“Girl, you gotta get back on your horse and mount someone,” my friend, Andrea, said as we sipped our Mai Tais in a tiki bar that was equidistant between our respective apartments in Brooklyn.
I gasped and said, “Andrea! That’s a bit crude. I’m not looking for sex, I—”
“Not looking just for sex,” she corrected.
I blushed a little, but I had to admit it was true. “I am looking for a partner, someone to love and do fun things with. Someone to talk to, you know?”
“Cat, you got that with me, don’t you?” Andrea smiled mischievously.
She laughed and said, “I’m just kidding, relax. So, let’s see this guy.”
I opened the dating app on my phone, found the picture of Vincent’s profile, and held out the phone so that Andrea could see.
“Oh, very nice, he looks chic in that suit, broad shoulders, clean-cut hair; I’d date him. But maybe he’s a little short for you?” Andrea said.
I was tall for a girl, not volleyball player tall but above average, and I didn’t want to date a guy shorter than me. Maybe that’s old-fashioned, but you are attracted to what you are attracted to.
“Says he is 5’8”, it will be fine,” I said with a shrug.
“Look, another picture of a fancy suit,” Andrea said after she took my phone from my hand and scrolled through the guy’s profile. “He says he is a volunteer firefighter, a business mogul but doesn’t say where. Let’s see, he also likes music and art; geez, he lists a ton of stuff, doesn’t he? Oh, wait. Now I get it. He likes all these things, sure, but most importantly to you—”
“He does yoga!” I shouted, and some of the other patrons at the bar turned to me.
“You and your obsession with yoga,” Andrea said, shaking her head.
“Hey, at least this guy doesn’t have dick pics on his profile; that’s a good start,” Andrea said. She read through some more of Vincent’s profile and then said, “He seems nice; good luck. I just can’t help feeling that guys are just saying what they think girls want to hear. You know?”
Andrea handed me the phone, and we finished our after-work drink. We said our goodbyes with a hug and more banter then went our separate ways on the subway. I returned to my apartment, took a shower, and made myself look cute for the date.
Vincent and I texted over the past week, and his messages were kind, savvy, and witty. He didn’t start with, ‘Girl, I wanna stick it in you,’ or ‘Bump uglies?’ so he was already doing better than 90% of the messages I received from dating apps. Vincent wanted to take me to The Rose Bar in Gramercy Hotel. I’d never been there mainly because it was so expensive. Still, it was popular, and you might even run into a celebrity there is what the website had said. Vincent told me he went to the Rose Bar frequently and could introduce me to some of the people that run the place if they were there tonight. I wasn’t into a man with money just for the sake of wealth—I did not want to be considered a gold-digger—but I had to admit it felt good to get dolled up and taken to a fancy place by a handsome man. I left my apartment with a smile on my face, and my heart skipped in anticipation of what the night might bring.
When I arrived, the Gramercy Hotel lobby was packed with people waiting in line to get into the Rose Bar. I looked around for someone resembling Vincent’s picture. I was right on time, for once, and texted him to let him know I was here. Then, just as I started to feel that terror of being stood up for a date and immediately swallowing that terror by telling myself it doesn’t matter, Vincent appeared. I waved at him, and he walked toward me.
Vincent seemed older in person than in his pictures, or perhaps his hair was greyer. Maybe he dyed it? His salt and pepper stubble also differed from the clean-cut images portrayed on the dating app. He was shorter than me. Not by a lot, but noticeable. He was wearing a wrinkled blue-collar shirt, and jeans, not the fancy suits he had on in the picture or the outfits most in the lobby were wearing. He greeted me with an excited, “Cat? You look gorgeous!”
“Oh, thanks, hi,” I replied, trying to hide my nervousness. The stimuli of the fancy hotel lobby, the hustle-and-bustle of folks trying to get into the bar, and the uncertainties about my date overwhelmed me. I thought if we should start talking here in the lobby, or should we navigate to the bar, or should I just run screaming out of this place? Finally, I told myself to get it together and smiled.
Vincent smiled back.
“It’s crowded,” I said. “Do you think we can get in tonight?”
“Oh, for sure!” Vincent said and beamed.
His teeth seemed less bright, and his face had more blemishes than in his pictures. So what? People photoshop images; I had also thought of doing it on my dating profile too.
“Just let me go talk to the doorman,” he said. “I’m sure we can skip the line.”
“Oh, wow, okay,” I said. “That’s awesome.”
“Sure, just give me a moment to tell them I’m here,” Vincent said and left for the bar’s entrance before I lost him in the crowd. I briefly thought about how I wouldn’t have lost him if he was taller but immediately put those thoughts out of my mind. I was just trying to sabotage my own good time with doubts. Give the guy a shot, Cat, I told myself.
After a few minutes, Vincent appeared from the crowd. He said, “So, I chatted with Philip, the doorman, and it doesn’t seem like the owners are here tonight, and no one I know is working this evening.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “That’s okay, we can—”
I was about to say we could wait in line and talk, but Vincent interrupted.
“Yeah, I know. I even gave Philip a present last week when he had his birthday party here. So now he pretends he doesn’t know me? People these days. Listen, there is another bar around the corner. It’s not as fancy, but we can still have a drink and get to know each other there.”
“Um,” I hesitated and felt like he got the doorman’s name mixed up with someone else, but before I could think of it more, he smiled and said,
“I mean, it would be a shame to end the date here before we have had a chance to talk.”
“No. Of course, let’s go,” I said. Vincent’s responding smile made me feel better, and he reached out to take my hand. I gave it, and we walked out of the fancy lobby. I pushed my disappointment away, although I was looking forward to seeing the place from the pictures online. Oh well, there was always the next time. Vincent hadn’t seemed like a raving lunatic, and this was my first date in a while, so I wanted to go with the flow. During the walk, he talked about the people he knew at the Rose bar and why they were probably not there tonight, but he always had his eyes facing the ground.
“Yeah, I must have forgotten about an invite to an awesome party tonight if they aren’t at Rose bar. If I had remembered, maybe we would be rubbing shoulders with some celebrities on the roof of some high-rise.”
“True, but then we’d be too distracted to get to know each other,” I said with a smile and squeezed his hand.
Let no man or woman say I can’t flirt.
But he didn’t seem to notice. Because he didn’t notice, I thought about who these people he called “they” even were.
After walking a couple blocks, Vincent led me to a bar called Burp Castle. He went inside it so suddenly that I didn’t have time to mention that I don’t drink beer. Vincent pushed back a stool from the bar for me to sit, took a seat himself, and said, “Hey, Larry, I’ll have the usual.”
“Uh, I think you’ll have to remind me of your drink again, fella,” Larry said from behind the bar.
I saw Vincent look at the beer menu posted above the bar on a chalkboard, but when he saw me looking at him, he quickly said, “Brooklyn Lager, please. What would you like, Cat?”
“Well, I’m not a beer drinker, so water would be fine.”
The bartender got our drinks, and I said, “So you know the people here too?”
“Oh yeah,” Vincent said, “these are my old stomping grounds.”
“Do you know the area because of being a volunteer firefighter or something?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s it, good guess. I was stationed out here for my volunteer service. Do you like a man in uniform?” he said with a smirk.
“I like that you have something you are passionate about that helps a community,” I replied. “It’s brave. Do you have any good stories?”
“I was doing volunteer work when 9/11 happened, so yeah, I got stories. But, they are just hard to talk about, you know?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to bring down the conversation.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I don’t do much of that work now.”
“Then how do you know Larry and the area from firefighting?” I asked.
Larry’s eyebrow raised as he overheard us, and someone in the back of the bar burped loudly and then laughed.
“Well, it’s not just the firefighting; I do business around here.”
“It seemed from your profile you are a businessman of some sort. What company do you work with?”
“I’m a stockbroker for J.P. Morgan, you know it?”
I was surprised. I was a financial reporter at one point in my career. He was probably very wealthy, but why the poorly dressed attire and why choose me for a date? I mean, I’m pretty and amazing in my own way but didn’t consider myself supermodel status. After reporting on these types of men, I knew their type. Maybe he was looking for someone more down to Earth? If that was the case, I wouldn’t want to make him think I was too impressed with such a job.
“Yes, I know it,” I replied simply, but Vincent seemed perplexed. He had anticipated me being more impressed with him. “So, do you manage portfolios for other businesses or people in the area?”
“I manage accounts for people all over this city. All over the world, in fact.”
Vincent talked about his business life for several minutes but never really said any specifics. When I asked anything outside his narrative, he would say, “That’s client confidentiality. I can’t tell you.” Then he would change the subject to another business story.
Eventually, when he was almost finished with his beer, he said, “So what do you like to do?”
“There are many things I’m interested in, too many I sometimes feel, like you, but I guess I have to say that doing yoga is my favorite activity. It centers me. Makes me feel at peace and that the world isn’t as bad as it seems sometimes. What does it do for you?”
“What does what do for me?” he asked.
“Yoga,” I replied. “You mentioned you do yoga on your profile.”
“Oh right, yeah, I guess it’s been a while. I was a yoga instructor for a time.”
“Yeah, I had a practice in the city a few years ago.”
“What studio? I’ve been in the city for years practicing yoga. Maybe we met in a studio long ago and didn’t even know it.”
“Oh, right, that’s not likely. I had my own practice, private instruction for some celebrities and other people that didn’t want the spotlight of public appearances.”
At his statement, the house of cards fell. After that, everything about the date was like Vincent was stacking one card against another to make an A-frame, then another next to it, then a card on top to make a roof, and so on and so forth until a house of cards was built out of his statements and actions. I was anxious, not because of the prospects of a first date, but because this might quickly turn into the worst date of all time.
This guy, Vincent, might seem friendly, but he’s probably a pathological liar. No amount of ‘go with the flow’ would get that out of my mind unless I heard proof that what he said wasn’t total bullshit.
“What’s your favorite pose?” I asked.
He was taking a sip of beer when I asked, and he hesitated a moment before downing the rest of the pint. He belched afterward, then said, “When in Rome!” and laughed.
I didn’t laugh back.
He said, “Uh, sorry, I need to use the restroom. Be back in a minute.”
“Sure,” I replied with a nod. I could picture Vincent in the bathroom hurriedly looking up yoga poses on his phone to provide an excellent reply to my question. I thought about how all men are trash and that maybe being alone for the rest of my life wasn’t such a bad thing. I experienced about a thousand thoughts and questions in the blender that is my mind then they all narrowed to a single action.
“Excuse, bartender?” I asked. The burly, bearded man looked at me, and I said, “Your name isn’t Larry, is it?”
The bartender shook his head and said, “It’s David. Never seen that creep before in my life, suggah.”
I stood up and was out of the bar on the subway before Vincent could even say Downward-facing Dog, which, I thought as I chuckled to myself, that’s what he was.