I pulled my pocket watch from my waistcoat. It clicked as it unclasped. Its old-timey watch hands moved into the 11:50 am position. It was time for lunch.
I rolled back from my desk, put on my suit jacket, and walked out of my office there on the third floor of Inglethorpe & Cavendish. With no appointments until 2 pm, I had time for lunch without too much of a rush. Today, though, I may have wanted a rush. Today I was going on a blind date.
“Hope you like her,” Natasha said, giggling, as I passed the reception area and walked to the elevator.
“Thanks,” I said. The elevator pealed. I walked in and rode down.
Natasha, the receptionist at Inglethorpe & Cavendish, set me up on this blind date. When I agreed to meet TK for lunch, Natasha made it seem like TK was one of her best friends. But as I asked Natasha more about TK over the past few days, it became clear that TK was just someone Natasha ran into at the laundromat.
The neon “a” in Raphael’s Cappuccino/Espresso flickered as I jay walked across Elm Street. Raphael’s had great paninis and, for a coffeeshop, rivaled most of the lunch game in the downtown area. Natasha told TK that I’d probably want to eat lunch at Raphael’s. Apparently, she agreed to meet me there.
“Watch out, asshole!”
A bike messenger nearly clipped me as I finished crossing the street. She swerved around me, looked back, and gave me the finger. She wore her blonde hair in a high pony tail. She twirled it around in the air as she made a quick right turn down Market Street.
I straightened my suit jacket and entered Raphael’s.
“Lookin’ sharp, Mr. Sharpe!” Raphael said, rubbing his hand over his bald head and pointing to my bald head. “You want your usual?”
“Yes. Thank you, Raffe. Also, I’m expecting someone for lunch.”
“Very good, Mr. Sharpe.”
Raffe disappeared behind the espresso bar. A minute later he emerged with a double espresso and two lunch menus.
I sat facing to door at a table for two. I sipped the espresso. Raphael’s had perfect espresso—crisp, pungent, but not bitter. The aroma wafted into my nostrils and comforted me.
Then, the bike messenger who had nearly run me over just minutes ago walked into Raphael’s. She handed a manila envelope to Raffe and Raffe gave her a smaller white envelope. She asked Raffe something and then he pointed at me, rubbing his head. She looked in my direction and walked my way.
“So, you’re Malcolm?”
“Yes, I’m so sorry.” I pointed toward Elm Street, a panorama of which was visible through the large plate glass windows.
“I’m TK,” she said.
“Can I join you?”
“Well, um, of course.”
“You should really watch where you’re going. I mean, you’re a lawyer and all and jay walking is illegal.”
“Yes, my apologies.”
“What’s good here?”
“I always get the mozzarella caprese panini.”
“But is it good?”
“I think so.”
“Then I’ll have that.”
I held two fingers up for Raffe to see and nodded. He returned with two thumbs up and a nod.
“Natasha didn’t tell me you were black,” she said.
“Is that a problem?” I asked.
“Not at all.”
“Natasha didn’t tell me you were a bike messenger.”
“Is that a problem?”
“Not unless you run me over.”
Raffe brought our sandwiches just in time to prolong the uncomfortable silence that would inevitably follow soon enough.
“What’s TK stand for?”
“Tatiana Karenina,” she said. “My mom’s from Russia. Not like a Russian bride or anything, but she emigrated here in the 80s. That’s when she met my dad. My last name is Jenkins. I’ve always gone by TK.”
“That’s a beautiful name, Tatiana.”
“It’s either Tatiana Karenina or TK, I don’t go by just one of my names.”
Then I laughed to myself.
“What’s so funny?”
“I shouldn’t say.”
“Now you have to.”
“OK, your name, ‘TK’ just made me think of one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies.”
“Oh god. Not Star Wars.”
“Well, yeah. ‘TK-421, why aren’t you at your post? TK-421, do you copy?’ Not a fan, I take it?”
“Nope. Never seen one and don’t care to. Don’t really like movies that much anyway.”
“What do you do for fun, then?”
“I read. Agatha Christie, mostly.”
“Poirot or Marple?”
“What’s your favorite?”
“I like all of them. But if I had to pick one, I’d pick the one I’m currently reading.”
“The Murder on the Links”
“What do you like about it?”
“Well, Poirot goes up against this guy, Giraud, a rival detective. They both have these incredible mustaches. They’re always one-uping each other on the hunt for the solution.”
“What was the murder?”
“Some guy got stabbed and thrown in a bunker hole.”
“What’s a bunker hole?”
“A hole where they put a sand trap on a golf course, I think.”
“Anyway, the cool thing about Christie is how she subverts the detective genre through Poirot’s actions.”
“Well, if you’ve ever read Sherlock Holmes, Holmes was always down on the ground, looking for infinitesimal clues in the dirt with a magnifying glass. He was visceral, kinetic-like. So, when Giraud starts investigating the ground near the golf course, Poirot is disgusted by it. He insists that he can use his mind to solve the crime. He does. And, it’s awesome.”
“It is. But if you do read Christie, don’t read anything on the internet about the books before you read the books themselves. Some of them are almost a hundred years old and well outside the courtesy of spoiler alerts.”
“Yeah, some jerk totally ruined Roger Ackroyd for me. I still read it and it was still surprising that…“
“Well, I won’t ruin it for you. So, what kind of lawyer are you?”
“I’m a transactional real estate lawyer.”
“Do you ever try big cases? You know, like in front of a jury?”
“Never have. Likely never will.”
“Transactional law is more about giving advice than being in court. It looks toward the future. Litigation looks toward the past.”
“I find it quite interesting.”
“Every set of facts presents a puzzle, a web that must be untangled in order to provide competent advice.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why should I trust a lawyer who jay walks? Jay walking is illegal.”
“The prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by the law.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“No, Oliver Wendell. It’s legal realism. Yes, jay walking is against the law but no one ever gets cited for it.”
“Still it’s against the law, though.”
“So is hitting a pedestrian with your bike.”
We ate our sandwiches, had several espressos, and talked more. The uncomfortable silence never came. I don’t know what I expected. Most of the blind dates I went on ended horribly, a countdown of the excruciating seconds until the damn thing was over. But here, there was something to TK. She really showed you who she was and didn’t care if you liked her or not. She was a little rough around the edges, not very polite, and quite impulsive, but enjoyable to be around. As the conversation wound down, I decided that I wanted to see her again. I hoped she would want to see me again, too.
“What time to you need to get back?” she asked.
“Inglethorpe is expecting me at 1, but I don’t have an appointment until 2.”
“Dude, it’s 1:50.”
“Shit!” I checked me pocket watch in my waistcoat, confirming TK’s information.
“Gotta run,” I said.
TK pouted and looked at me with disappointed eyes. As I got up, she stood up as well. She kissed me on the cheek.
“See you around, Malcolm.” She handed me a slip of paper. I unfolded it and saw that she wrote her number and the words CALL ME.