Out of the rain finally, in a dreary, droopy-eyelid inducing dive bar, I sat with my legs crossed tightly at the ankles and wondered if the two near fender benders I almost got into driving here (neither being my fault) were a good indication that this might all be a bad idea. Fortunately, I’d dug an umbrella out of the back of my car and managed to luck out with a fairly decent dry martini from a bartender whose garbled chattiness after having a tooth pulled didn’t do much to improve the ambiance.
Tap. Tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap tap tap. My foot twitched anxiously against the side of my somewhat rickety barstool.
From behind — “Um hi, are you Penny?”
“I am,” I replied, casting an over the shoulder sidelong glance. He was very tall, broad shouldered with chiseled features disguised slightly by a month’s facial hair growth; long dread locks tied back, a distinct widows peak, and shadowy grayish-green eyes–the kind that look blue until you’re close enough to touch noses. I smiled, stood on the top rung of the unstable stool and hugged him saying, “You must be Carter.”
He sat on the stool beside mine and the bartender delivered him a cheap beer.
“How was your Friday?” I asked.
Aware that he takes photographs for a clothing company I probed further, “Busy day in the office? What’s the next big thing for you guys? Light up bathing suits?”
He came back with “Actually I think we’re taking on a more serious venture…panties, both crotchless and edible, along with strap ons, double ended jelly dongs, and high tech blow up dolls.”
“Ha ha ha ha!!” I laughed out heartily. He’d taken me by surprise with his quietly delivered wit and charm. I knew there was a good reason I’d chosen to meet a total stranger for drinks. We’d also predetermined that setting a 20 minute meet time rule would eliminate the potential for awkward silences and social discomfort if one of us was not hitting it off.
We flew through a tornado triggering conversation about everything from Kevin Bacon and the 6 degrees of separation to NPR’s Radiolab; food aversions against milk and maple syrup to drugs, sex, and music that inspires us to dance; books worth reading, movie stars worth watching, how to revolutionize camping sleepwear, irrational fear of things like bunk beds and having one’s teeth knocked out, past relationships, bearing children, cyber stalking, and Hannibal’s law…before we realized over an hour had gone by and we were clearly both still interested.
At this point, our only distraction came from Tray Papillon, my best friend who had planned to meet me downtown after the date, walking in and breaking the synapse-like spark of a connection he and I had been amplifying. As I snapped out of what seemed very similar to a hypnotic state, having been rapt with intrigue in my gentleman caller, one of my greatest formative year fears was realized…”What if he’s not as into me as I am him?! What if he’s already got his eyes set on someone else?”
In hindsight, I wonder if I’d said this thought aloud, would things have happened differently. Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all? Well it sure as shit isn’t life. If life were fair every rosy cheeked child would have a tricycle and a double scoop ice cream cone, every new born would have two perfectly suited loving, committed parents, Subway “sandwich artists” would smile more and attempt to evenly distribute the toppings on my sub, money would actually buy happiness and everyone would be rich. What had had the potential to be a momentous evening on the avenue toward hand holding and frolicking through a field of golden wheat grass promptly ended with the following words from Tray to Carter:
“Hey! Nice to meet you! Are you single?”
“Well, do you enjoy women?”
How had I missed this infinitesimal yet mind blowing detail? The irony that papillon means butterfly in French, and this jaw-droppingly handsome man had burgeoned butterflies for me so quickly to all come crashing down in an instant with the help of an observant outsider was nearly too much for me. I paid my tab, thanked my company, and moseyed on down the cobbled street.
If only life, the continuous slingshot journey around the sun, came with a travel adviser. And caution signs for the hopeful, reminding us that hope is hardly an action, and disappointments are a lot more tangible than happily every afters.