Carl sighed deeply, thinking about Sarah. He had been dying to ask her out for quite some time, but, sadly, he was a coward. He’d been on dates before. He’d asked out women before, of course. Well, hesitantly. Still! He’d jumped that hurdle before – several times, even if his success rate was abysmally low. He’d even had several steady girlfriends. (At least, he considered them girlfriends – they might have said otherwise.) But none of the women Carl had actually dated were anything like her. None of them were in her league. None of them were … Sarah. Carl slid down further into the comfort of the couch, reviewing his past entanglements and analyzing them to see what he might be able to apply to a potential relationship with Sarah. And if there was anything Carl was good at, it was over-analyzing.

Carl absent-mindedly put his hands on his thighs and extended one finger, unconsciously counting. His first girlfriend was Kat. She was the average first girlfriend. Average height, average build, average weight. Not too smart, not too interesting, not too anything. They dated a bit in high school, were together for a few years because it was convenient, but there wasn’t much there romantically. There wasn’t much anywhere really, and when Kat broke it off, Carl didn’t particularly mind. He couldn’t remember ever having strong feelings one way or another about Kat. Actually, Carl didn’t remember much about her. He couldn’t quite remember the color of her eyes. He couldn’t even remember what her full name was, come to think of it.

His first real girlfriend was Sally. He extended his second finger. She was sweet, and she was definitely cute – a small brunette with dark brown eyes that always seemed to be laughing – but she was just not right for him. She was too nerdy, and that was saying something coming from Carl. All she wanted to talk about was World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and internet memes. She spent too much of her life on Snapchat trying out filters, and Carl started to feel more like an accessory for photos than a romantic partner. The longer he spent with Sally, the more he felt himself getting lost into her passions. . He broke up with her (she was far from heart-broken), and he moved on to Serena (finger number 3).

Serena was nerdy in a different way. She was very book smart. She wasn’t very attractive (a bit too gawky looking with stringy dark blonde hair and hazel eyes hidden behind glasses that were coke-bottle thick), but Carl didn’t mind – most of the time. The problem was that she could talk and talk and talk, and it wasn’t always interesting. Not only that, it wasn’t the average stuff like feelings, or daily events, or family drama, or things like that. No, Serena wanted to talk about physics, and biology, and astronomy, and science-y things that sometimes confused Carl. Serena made Carl feel dumb, and Carl didn’t like that. Serena dumped Carl, and that had been perfectly fine with him. He took a break from intelligent relationships and went for a spin with Martha.

By some perplexing mystery, Martha (fourth finger) had agreed to go out with him. They met on a dating site. Carl had chosen the most flattering photo (lots of shadows, very unclear), he could find of himself and apparently that was what had drawn Martha in (it certainly wasn’t his thrilling career as a financial advisor). Martha was pretty. Really pretty. However, Carl was pretty sure she didn’t have a brain in her head. And as much as he was physically attracted to her, he couldn’t stand talking to her for any length of time. Her misuse and overuse of the word “irony,” her constant misspellings (and textspeak) in emails, and her lack of incredibly simple knowledge (for example, calling all Asians “Chinese,” and believing Iran and Iraq to be the same place) drove him batty. But still, she was beautiful. Martha had dumped him after their first date. Full of confusion and unsatisfied testosterone (Martha had given Carl a deep throaty kiss before saying they were through), Carl fell hard for Sarah when she walked into the office the next day and had been fixated on her ever since.

While comparable in attractiveness, Sarah was way up the scale in intelligence. More importantly, Sarah was normal. There was nothing wrong with her – well, nothing wrong that normal people didn’t have wrong with them. She seemed totally normal – and that’s what Carl loved about her, although, to be honest, it did frighten him a bit – being normal that is. Normal was something that Carl had only dreamed of.