Theresa always wore flowered prints, it was her signature, all her friends knew this. When Shelby found a red silk blouse with big roses printed on it, she knew she had to get it for her.
“Thank you, it’s beautiful!” Theresa said as she hung the blouse from her shoulders and used the metal toaster as a mirror. “How did you know I’d love it,” her smile was coy with a hint of mystique.
The two ladies were sitting in Shelby’s kitchen where they were taking their lunch break. Since the pandemic began, the two women were working from home. Since Theresa was not very computer savvy and did not have internet at her house, Shelby offered to let her come over every day and work with her. They were preparing to eat and gossip, it was their favorite time of the day. Today, Theresa pulled out a small notebook. “Are you taking notes?” Shelby points to the book with curiosity.
“I actually am taking notes…on you,” Theresa[SL1] says as she keeps the mystery alive.
“What do you need to know about me and why do you have to remember it?”
“I actually have been writing down traits, yours. I just checked off thoughtful because you bought me this beautiful blouse for no reason except you saw it and thought of me,” Theresa strokes the blouse.
“Okay, give it to me, what are you up to?” Shelby puts down her sandwich, crosses her arms in protest, “No one is eating until you answer me.”
“Empathetic, good listener, calm nature, good friend, thoughtful, I could add a protester too,” the ladies laughed.
Shelby started to eat again, “are you writing a book?”
“Actually, and don’t get mad, but I’d like to set you up with a friend of Cliff’s. He’s fun, intelligent, nice looking,” Theresa smiled waiting for a response.
“A friend of your husband’s? You told me the good stuff, now what’s the other stuff? Because there’s always other stuff,” Shelby said as she took a deep breath.
“Okay, okay, he’s financially comfortable. I mean I know you had your heart set on a pauper.”
“Oh, that’s right, I did,” Shelby takes a bite of her food. “Do you have a photo? That could help me make up my mind whether I want to meet him or not,” Shelby lays her cards on the table.
“No, I don’t, but I can paint you a picture, he’s not your classic tall, dark and handsome, but his appearance grows on you, the more you know him, the more handsome he becomes,” she smiled because she knew her description was as mysterious as her smile.
“I saw a movie like that, The Enchanted Cottage with Robert Young, a real oldie, like from the 30s or 40s or something. There were these two people, not very good looking, but when they were in this cottage, they looked beautiful to each other, I watched it with my mother when I was a little girl,” Shelby smiles because she has fond memories of watching classic movies with her mother. “You’ve piqued my interest, I’ll meet your friend, what’s his name?”
“His name is Sean, I’ll set up a date, time and place,” Theresa said smiling, while Shelby was hoping she didn’t just make a huge mistake.
On the evening of Shelby and Sean’s first meeting, she was fastidiously aware of how she wanted her appearance to effect Sean. She didn’t want to seem as if she spent too much time on preparing, or as if this were a business meeting. She wanted to seem a little aloof, but mostly casually put together with a small amount of sexy. That meant not too much cleavage, hem just above the knee, no spaghetti straps or bare shoulders, something summery to emulate the beautiful July month, even though it’s nearly August. Before Shelby left her apartment, as always she made sure Lila, the cat she rescued nearly two years ago, had plenty of water and a little kibble for the night, everything was turned off and then she checked her clutch for her wallet, phone and mask. She wanted to take the designer mask she recently bought. It was white with a delicate paisley yellow print on it; she hadn’t had anywhere nice to wear it yet. When she got into her car, she set her ringer for exactly 8:30pm, with a ringer that sounded like an antique land phone. This way if the date was not pleasant, she could feign a phone call from a friend who was having an emergency. She wondered about the emergency, maybe a friend who had a small, not too horrific, car accident or a friend who’s out of town and needs her to check on their dog or cat, or something they saw on their monitor. I’ll figure out an emergency on my way to the restaurant, she thought.
When Shelby arrived at the restaurant, she checked the time, she didn’t want to be too early and appear overly enthusiastic. It was 7:29, perfect, she thought, punctual, not eager. The restaurant Sean suggested they meet at was called, The Captain’s Reef. Theresa must have mentioned I like seafood or that this was a favorite restaurant of mine, she surmised. It’s been at least a year since she’s been in this restaurant, not that she hasn’t thought about it, it’s just a little pricey and she hasn’t had a date in over a year that could afford it. She looked around and the only differences she noticed in the restaurant were due to the pandemic. The inside dining and bar were closed, she was led to the outside patio where the tables were separated, the lighting demurely matched the candles on each table and anyone not sitting at a table wore a mask. She recognized him almost instantly, Theresa said he’d have sunflowers, Shelby’s favorite. She saw a man sitting alone wearing a light yellow and gray, loose and summery looking shirt, the colors reminded her of the mask she was wearing, he was holding stems belonging to massive looking sunflowers.
Shelby walked to the table, he was looking at a menu, “Hi, I think I’m your blind date?” she gave her best first-impression smile. Then she remembered her mask was hiding her smile, hopefully her eyes carried the impression she wanted to convey.
“Oh, hi, actually I’m here with my wife,” he looks up at Shelby, he’s wearing a black mask, the same one most men are wearing.
She feels mortified, oh, no! someone else likes sunflowers, she felt so embarrassed. Shelby’s at a loss for words, she starts to turn when she hears, “I’m kidding, you’re Shelby, right?” he says quickly sensing her embarrassment.
They both laugh through their masks, though she’s still deciding if his joke was funny or not? Shelby sits across from Sean, he offers the sunflowers, which in Shelby’s mind now serve as an apology. “They’re lovely, they’re also my favorite. Where did you find such large sunflowers?” Shelby asks as she tries to forget their initial encounter. She’s secretly appreciative that they have to wears masks, it helps shield her emotions.
“I picked them from my neighbor’s yard,” he waits for a reaction.
Shelby is still wearing her mask, otherwise he would have seen her mouth open in shock to match her eyes.
“I’m kidding again, I got them at Rina’s Petals, over on 6th, it’s near my house and on the way here. I even have the receipt,” he wondered if he’d gone too far.
“They’re lovely,” Shelby says hoping the jokes will be ending soon. Then she thinks, Rina’s Petals, he lives near there, a nice neighborhood.
The waiter comes over and serves water and asks, “would you care for something to drink?”
Shelby had already told herself to limit herself to no more than two glasses of wine. “I’ll wait if that’s ok?”
“Nothing for me,” Sean says through his mask. “Very well, I’ll give you a few minutes,” the waiter says and walks away.
“I think we can take these masks off after we order. I was reading about outside dining protocol,” Shelby offers. “Did Theresa mention this restaurant?” Shelby asks trying to change the mood.
“No, I happen to like it and I haven’t been here for a while,” he says. His answer makes Shelby think the evening may turn around. Sean and Shelby peruse the menu, he asks her if she would care for an appetizer, she remembers that if she has an appetizer, she won’t eat much of her dinner, “No, thank you, I’ll just have dinner,” she says politely.
There’s an uncomfortable silence. “The food here is delicious, they’re famous for their Tabu Chicken, it’s named after the chef who created it. They also have a Tabu salad,” she obviously’s eaten here before Sean thinks.
“Tabu chicken?” he laughs, “it sounds like the forbidden food,” he continues to make himself laugh.
“Oh, yeah, I get it, the name, it’s spelled with a “u”, not a doubl-O,” she sees the connection but doesn’t find it amusing. Maybe he doesn’t tell a joke correctly? “you like to joke a lot?” she asks.
“I do. Does that bother you?” he says and wonders if for her this could be a deal breaker.
“No, I love humor, but we might have different ideas of what is considered funny? I like my humor, witty.”
“Maybe, have you heard this one, a guy goes into a bar…” he starts laughing.
“That’s what I mean, not my kind of funny,” she shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head.
“What else do you like, besides witty humor?” he makes sure to enunciate the word “witty”.
Shelby thinks, “I like to watch movies, I like to read, I like cats, in fact I have one, her name is Lila. Lately I’ve been reading courtroom dramas and I’ve been learning to speak French,” she wonders if she should add that she’s been thinking of going to Paris next year.
“French? What about Spanish? I mean you can practice it right here, there’s so many Spanish-speaking people in this very city.”
Doesn’t he think I would have thought of that, he’s a little self-centered. “Did you ever think I may have a reason and not just assume I pulled a language out of a hat?” she says defensively.
“Well for someone who doesn’t like funny humor, I wasn’t sure what you were thinking,” he retaliates. “Let me guess, you don’t like the Three Stooges, slapstick or maybe not even stand up, right?
“Slapstick is not funny, someone hurting themselves, just like those funny video shows that so many people like. People running into poles, falling off bikes or into a pool of water…not so funny,” Shelby starts to think this blind date was put together by a blind person.
“Those video shows are the best; I’ve spent many an evening being entertained by them. And so have other people, otherwise they wouldn’t be on t.v.,” Sean says as he silently congratulates himself for proving a point.
“I haven’t actually researched the demographics, but I would bet those are mostly men and children watching those shows. While women might like it, most women wouldn’t plan their evening around them, not unless it was for their husband or child,” Shelby says confidently and makes a mental note to research this topic online. Would it be too much if I got out my phone and searched?
“What is witty humor to you?” Sean asks.
“One of my favorite movies would be ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ with Jack Nicholson. The writing is clever and there are not really jokes that you can tell a friend, you have to see it, understand the characters, be part of it or “Pride & Prejudice”. The English really know how to be witty and proper, all at the same time,” Shelby looks at Sean and wonders if she lost him. “Which movie do you consider funny?”
“I really liked, ‘Something About Mary”, that was hilarious, the part where Matt Dillon electrocutes the dog,” he laughs thinking about it, “and how about the ‘is it frank or beans’ when Ben Stiller gets his penis caught in the zipper. Did you see the movie?” he immediately wants to take back the question, once it’s out of his mouth.
“There’s probably not much more to it, so I think I just did,” she feels compelled to ask for her dinner to be put in a doggie bag, but in her mind, she has images of electrocuting dogs.
The conversation is interrupted when the waiter returns to take their order and then quickly leaves.
“Why don’t we start over,” he sees the look on her face and feels he needs a lifeline if he wants a second date or even finish the meal. Just then a telephone ring is heard.
Shelby is touched that Sean wants to start over and quickly apologizes for not turning her phone to silent and clicks the sound off. She makes up a story that it’s her sister and she’ll call her back later.
Sean tries to change the mood, “I like to build model cars in my spare time, I like to work in my yard, I don’t read too much, I do like to bbq and until the pandemic, I liked travelling, mostly in the U.S. There is so much to see right here in our own backyard, no need to go ‘across the pond’” he uses his best English accent.
“Have you ever been to Europe?” Shelby asks.
“Yes, I have. Many years ago, it was nice,” Sean says with no other adjectives to add.
“Well, I never have, and I plan to, hence the French lessons.”
“Everyone speaks English, you don’t have to worry about that,” Sean says with the same taking-French-is-unneeded attitude.
“I think taking anything, even a lesson in tiddley-winks is something, anything you learn just enhances your brain,” Shelby is becoming defensive again.
“Learn Arabic,” he says smartly, “was that witty, I mean the kind of humor you like?”
“I think I’m finished, I’ll take the rest to-go” she says wondering how Theresa could have ever thought Sean and she would hit it off.
“Wait, can we start over again?” he sees something in her, he’s not sure what. She’s pretty, smart, and she’s not afraid to debate him. It’s been a long time since conversation with another person has been so stimulating. “I know it will be our third time trying to get this right, but I think it’s worth a chance.”
Shelby remembers a lesson she learned many years ago about perspective. She and a friend were looking at opposite sides of a beach ball, her friend insisted the ball was blue and Shelby was infuriated that she couldn’t see that the ball was red. Shelby’s mother was there and she asked the girls to switch sides, they both saw the ball from the other’s perspective and realized they were both wrong and they were both right. “It’s about perspective isn’t it? There’s no right or wrong humor,” Shelby stated.
“And maybe you are right, learning anything can’t be wrong,” he smiled.
The waiter returned to their table, “would you care for dessert?” he asked.
In unison, Sean and Shelby both said, “flourless chocolate cake”, the waiter asked, “one or two?”
“Would you like to share?” Sean asked.
“One cake, two plates please,” she asks the waiter. She looks over at Sean and says, “maybe starting over would be a good idea. We’ve finally found a common ground; we’ll start at cake and see where it leads us.”