Blind Date (Catalina y Maximo)

Catalina was already late, always late. Why did this man she met online who said his name was Carlos pick Grand Arena for their blind date? There were maybe a million people arriving at the place. So how was she supposed to know who this guy Carlos was? The people were flooding out of the subway and crawling up the street and invading the huge place that looked like a big brown domed hive. They swarmed past that weird brown wall that made her think of a strange thing in nature but still did not look the least bit natural.
She let herself be taken by the river of people and for a second she forgot who she was, forgot herself, and she was just one more human. She sometimes felt she was from outer space. As she went through the security check she remembered how she used to pretend she was an alien from the planet Lora that she made up in a game with her brother. He was from the planet Jal.
The young woman guard looked into her purse and put her phone in the wrong bin and she panicked for a moment that she had lost her phone and would never find this Carlos. She'd never be able to text her blind date. She guessed he would not look anything like his photo because most of the men she'd met online had not. She would not find him and he would not find her. In her photo she still had long black hair and she'd just cut it very short on impulse a week ago. Maybe if she was lucky she would never find him. He would never find her. She liked the idea of going on a date much better than the reality.
She caught sight of a woman in one of the glass windows she was passing and thought she looked a bit odd with that very short spiky black hair, but not too bad. Then she realized she was looking at herself.
She began to get dizzy as she climbed all the way to the very top of the Grand Arena. Carlos wasn't joking when he said he'd only been able to find tickets, on such short notice, in the nosebleed section. She looked down. She felt both thrilled and frightened to see the tiny little men on the court way, way below. They looked like her nephew's action figures. She got that feeling she always got when she went up on her roof or the time years ago she'd gone to Karaya and hiked almost to the top of El Pico, a feeling that she would suddenly have an impulse to jump and not be able to stop herself.
The music was very loud. She noticed now the tiny figures on the court were young women jumping around in tiny clothes. Cheerleaders. Carlos had emailed her the ticket. "Foolproof way we'll find each other. We'll each have our own ticket and there will be only one place in all of Grand Arena where we can be."
She sat and waited. And waited. The seat beside her stayed empty. People all around her rose and sat and rose and sat. People got in and out of rows. Nobody was still. Was anyone actually watching the game? She had not much of a clue about basketball beyond the basics. Each team had to get the ball in their basket. It wasn't bad not understanding. She was lulled by the dance of the players. Watching the audience was interesting as anthropology. Watching the players was interesting as dance.
They stopped playing and now the nearly naked ladies danced again. No Carlos. Catalina didn't know if she was angry, humiliated, relieved, or all these feelings at once.
A man with a big grin sat beside her. "I think this is my seat. I got stuck at work and then decided to come anyway. My boss at the farmacia doesn't always give me a free ticket. Even way up here the ticket is fifty five empires."
He didn't look at all like the picture in his profile. He had short very tight black curls, shiny black skin, high cheek bones, and a huge smile that showed very perfect white teeth.
"You're not Carlos."
"My name is Maximo." He looked at his ticket and then at the seat. "Yes, it's correct." He handed her the ticket. She studied it. Read every line. How could Maximo and Carlos have had the same ticket? She read it again. And then she saw the tiny print. Maximo's ticket was Block B. Her ticket was Block A. But she was sitting in Block B. "Carlos must be sitting in Block A thinking I stood him up!" For half a split second she considered going to Block A to look for Carlos. She stood. But Maximo grinned at her again and offered her his sweet potato fries. "Es el destino," he said.
Years later their granddaughter would say, "Cuentamelo otra vez." The way her grandparents met was her favorite bedtime story.