David wasn’t sure what to wear.
If he put on a pair of slacks, it would be a formal date, and he might scare her off. If he wore a t-shirt and jeans it would be like hanging out and she’d think he just wants to be friends.
He settled on his best pair of jeans, that were faded but not torn, and a button down shirt.
He didn’t know what time she’d be at the rendezvous point, but he didn’t want to miss her, so he left his apartment a little after five. Quinton was sitting on the couch playing video games as David walked out the door. Quinton pretended he didn’t care that David was leaving for the evening, but David knew his roommate well enough to know he would be texting his new boyfriend before David made it to the parking lot.
The evening was hot. Humid. David’s shirt stuck to his back as he walked over to Main and Third Streets. The sidewalks were empty. Nobody walked in this heat when they could drive, or at the very least take a bus. There was no bus that would get David to the intersection without multiple transfers. He decided to sweat it and walk.
At the corner nine other people were milling around. They weren’t going anywhere; they didn’t cross the street when the light turned. They didn’t talk to each other. They weren’t reading. They were just standing there, waiting. David couldn’t figure it out. He tried to make eye contact with a guy who looked like a die-hard video gamer, but the guy looked away before David said hello. He leaned against the streetlamp pole, standing in the sliver of shade it offered. He checked his phone again to make sure he was in the right place. He looked around, and waited.
Ariel drove up in a beat up Ford economy model. Practically a junker. She bounced it against the curb, killed the engine and jumped out of the driver’s seat.
Everyone turned to watch her.
“Hey,” she said to David, surprised to see him on the corner. “You following me?”
David was momentarily stunned. Was she joking? Should he play along? “You sent me a text.”
She stared at him blankly.
She wasn’t smiling. This wasn’t a joke. She really didn’t know why he’s there. He held his phone up to show her the text message. She looked away from his eyes and at his device.
“Shit. That was a mistake.”
David was shocked. He didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t a date, after all.
“But,” Ariel said, looking at his crestfallen eyes, “come with us anyway. You’ll like it.” She smiled at him, and it appeared as if she was about to lick her lips. This is so totally weird, he kept thinking.
Ariel gathered several people together in a cluster, whispered to them briefly, then moved to another cluster. They all nodded with understanding. Then she reached into the car and pulled out an empty pillow case, and held it open in front of him. “No electronics.”
David had no idea what she was talking about. Suddenly the group converged around him and everyone dropped their cell phones into the pillow slip. She stared at him. “You’ll get it back. Don’t want any satellite traces.”
What the fuck am I doing? His rational mind was reeling. She winked at him. He dropped his phone into the pillow cover.
Ariel popped the car trunk, tucked the phones away next to the spare tire, slammed the trunk closed, and grabbed him by the arm. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?” David asked, completely bewildered.
She pulled his arm tighter, and looked over at him, her lips almost brushing his cheek. “You never know…”