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  • By accident, as she is showing me something else, I see a text pop up on her phone:
    "Hey, what's your last name, anyway? I can't just refer to you as (blank) from (dating site blank)."
    I smirk. She turns bright red, then apologizes.
    I tell her that she's got nothing to apologize for. I mean, I was the one that ended it abruptly, five years in.

    A half hour later, we're in her office, just off a conference call.
    She says, "I didn't want to hurt your feelings."
    "I'm the one that broke up with you."
    "I know, but..."
    "So how's it going? I'm doing the same thing, by the way, with the online dating."
    "Really? Oh my God, it's like a part-time job!"
    And then we're comfortable again, the years of closeness back around us.
    We both giggle that we pretty much immediately ran to the Internet in hopes, well, in hopes of getting laid, and that we can't tell our friends quite yet because they already think we're insane enough.
    We must wait, for the sake of decorum.

    This soon becomes one of the most hilarious conversations I've ever been part of.
    I tell her about my dismal date the other night, and how these things sometimes, somehow, become one-sided.
    She says she's had a similar experience.
    I tell her about how I am trying hard to be blunt and honest, but still compassionate with people, and how hard it is to say "no, thank you."

    She tells me she was just a few restaurants down the same street at the same time, getting drunk and playing some pool with an online guy.
    I get the inside scoop on what the lady side of those sites is like.
    Apparently, somewhat like drinking from a firehose.
    She tells me she received a multipage email from a man consisting of a combination of quite explicit pornography and agate hunting. I tear up I am laughing so hard.

    I tell her that it's a bit of a hard row to hoe penetrating that noise, trying to sound, you know, cool-but-not-desperate, no matter how desperate you're actually feeling.
    I tell her how hard it is to actually getting a dialogue going with the few women that seem worth it. Being charming enough to elicit a response, assuming whatever photographic evidence you've provided of your existence is good enough; how once again, it's a challenge to divest yourself from the results.

    "We ladies can be selective," she says.
    I tell her my approach thus far is more Don Rickles than Don Juan.
    And we laugh hard.

    I tell her why I'm horrible and unattractive and will be lonely.
    She tells me I'm still vibrant and smart and hot and can be happy on my terms.
    She tells me why she's horrible and unattractive and will be lonely.
    I tell her she's still vibrant and smart and hot and can be happy on her terms.

    I take a breath and tell her about the very first interaction out of this online mess, a hastily-arranged happy hour with a funny, honest woman with no interest at all in romantic entanglement en route to another date 90 minutes after we were to meet. This woman has a sparkling wit and a dirty mouth and can be deep and bring out unexpected honesty in me, all after a few exchanges. We have become friends.
    I tell my ex about how that same woman showed up at my doorstep in extremely welcome fashion the night after that happy hour, and left far into the morning.
    She says "then you totally win!" with a smile.

    Awareness now seeps in of the distance between us, the mixed emotions of the joy of one another's company, the pain of separation, the resignation of lives that continue without pause, the latent desire to be still plugged into one another, the simple warmth of company, and the paradox this separation seems to entail.
    But that love is still there, and I'm grateful for it, even if I don't know what to do with it.
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