Alone in the living room I looked at the photos on the mantel. With my back to the door I heard a familiar voice, but the face of the man speaking was new to me. I listened again and realized who it was, but couldn’t believe that it was the same voice I’ve been hearing for the last year and a half on an online voice chat. All of a sudden, the room temperature climbed ten degrees and I couldn’t stop my heart from beating faster and faster. Dozens of questions jumped around in my head at once while my ears kept registering the recognition again and again. Should I let him know who I was? Or should I keep quiet and later make fun of him with bits of newly acquired personal information? No, I couldn’t go through with that one, no matter how much fun it promised. I just didn’t have a poker face.
I have been having fun online, and he’s been entertaining most of the time. We’ve even shared an inside joke about coffee. Invariably, almost all our conversations had a reference to a French roast. He’s given me advice on stock trading and traveling. I’ve helped him find books for his recent trip to Moscow. But all of it was just chat, and neither one of us has had any plans to have that cup of French roast face to face.
I had to get out of the house for a minute to clear my head or maybe go home. But I couldn’t leave yet, we just got there after a funeral and I had no prepared explanation for my immediate departure to offer my friend or my mother. After a few minutes in fresh air I went back inside and stumbled on a gray haired woman introducing herself to my virtual friend.
She offered me her hand: “I am Debbie, Masha’s cousin.”
"Elina, Masha’s friend.”
“Phillip,”- he said extending his hand to me, “my wife’s family are distant relatives of Boris’s.” No sign of recognition in him, not even a promise or gleaming in the eyes, nothing.
When Debbie moved on to the next couple I stayed behind and smiled at him: “How was your trip to Moscow?”
“How did you know I went to Moscow?” The smile gone from his lips, Phillip looked at me sideways. “Very few people knew about my trip there.”
“Well, I guess, I knew too.”
“Did you go to Moscow?”
“Did you, by any chance, bring some books there?” I paused to let my words sink in.
“Elina?!” His voice was full of disbelief and his jaw dropped to the floor. Still not recovered from the shock he asked me how I recognized him. I don’t think he believed me when I said by his voice. We were both amazed at the incredulity of the situation. It took him a few minutes to recover. I am still not recovered.
Meanwhile, the food appeared on the dining table. My mother came out and found me all anxious and agitated. She new something was up, so I had to tell her. She laughed and wanted to see who he was. I was hungry, but couldn’t eat.
“Is there going to be any coffee?” I asked Phillip. He promised me some.