A week passes; Emmy and I meet occasionally at the café. We go on two more outings, the latter of which becomes known as our first date. Both downtown, both by the water, and both so full of the bliss that comes from being with another human being after so long solitary.
I am finally happy: happy with Emmy, happy with Midge, happy with Lily Christianson.
We're on another date now. Our second, I guess. Boldness overtakes me and I decide to pop a question.
“Do you dream of anything more than this?”
Emmy’s gaze remains fixed on the horizon. We’re atop Mount Doug, the city spread out below us, the ocean stretching all around, and white-capped Mount Baker a sentinel in the distance. It is one of my favourite sights, something that I need to see before believing I’m home from any journey.
“Of course, Declan,” she answers. “I dream of far flung travels that remind me why I love this place, of where my life will lead me, what twists and turns are in store that I cannot hope to anticipate.”
I allow her answer to rest in the air a few moments, swept away by the gentle current of the wind, before proving my own.
“I sometimes dream of having an ice cream cone in hand, slowly melting, while my other hand is clasped by a small child.”
Emmy looks at me now, her mouth slightly agape, her eyes widened with astonishment.
“And sometimes,” I continue, a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. “Sometimes I dream that there’s a woman holding that child’s opposite hand, too.”
From the corner of my eye I see Emmy’s heart melt.
That evening I’m at the café, a slight change in routine. It doesn’t bother me, though; I know that my date doesn’t need to be informed of the change in time. I have to wait only a few minutes before she arrives.
“Good evening, Lily Christianson.”
She smiles and sits on the stool next to me, saying her own greetings. We exchange the basic pleasantries, the obligatory beginnings to any conversation. “How have you been?” “Can you believe the weather we’ve been having?” “Did you read about such and such in the paper?”
With that behind us, I’m finally able to delve into the true purpose of our meeting.
“Do you dream of fame, Lily?”
The question takes her off guard, and she fumbles with words before answering. She says that it’s something she has considered often; that, while she enjoys being noticed, the magnifying glass of public fame would be stifling.
“Huh,” I reply. “I can see that.”
Her next move is to turn the question back on me.
“Well, fame for a writer is an entirely different animal, I think.” I pause to think before continuing. Lily allows me this moment, though doesn’t turn away. I realize then how genuinely interested she is in me, in my life.
Does she know what she is?
“Writers generally don’t get mobbed in the street, or have their faces plastered across magazines at the grocery store.”
Lily says that writers are not often thanked.
Her words stun me into silence. I close my eyes for what I think are few seconds, truly hurt by the revelation. And if the revelation hurts me, does that mean I really am seeking attention?
When I open my eyes, my hands are on my thighs, my laptop screen dimmed, and I’m alone but for the barista.
“You never gave me the chance to thank you, Lily Christianson.”