Standing outside the restaurant, the night chill is noticeable, but my shawl warns off the cool breeze. I have been motionless for so long, building courage to put myself out there again, I have made it this far. Tonight must a testament to the honesty on both our parts. We really did hit it off in the chats and emails we have exchanged over the last few weeks. Trying not to invest too much time and energy before we meet, a few weeks is all I allow, if the ‘magic’ sparks then maybe we meet. Dating is hard for everyone especially when one is older and changed dramatically since the last time you dated. Yes, he was the one who initiated this date, tonight. Best not to keep him thinking he may have been stood up.
The door is held open by the maitre’d and I send him a grateful smile as I walk through the threshold. He smiles, ‘Evening lovely lady’. I blush as I pass his gaze, I am not used to receiving compliments, I would usually cower but tonight, I accept it with a ‘Thank you’.
I can see my date at a table a few metres away, no barriers to impede our vision. He is readjusting the cutlery as I approach, placing my hands on the awaiting chair and I gingerly lean down towards his eyesight.
‘You look different to your profile picture’. He didn’t, but I wanted to break the ice. Was he going to think the same of me?
Stunned by my sudden and silent appearance, the resonance in my voice causing a break in his silence. Looking up, he attempts to stand and knocks the table legs with his knees. The cutlery, crockery, and glassware wobble audibly. No drama, no harm done, no breakage or spillage.
‘Sorry’, is muttered to himself mostly. Sitting back down, he next erupts with, ‘Oh sorry, let me get your chair’.
‘Hi, I’m Samantha, as you know, and I pleased to finally meet you’.
‘Hi Sam, call me Jim’. He contracts his own name, he has probably always been Jim, not James. He has shortened my name to a version that offends me. I have never liked shortened names, incorrect or new versions of spelling of names or names that have no gender. Why have a name that is automatically shortened, especially when I used the full eight letters and all three of the syllables? I have chosen to apply my ‘rules’ to Jim, so he will be James to me tonight. Funny how we never spoke of this in the weeks preceding. His email address and social media has his name as James.
James stands, but this time the table remains calm, no accidental or intentionally earthquake, and moving to my side of the table. Our eyes are at my shoulder height. I do have on heels and my hair has been styled giving me more height than I had really wanted. I am a big-boned gal.
‘Please, call me Samantha’, I insist, as I lower to the chair as he gently eases it into its place.
‘Sorry’, was all he could manage, as he returns to his seated place across from me. ‘Can I order us some drinks?’
‘Yes please, that would be lovely’, I reply, ‘Whiskey and soda, in a tall glass, with a straw’.
‘Oh, okay’, motioning for the waiter. I am wondering which alcoholic drink he may imbibe tonight; I know he is not an abstainer. We never spoke of that either. I have one maybe two drinks, so I am still in control and can drive, but just enough to relax and try to let myself and relax.
Our drink order is taken, the waiter returns a few minutes later, the glasses chink with ice. There had been some relative silence, punctuated with more ‘sorrys’. Its amazing how much you think you know about someone by the words they use when writing or the image they portray on social media. The real person is found and often is quite different when you greet them and meet in person.
I had answered all questions asked but did not volunteer details, he was much the same although he seemed a nervous over-talker, so I had gathered lots of additional information before we met today.
Our drinks having arrived are placed, the waiter leaves, with a gracious smile, and request asking if we need anything else. We both in unison say, ‘No thanks, everything is great’. James had ordered a cider, alcoholic, maybe he too needs to unwind and let loose.
Reach for our glasses at the same moment, our hands touch, letting my hand linger a little longer than it is probably necessary. James doesn’t seem to mind.
We take a ‘salute’ and then sip, both replacing our glasses to the table, our hands are almost overlapping. My hand almost covering his hand. I can feel the warmth emanating from his touch and I have not had this sensation for quite some time. Again, James does not retreat.
Our silence and the harmony are broken by his next words, cutting through.
‘Rough hands for a lady’, he snorts.
Removing my hand in a furious snap, I recoil my nails. Leaving my hand on the table’s edge, next to my chest, shaking. His eyes instantly move to follow these movements I have made.
‘But nicely polished though’, he tries to back-pedal, ‘Some stains too, but that would go with the territory, eh?’ Pedalling forward quickly again. I am shocked and embarrassed by these revelations, he feels the need to reveal.
Removing my hands I place them onto my lap, wringing them nervously with visible anxiety building.
‘Not getting off to a great start, are we?’ I offer, ‘I thought it might be different, this time’.
I can see his mind’s cogs clanking trying to work it all out, what went wrong if anything. He has ‘foot in mouth disease’ and does not do any thinking before speaking his mind. Is this the nervous over-talking or oversharing, or is he Mr State-the -obvious, the past shudders back to my thoughts, just the same as always.
He has remarked or rebuked about my voice, my height, my hands, and my choice of drink. We all have our quirks or dislikes about ourselves. The body beautiful is the nirvana, lowered self-esteem and body image distortions are what we as a society see as abnormal. Maybe he is having second thoughts, about me and meeting up like this today, three weeks all gone, wasted. I am very accustomed to that; men are all similar like that.
James continues talking but I don’t know what he is saying, I have stopped listening or have I already left the table. I feel extremely uncomfortable about what he has verbalised thus far, my body language must be shouting my dislike and discomfort. I have curled back and slunk into the chair. Maybe I should just cut my losses and go, no damage done, only to my self-esteem, yet again.
‘Maybe this was not such a good idea’, I start, not waiting for a gap in his speech, ‘I think I should just go, nice to meet you, good luck in your search online for companionship or love or whatever you wish to find, I am sorry that I do not meet your criteria’. Did I sound sincere? I don’t think so, but I was not concerned.
Attempting to stand, I shudder and shake with my nervous energy, placing my hands on the table in front of me, to help me steady myself. Below table level and hem line my legs are weak, and I find it hard to remain upright, my stilettos teeter but I stay put.
James begins to stand; the gentleman has returned; a gentleman stands whenever a lady leaves the table. I don’t wait to see him arise. Turning to him to bid him farewell, we raise our head and then our eyes meet, nowhere to look except directly into his gaze. He reaches for both my hands, at the same time with his two, without leaving my sight. The tingle and the warm from his touch return, his next words scare but also excite me. I was not expecting the next words to be spoken.
‘Please, I’d like you to stay’.