Meet Cute #9: Kyle and Richie Before the Conference

Hi! This is the beginning of a longer short story I’m working on.

Kyle had first communicated with Richie on the “ride share” board for FREDA, the journalism conference they were both attending.

“Arriving SEA 4:25 p.m.,” read Kyle’s original post. “Looking to share cab to campus.”

He’d posted because he didn’t want to pay full fare for a cab. Ever since Kyle had broken up with his boyfriend Steve a few weeks ago, his old compulsion to hoard money had kicked in, as if to stop any bleeding, any leakage of resources, beyond the emotional variety that had been occurring ever since Steve walked out late one night with their dog and the down comforter they’d bought together and, damn him, the Roku box.

The response was almost immediate.

“Sounds great Kyle, I’m coming in from Dallas I think landing 3:30ish but happy to hang around the airport until you land, maybe grab a bite. Let me know. Oh and I’ve talked to a few others on here who might want to share. How excited are you??? Richie.”

Richie’s message was followed by several random and seemingly contradictory emoticons, including a goggly-eyed happy face that bounced and spun, and another expressionless one with an enormous Afro and sunglasses.

There was also a small thumbnail photo of Richie under his username. He looked normal enough in it: Garden-variety white male writer, 20- or 30-something with chunky glasses and tousled dark hair.

So Kyle sent along his cell phone number and accepted Richie’s in return.


Richie was sparing in his posts and correspondence over the weeks leading up to the conference. In fact, Kyle had been the one to confirm their plans to meet up. He’d texted Richie the day before their departure.

“Hey Richie, Kyle here from conference,” he’d typed. “Just checking still on for ride share tmrw.”

He’d barely hit “Send” before the reply buzzed in.

“Yep yep yep,” it read. “Got two others joining us. Seem nice. Text me when you land OK and then we can find each other. Baggage claim prolly most sense. Talk to you tomorrow safe travels!”

“Sounds good, thanks,” Kyle texted back.

He realized he pictured Richie on a trampoline.


The next morning, Kyle rose early and took the train to the airport. He’d showered but hadn’t had a chance to make coffee before he left. He felt half-alive and somehow dirty, as if caffeine rather than soap were the true cleanser.

He checked in for his flight, endured the harried indignity of the security line, then bee-lined his way to Dunkin’ Donuts. He ordered a large coffee and a pumpkin muffin, an indulgence to calm his anxious-flyer nerves.

He sat at a cafe table. His routine was to avoid the gate as long as possible because seeing the airplane outside made him think about his coming imprisonment in an airborne metal tube.

A text from Richie buzzed in. “Today big day, excited, you?”

Kyle had had enough coffee by then to be able to respond somewhat in kind. “Yes will be fun, see you soon.”

He finished his muffin. As he stood to throw away the wrapper, he glanced at the Departures monitor. His flight had been delayed two hours.

He cursed and returned to his cafe table.

“Flight delayed,” he texted Richie. “Two hrs. Of course don’t expect you to wait. Will make own way.”

“Nooooooooo,” came Richie’s response. “Sucks man! Others arriving later, maybe check msg board.”

It wasn’t a bad idea. He pulled out his laptop and connected to wifi. He took down a couple of cell numbers from the Ride Share board for people arriving later, texted them. It was too last minute to post on the board itself.

He set his phone beside him, then started hacking away at a feature he’d been writing about a TV anchorwoman and her homeless cats charity.

The phone buzzed. “Find anyone?” Richie wanted to know.

“Not yet but texted a few. Thanks for tip, good idea.”

“Luck be with you. Argh grab yrself bagel and coffee you deserve it.”

“Haha yeah might do that! Already had muffin and large cup tho.”

He paused, staring at the message he’d just sent. Somehow, without intending it, Kyle had begun to echo Richie’s chummy, manic diction, complete with exclamation points. Maybe it was the temporary relief from loneliness, the sense of being taken care of while stranded in the airport.

“Oh OK don’t OD on caffeine and sugar before you get here. :)”

“Do my best,” Kyle replied — a return to staidness, he thought — and settled back into his cat lady-anchorwoman story.

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