Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Mike Nolan

I’m standing looking out the window, thoughts far away, when my phone rings.

My mother.

I know it will frustrate her, but I don’t answer. Whatever her reason for calling, somewhere in the conversation she’ll ask if I’ve met someone.

It’s been six months, and I still can’t figure out why it’s so hard to connect around here. There must be a thousand people just like me in Seattle, so why is it difficult to develop a meaningful relationship? I don’t mean sex; that’s easy enough to manage online. But I’m not after the next “right swipe.” What I’m looking for is someone I’ll see more than once; I want an ongoing, involved relationship.

To avoid sitting around in moods like this, I go out. I know to do that because, a couple times I’ve stayed in my apartment and got emotional to the point of tears, which made me feel pathetic, then angry at myself.

“Jesus,” I say out loud when I sink into a funk, “get a grip. Have a little self-respect.” And that’s when I go out: to a restaurant, a bar, a movie. Even just walking around.

I’ll admit something as simple as going out to dinner on my own took a little getting used to. Moving to Seattle, I heard about a terrific restaurant downtown. The waiter seated me in the middle of the dining area, at a table facing the entrance. As I waited for my food, a line of couples formed at the door, all anticipating a table opening up. The restaurant was busy and crowded and noisy, everyone around me talking and eating and joking and laughing. The more people looked over at my table, the more I couldn’t wait to get out of there. By the time my food arrived, I’d lost my appetite.

I’ve learned to go to smaller, quieter places: there are a couple low-key restaurants close by that I like. I know to bring something to read, and I ask to be seated in the back or off to the side.

Grabbing my jacket, I stop for a second, focusing again out the window. I see apartment lights. Each white dot is like a person, and there are a thousand dots. Someone is out there waiting for me, just like I’m waiting for them.

That’s my pep-talk, at least. Now it’s time to go out.

Putting on my coat, I head down the stairs and outside; the cool night air hits me, and I stop and inhale. Three blocks down from my building, I cross a line of people waiting to get into a club. I notice one woman with her arms crossed, standing beside a man whose head is down as he stares at his phone. She’s tall, with shoulder-length red hair, and I pass by close enough to see freckles on her cheeks and across the bridge of her nose. Magnetic. Glancing at her boyfriend, I tell myselfI’d do it differently. There’s nothing on a phone that could possibly be as interesting as talking with her.

I turn a corner as a conversation plays in my head:

“It doesn’t help that you fall in love every other day with women you randomly pass by.”

“It’s not falling in love,” I argue with myself. “It’s being attracted to. There’s a difference.”

“Still . . . you know nothing about her. It’s just fantasizing.”

“Better fantasy than nothing at all.”

Two more blocks and I’m at one of my favorite restaurants. They know me here. A waiter approaches as I take off my coat. “Late dinner?” he asks. My answer is a smile, and he knows where to seat me. I’ve already memorized the menu, so I order, then take the paperback out of my coat pocket. Somehow a book, more than my phone, gives me permission to park myself for a while.

I glance up and see a group in conversation on the other side of the restaurant. A woman is holding court and has everyone’s attention. Smiling at her, I think energy, spark, fire. I like that.

A couple at another table include an attractive woman whose expressions telegraph she’s fun and in-the-moment. I wonder, Now, how do I meet her—I mean, without the guy sitting next to her. I put my book down when the waiter brings my food.

Partway through dinner, “fun and in-the-moment” begins to argue with her date. Trouble in paradise, I think. Well . . . that’s reality.

I finish dinner and, walking back to my apartment, admit I feel a little better. Not great, but better. Still, I’m asking myself  Where’s the epiphany? What about love at first sight? I’m waiting for the lightning to strike.

 Just keep going, I tell myself. This is real life. It’s not about epiphanies or lightning or any of that stuff. It’s about getting through each day while maintaining your emotional sanity.

“Nice speech,” I say out loud.

Back home, I’m drawn to the living room window once more. The lights seem brighter, and I say in a soft voice, “There is someone out there,” and this time I think I really believe it. After staring for a moment, I turn it into a question. Then I shake my head and manage a smile. “Stay positive.” I take a deep breath and add, “There has to be someone out there . . . so maintain until the magic happens.”


Mike Nolan is a freelance writer from Port Angeles, WA, USA, where the mountains greet the sea. Mike has a web presence at

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