The sunset melds with the dimly lit ambiance of the cafe. Every so often, there’s a sound of a cup being picked up, then put back down. Every so often, a fork taps a plate.
He looks around, his eyes never staying on one point. There is no room for prolonged eye contact. But the only one suspicious of him is himself. He doesn’t want to stand out, but he doesn’t want to look out of place. He wants to check a mirror, but a whole crowd’s worth of eyes could begin judging him at any moment. There is no room for chance. The only companion he has is subtlety.
He looks down at the table, staring into the reflection of the spoon. A little more distorted than usual, but still dashing. His shoulders fall, and a breath is relieved.
He makes another pass at the door. Nothing new, but the creeping shadow of a tall building warns of impending doom. Nighttime always calms him, but today, he was tapping his foot. It’s not weird to be alone, he reassures himself. A hardened veteran of loneliness. An impenetrable barrier. Nothing’s going to pierce through that before the first date.
He orders ice cream. A mistake, he realizes, as the waitress sets the plate of vanilla ice cream down. He’s starting without her. What does that mean in a relationship? He tried tracing back to all those forum posts, and all those tips from those pickup artists.
But it had already been fifteen minutes. More like ten, but he likes playing the victim. And right now, the victim was feeling a little more justified in his decision. If she sees the melted ice cream, it’ll make her feel bad. It’ll make her see the destruction she’d caused. ‘Fifteen minutes,’ he’d say. If she sees that he’d already finished the ice cream, it’ll represent the fleeting nature of his love.
In both cases, she’d be the one playing as the “bad guy.” Does he want to start doing that, though? Does he –
A chilly draft. The door jingled, and a red-faced woman came bursting through. Not a moment’s hesitation for his wave. Not a moment’s hesitation to accept her. There goes the so-called “victim.”
“Sorry,” She began, through wheezing breaths. “I couldn’t – I – I’m sorry.” An apology, right from the start. Two apologies, actually! No excuse, no bargain – simple, and to the point.
She looked longingly at him, begging through her eyes.
“Y-yeah, that’s alright.” He couldn’t fight back. “Just, uh, sit down.” He waved over the waitress, and let his date have the menu.
She doesn’t take it. She pushes it back. “I’ll have what he’s having.”
He widens his eyes. There’s nothing that prepared him for this. He doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know what more he could possibly do. He’s infatuated already – he’s already imagined happy futures together. He’s already imagined a beach house proposal, and her hair billowing in the wind.
He remembers that she’s real. She’s not some imaginary ideal. She’s real.
Oh shit, he’s rhyming in his own thoughts.
She’s sitting in front of him. This is his one chance. But he’s got nothing to say. He’s got nothing on his mind; nothing for his stupid lips to move for. He’s got nothing except light breathing. No small chat. No banter. No light jab. No interests that he knows of. He’s only got himself. Right. Himself. An introduction.
“You’re beautiful.” Wow. What an introduction!