“So,” she said, idly flipping through the menu. “You ever done this before?” The man hesitated for a moment. The woman smiled. She pulled out her phone, a cheap model, inherently disposable. Just like his. “I mean this specifically. Not, you know…” She waved her hand in a circle, a gesture that was at once big enough to encompass the world and small enough to mean just the two of them. “This.”
The man smiled and shook his head. “Ah, no. I’m… I guess you could say I’m old-fashioned. I only like to… I don’t trust people I don’t have some kind of a connection to, you know? Friend of a friend, that sort of thing. It’s good to know a partner’s got somebody you trust who’s vouching for them.”
She smirked. “’Partner,’ huh?”
He smirked back, his confidence growing now they were speaking face-to-face instead of through email, through text, through any of a million electronic mediators. “What, you don’t want to be my partner?”
“I wouldn’t have agreed to meet you if I didn’t think you’d make a good partner.”
“That’s not exactly a yes.”
“Oh, good. You’re observant.”
“We have to be.”
“It’s dangerous meeting people like this.”
“You could be a cop.”
She laughed. “I’m not.”
A waiter came by. The woman ordered coffee and a bagel. “Seems rude to sit in a diner and not order anything? People remember you if you’re rude.” She smiled, but there was no humor in her eyes this time. “So how do you know I’m not a cop?”
The man sipped his water. “So little privacy these days, isn’t there?”
She sniffed. “We’ve traded privacy for comfort. As a culture.”
“Comfort and the illusion of security.”
“You don’t feel safe with the United States government watching our every move?”
“I haven’t felt safe in years.”
There was silence. The man wondered if they were actually making a connection or not. It didn’t matter for the work ahead of them, really. And connections could be dangerous. But still.
“So are we going to do this, or what?” she asked.
The man leaned forward, his voice a register lower than before. “I was thinking of starting small. There’s a bank across–”
“Why not here?”
He blinked in surprise. “What? Here? ‘The diner’ here?”
She nodded. The corners of her mouth pulled back slowly in a smile, her eyes lighting up with mischievous glee.
He chuckled. “Now that’s rude.”