I’m early. I’m always early. For everything. It’s better than being late I guess, but if you show up too early you look desperate. And if the place is super fancy, like this one, you get lots of looks from other people and you can practically hear their speculation. Not that I don’t do the same thing when the shoe is on the other foot but still it was uncomfortable.
I check my phone for the time. It hasn’t changed since I last checked it forty five seconds ago. I need to stop doing that. It sends the signal that I’m desperate and that I’m doubting whether or not she’ll actually show. I’m not doubting that. There was no reason to doubt it. She seemed fairly interested in their texts back and forth.
We met through this app that was designed for blind dates, a terrible idea but it was free so I swung. Similar interest and quick establishing convos to make sure neither one of us was a bot or serial killer and we had set up a date. I had made the suggestion for the place and that we should meet there separately. I felt it would at least look good on my part that I was concerned for her safety. First meeting would be in a public well-lit place and I wouldn’t be picking her up so she could leave if she wanted and I wouldn’t know where she lived. It seemed a bit extreme but in the age we live in it was least I could do to make sure I didn’t come across as an internet weirdo.
I checked my phone again for the time. Another five minutes and she would be one minute late. Jesus I need to stop overthinking this. Nothing is as severe as my anxiety is making it out to be. I’m sure she’s on her way or at least getting ready.
FUCK! I’m so fucking late! This always happens. I end up wildly underestimating how much time it takes me to get ready and speeding to make up time. And I was flying down the highway trying to remember how to get there and making occasional brake checks near every speed trap I knew along the way.
This time it wasn’t my fault dammit. I haven’t been out out in over a year. I forgot how much it takes for me to gussy up. Hair. Makeup. EYES! My damn eyes! I can count on one freaking hand how many times I’ve put on eyeliner in the last year and have fingers left over. Between the nerves and the inexperience I nearly blinded myself. And WHY?! Why was I doing this? I never met him face to face he has no idea what I look like. He might be as desperate as me and I could’ve come in sweats and a sports bra. But no I had to dress like I was going to junior prom.
Half the damn makeup I combed through tonight was so old I felt questionable about applying it to my face. I only proceeded with the thought that if I had to deal with a potential break out or mild skin infection I could deal with it after the date was in the bag. What the hell is wrong with me, I’m talking about a date like it’s a game. But isn’t it? First dates are all a show. Every prim and proper custom in place to make sure that the first date was as impersonal as possible. He had made doubly sure of that by suggesting the nicest place to eat in town. That was another reason I had put in effort. I’ll be damned if he shows up looking better than I do. Plus it was THAT kind of restaurant that I would get weird looks if I didn’t show up looking like a million dollars. Le sigh. I bet they have cloth napkins too. Pretentious bastards.
She’s late. Officially. I mean it’s less than a minute but for someone who’s been monitoring the clock like a train porter, it’s noticeable. I’m trying to find every justification in the world to give her. Mind you, I’m not faulting her at all in this. If she wanted to jet that’s fine, a text woulda been nice. If she’s got caught in traffic that’s fine. I’m just trying to paint a picture of this that doesn’t make me a pathetic loser. The loser image was probably being made worse by me looking at the front door every time it opened. All the random eyes looking there and looking back at me as if to say “she’s not coming, loser.”
I wouldn’t consider it a huge ego blow. I’ve been in way worse situations. But as the years get along its way harder for me to set these kinds of things up much less bounce back from ones that fall flat. I began to think over my plans for when she inevitably didn’t show up and the waiter does that whole awkward “wrap this up we need your table” spiel. I’d heard the speech before and it was way more courteous than its intent. If it got too late I would initiate that interaction myself. There was some dignity in that right?
As my mind went down that avenue of future events I began to go over everything else like what I was going to do with my life, I had time. This would be a setback sure. But I hadn’t invested a lot into it so far so it wouldn’t be a big loss. But the realization that I was a month away from turning 34 made me consider that the options were thinning. I wasn’t above getting with a girl that had kids but that was a helluva lotta baggage in this day and age. Is the dad involved? Is he paying child support? Is she going to expect me to beat his ass one day? Or worse be his friend? There were so many arrangements that kids entailed that didn’t even involve the kids.
Shit. I’m late. Maybe he’s late too. There’s hope in that right? But he seemed like a nice guy and he was probably waiting for me. Sitting in this stupid fucking restaurant that just loves pretending it’s high class despite being in a dopey backwater town. I took a deep breath in and out and checked my makeup in the rearview. Still hot. I wink at myself. This is going to be a disaster.
I’m not trying to jinx something before it happens but the track record does not lie. I’ve dated some absolute shit bags before and they were not getting better with age. The last guy I dated was a car salesman. A fucking car salesman. I wished that I could say I was under duress when I agreed to the date but no I said yes to the date with complete mental faculties.
To make matters worse car guy spent his entire time on his phone saying there was something happening with his ex and his kid. He had a kid. I don’t want kids. I don’t kids. I didn’t like kids when I WAS a kid. Kids are smelly expensive gremlins that steal your youth and leave you a bitter angry husk of a human. My anti-child stance had killed many promising dates as most men want to continue their line. We’re not talking brave knights or tremendous scholars we’re talking dudes who think khakis and a polo is “dressing up” these are not the lineages that need to be protected and continued.
I walk in and go to the hostess podium. I try to speak but she knows why I’m here. Shit. He must’ve been here for a while. I follow her around the corner and I see him. The relief on his face confirms that he has been waiting for a while. As we get nearer he stands. I’m not sure if he’s being a gentleman or he’s being forced by the decorum of the restaurant.
When he stood I also got the first look of him and he wasn’t bad. I know its passé to judge someone by the appearance but that’s an appearances purpose so you can judge people. So I judged him. And he wasn’t bad. He wasn’t a stud but I wasn’t needing or expecting a stud. The dating pool got much smaller once I hit thirty, buncha divorcees and dad bods, and beggars can’t be choosers.
She’s here. She’s finally freaking here. And she’s gorgeous. All the waiting was worth it. I mean I wouldn’t be bitter if she wasn’t attractive but it’s a definite bonus. She’s dressed to a tee as well. I have a quick panic as I look down. I didn’t dress as nice as she did. Was I supposed to? Shit how fancy is this place. I mean they have cloth napkins but they haven’t brought out any bread for the table. Maybe they were waiting for her. Maybe it’s so fancy the bread isn’t free. Shit this place is too high. I haven’t even checked the menu. Twenty damn minutes in here and I haven’t even looked at the menus? What the hell is wrong with me? I can’t do it now cause it’ll look weird and if it is high I gotta keep a poker face while I look at it or she’ll think I’m a cheap idiot.
I’m standing up. Why am I standing up? Was there a bunch of random dudes sitting in this place alone? No! I can feel everyone’s eyes on me but I can’t sit now it’ll look even weirder. I try to calm my breathing to keep from giving away that I’m trembling a bit. Christ, it’s like I’m a damn freshman. I have knee problems and blood pressure pills but sure let’s act like a schoolboy on date night. Jeesus!
God he looks nervous, is that a good sign or a bad sign? We both sit at the same time. He asks about the drive. Ugh! He’s bringing up my tardiness. I explain how it’s been a long time since I’ve gone out so it took a minute. We share a laugh. It feels forced. Damn first date protocols. I ask if he’s waited long. He says that he hasn’t and that he hasn’t even looked at the menus. In perfectly timed choreography we both open the menu and begin looking. It LOOKS expensive. Metal brackets. Fancy writing. Fancy entrees. And they don’t even have the price. That means they’re too expensive. Dammit! Did we agree to do dutch? I can’t remember and I can’t check my phone. That would be rude. But if he’s pikcing up the bill I don’t want to overload it and bankrupt the guy.
Damn this place must be expensive. Where the hell are the prices?! Is that tiny number the price or the weight? Why would they put the weight? It has to be the price. Sweet god. It’s so expensive. What the hell is chicken a la king?! Why are there not descriptions beneath it? Is that against fancy code or something? Would it be tacky to pull out our phones to google this crap so we don’t end up ordering like crusted beef liver or something? Should I suggest it?
His face tells me all I need to know. We’re both in over our head. What if I just said fuck it and asked if he wanted to go to a taco truck. He suggests googling the stuff on the menu to find out what it is. He’s cute.
We pulled out our phones and hide them by the sides of out plate as we looked up different things.
Frutti di mare – shellfish with onions and garlic. Not the ideal first date food.
Spaghetti alla puttanesca – whore spaghetti (If I wanted to eat like spaghetti like a whore, I’ll just throw back some homemade stuff while he rails me on my stain covered couch)
From his demeanor I bet I could get him to agree to the taco truck. It wouldn’t be a hard sale. That damn taco truck is where it’s at.
“Hey you wanna get the fuck outta here?” I ask
“We haven’t even ordered?”
“Ya! I know!” I raise and dip my eyebrows quick to let him know I mean business.
There’s a look in his eyes. He’s sold.
So now we’re going to a taco truck she knows about. Not how I envisioned the night going but I like it. We leave in her car and I cram myself into her front seat and push my feet through the numerous half empty water bottles on the floorboard. As soon as the car cranks the music is blaring.
She makes a face as she turns it down and apologizes.
Why should she be sorry for cranking the Killers, I ask her.
“Heh, righ?!” she says as she pulls it quick into reverse and peels out of the parking lot.
I really hope they don’t tow my car.
Surprisingly he didn’t say anything about my dirty ass car or my extensive water bottle collection. I made quick time to the taco truck in the Quick Save parking lot. There’s a crowd. This is good. This was a good decision.
We get out of the car and queue up.
He tells me this was a good idea.
I say “Just you wait”
Once he has these tacos he’ll think I’m a genius.
We’re two people away from having tacos the way God intended.
Homemade corn tortilla, cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
By the time we get to the window I’ve made the decision that I’ll order for both of us.
The time spent waiting is in silence. No speeches are necessary before such goodness, words will only cheapen the affair.
We get out food and sit on the hood of my car. I watch his face to make sure he enjoys them as well as he’s supposed to.
That first bite.
His eyes widen. That distinctive low mmmm comes from his mouth. I am a genius. I’m sure he’ll admit as much later on.
Damn these tacos are good! I’ve been wary of trying food from one of these truck even though everybody swears by them and now I know why.
She’s waiting for me to tell her she’s a genius.
I relent. This is arguably better than overpriced whore spaghetti.
The food lead into a conversation about Mexican cinema, which lead to a discussion of Mexican surrealism. Naturally.
Surprised me, he actually has valid opinions on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s body of work. Between this and his appreciation for the Killers. He might have cemented himself a second date. I mean the options are thinning and I could honestly do worst and at this point in my life I deserve something better.
It might be the tacos but I’m pretty sure we’re clicking. I wonder what she would say to a second date.
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Hi Matthew, I really enjoyed this story! I was wondering how you would handle switching povs smoothly - or not - and you did an excellent job! I enjoyed the humor too. I could have done without the profanity but I understand that you were showing a character trait, giving the typical male-type dialogue to the girl. (I can’t speak for all women, of course, but most of us don’t worry about getting credit for choosing a good restaurant. I have heard that it is important to many men, and that if the food is bad, they will feel responsible.) ...
Thanks for the advice!