me. I knew 10 minutes wasn’t enough time for a beer.

But it was plenty of time to see if there was a connection.

Or rather, for him to pontificate on the importance of making a lot of money. His retirement plan, my 29-year-old beau informed me, is to go to Kuwait, buy up a bunch of fake designer watches, and sell them to unsuspecting cruise ship passengers disembarking in the Turks and Caicos.

“Have you ever been to Kuwait?” I asked hopefully. Perhaps we could bond over a shared love of travel. Or Middle Eastern food. Or anything, really.

“No. But I’ve got a watch guy in Kuwait.”

Ten minutes, it turned out, was more than enough time to realize we had nothing in common. My date didn’t notice, in those last 10 minutes, as my eyes welled with tears, my mood shifting from excited and hopeful to disappointed.

“Next time, I promise it’ll be fun,” he said as we parted ways. I smiled and waved goodbye.

 

A sign from the Universe?

I wish I could say there was a moral to this story, a lesson learned, some wisdom to impart. Honestly, it feels pretty typical of modern dating: Enter with hope, exit with a funny story for your friends and a renewed sense of self-doubt.

After my date, I relocated to another coffee shop, where I worked diligently and sobbed publicly, wondering what was wrong with me. I tried drowning my self-pity with caffeine.

Then a man walked in and sat next to me.

“Are you OK?” he asked. “Did you just get bad news? Did something happen?”

“No, I’m OK,” I responded with a whelp. “I just had a weird morning. Thank you.”

I turned back to my laptop.

“Are you a religious person?” he asked.

“Not really, I guess I’d call myself spiritual.”

“Would it be OK if I prayed for you?”

I was touched. “Of course. That’s so kind of you. Thank you. That means a lot.”

I turned back to my work. But he wasn’t done.

The stranger placed one hand on my shoulder and another on my table before bowing his head. And then he started praying for me. Out loud. In a coffee shop. In the middle of an otherwise average Tuesday.

All I could do was cry-laugh, out loud.

I’m sure we made quite the scene, but none of the other coffeehouse patrons said a word. It was a weird, wonderful moment that brought me back to reality.

He looked up, I thanked him again, and turned back to my work.

“I wrote a book,” he said. “It’s not published yet, but I want you to have a copy.”

The title? “Reset.”

Whether you believe in signs from the universe or not, I took this particular episode as one. It felt like the universe was delivering a message tailored especially to me: Reset.

Start over. Keep trying. Life can be beautiful in its strangeness.
 

Maggie Fazeli Fard is a former breaking news reporter at the Washington Post and currently a senior editor at Experience Life magazine. She lives in Minneapolis.

ABOUT 10,000 Takes: 10,000 Takes is a new digital section featuring first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives about love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota.