Archive for February, 2010

the first

08 Feb

Andrea wore a frilly shirt and pinstripe business suit. A handbag (Louis Vuitton or Coach or some other upwardly mobile necessity) complemented her outfit, the whole ensemble screaming ex-sorority. With an expensively manicured hand, she gestured to the bartender. Nervously I fingered my lapel. I’d worn a thrift-store sport coat over a t-shirt, both of which I loved dearly. Wearing things you love on a first date is also a mistake. Having anything to do with love on a first date is a mistake. It is a business meeting. Forgetting that can be disastrous. And expensive.

“What are you drinking?” I asked.

Forcing a smile is hard. Forcing a natural-looking smile is even harder. My eyes most naturally exist in a half-shut state that does not normally change. When I smile naturally, they sometimes open or close all the way, but not so with a nervous smile. I have a wide grin of the variety sometimes known as “shit-eating.” When it’s natural, I’m told it’s charming. When it’s artificial, it’s a terrifying heavy-lidded leer of the sort a crackhead might flash you while deciding whether to ask you for change or shiv you. I know. I’ve seen pictures.

I smiled at her. “Hi,” I said.

“Tanqueray and tonic,” she ordered, ignoring both the smile and the pint of slowly flattening hipster beer in front of me. The bartender mixed her drink and she stared directly forward at him, not looking at me for long minutes.

“Um,” I said. “I’m Dan. It’s nice to—“

She turned to face me. “I should probably tell you that I’m not looking for a relationship right now.”

“Um,” I said again. I couldn’t think of anything better to say, so I took a long drink from my beer and glanced at the wall clock, wondering how long I was obligated to stay before excusing myself. (Generally speaking, the answer is forty minutes. Write that one down, folks).

“This is the first date I’ve been on since my fiancé and I broke up. My friends made me sign up for Match. I’m sorry if you thought this was something else.” She sipped her drink.

“Well, I—“

“The whole internet thing just doesn’t seem safe. That’s why I met you here.” She sipped again at her drink. “One of my girlfriends is coming to pick me up in half an hour. Thanks for coming out to meet me, though. So. Dan, right? Tell me a bit about yourself before I have to go.”

Me telling her about myself quickly turned into her telling me about her fiancé. Apparently he was an MBA who’d moved to New York, promising that he’d set a place up for them in a few weeks. A few weeks had turned into a few months, and New York had turned out really to be New Jersey. Her handbag had been a gift from him. I thought about asking her whether he’d picked it up on a business trip to China, but I restrained myself.

My glass was empty, and I had the choice of either ordering another beer or finding an excuse not to. I went to the restroom.

When I returned, Andrea had disappeared. She left an empty glass, a stained cocktail napkin, and no money. I paid. I left.