I have a friend I’ve never met.

Hey, uh, you mind if I share your seat with you? Bus is crowded this morning, and I’ve got, like, 30 stops until mine.

Thanks. Sorry about the bag.

What? No, I don’t have a phone charger. I usually charge mine at the office. Sorry.

Cute? Who?

Oh, on my Facebook. Here, let me scroll back up – her? Yeah, she is kind of cute, I guess. It’s a weird story with her, though. I’ve never actually met her, or really talked to her at all. But we’re friends.

No, it doesn’t really make sense. But it’s sort of an interesting story. If you don’t mind listening. I mean, if you’d rather just go to sleep for the rest of the bus ride-

Okay, I’ll tell it.

See, this girl, Alexis, and I, we were supposed to go out. Set up by a matchmaker. Not the kind of matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof, but a friend of mine. I was hanging out with my friend one night, having a few drinks, and I let a little complaint slip out about how I hadn’t had a date for a while.

Now this friend – Pam, that’s my friend’s name – she’s not one to let a problem slip by her without making some crazy attempt to solve it. And so, five minutes later in the conversation, she just sits bolt upright and exclaims that she’s got a solution for me! I’ve got no idea what she’s talking about, but she says that she knows this girl who’s single, a little wacky, and the two of us would totally hit it off together.

I’m a little cautious at first, because while I get along with Pam, I’m not sure I trust her judgment in dating partners. But she pulls up this girl’s Facebook profile, shows it to me. And even though this girl’s got a little bit of the spray-tan glow, she’s blonde, cute, and-

Here, let me show you another picture of her. Yeah, right? Not afraid to show a bit of cleavage. And since I was a single, red-blooded male, I of course told Pam sure, go ahead and set it up.

So I send this girl a friend request – or maybe she sends one to me, I don’t remember, but either way, we get connected. I figure that I’ll play things cool, send her a message this coming weekend, and we can arrange a time to grab a drink together and talk in person.

But Friday rolls around, and I remember that I’d agreed to volunteer at this gala thing for my work. Big charity function, lots of guests dressed up in penguin suits, and I needed to help run a games booth or something. Not my first choice for a Friday night activity, but there’s supposed to be some free food, so I put on some nice clothes and head off to put in my volunteer hours.

And at this gala, I meet a girl. Cute, stacked, wearing this red dress that was like BAM, if you know what I’m saying, and even better, she’s laughing at all my awful jokes! We exchange numbers, I happily let one of my buddies drive me home since I’m drunk as a skunk, and pass out at home after forcing down a few glasses of water.

The next day, this girl – Mary, that’s her name – from the gala texts me. I text her back, we joke around, and next thing I know, I’ve got a date for the following night! We go out, have a couple drinks, she keeps on laughing at my jokes – and firing back consistently, mind you – and it’s a good time. We end up back at my place, making out on a couch. Good first date.

And I keep seeing Mary. To this day, in fact. It’s been… shit, man, four years now. Time flies; that felt like it was just the other day. We moved in together, moved to a new state when I landed my current job, I popped the question last time we went back home, she said yes. Now-

What? Oh, thanks. Wedding’s not for a while, and planning it is crazy. We’ve got so much to do. But that’s not the point.

The point is, this other girl on Facebook, Alexis. I never got around to messaging her, because I never ended up single again. But I never unfriended her because, well, better to have one more friend, right? So we’re still connected, even though we’ve never met, never talked, never really interacted at all.

And occasionally, one of her pictures or status updates pops up on my feed. And I’ll look at it, need to think for a minute to remember who she is. But sometimes, I stumble across her profile and I wonder, what if I’d messaged her first, before I met Mary at that party? Would things have turned out differently?

What? No, I’m not unhappy with how things turned out. I love Mary, head over heels. She’s…

You know how sometimes you have an awful thought, something that’s hilarious but also totally inappropriate, so wrong that you can never say it out loud? You’re at a funeral, the priest looks strangely like a clown, and throughout the entire eulogy, you keep waiting for him to honk a horn or squirt water out of his boutonniere right into the widow’s face? It’s wrong, but strangely funny at the same time.

Well, when I have those thoughts, I look over at Mary, and I just know that she’s thinking exactly the same thing. I never have to worry about her taking something I say the wrong way. I know that she understands me, and trusts me, and believes in me. It’s that kind of love that almost makes you feel guilty, because I know that she cares about me so much that I ought to be doing more, going out and climbing mountains and conquering continents, just to prove myself worthy of it. I know I made the right choice in proposing.

But I still wonder. If that one little moment in my life had gone the other way, would I be dating Alexis now? Would I have been just as happy, maybe found a different kind of happiness, with her? Would we have made it, stuck together through a move cross-country, new jobs, a new city?

Hell, would I be sitting here gazing at Mary’s picture and wishing that I’d flipped the other way?

Hey, I’m sorry. I just realized that I’ve been talking your ear off, yapping on about my life. I’ll shut up now.

Actually, even better – here’s my stop. Thanks for sharing your seat and, uh, listening to me talk, I guess.

Have a good one.

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