February 4, 2013

Take Yourself On A Date

You get off work. Shower. Shave your legs. Brush your hair the way you think he’ll like it. You put on your nice clothes, just washed this morning because you knew it was tonight, and you even ironed them but really didn't need to but might as well, you think, and you look in the mirror, grab your keys and cash and leave your house, excited, anxious, but more excited than anything. You drive downtown and find the restaurant, park your car and walk inside. It's very nice and very hip and you saw some good reviews about their American/Vietnamese (or was it Thai?) fusion and how they only use raw vegetables and fruits and never cook a single thing. And you don’t really care as long as it’s good, rather, the date, and the restaurant is half full and you’re quickly seated at your table, the one you reserved ten days ago.

The waiter comes and you order a vodka tonic. You scan the room as one does when sitting alone and notice most people are on dates, or at least that's what it seems, talking about their lives, laughing at jokes, enjoying each other, together.

Your cocktail arrives. You sip your cocktail, page through the menu and you're surprised how beautiful raw vegetables can be. You think you might just order and not eat but stare at the plate and admire the creation, the harmony and colors connecting and contrasting andit's getting late, you think, and you look at your watch and try not to worry. He’s only a half-hour late. No big deal. You take out your phone and think to call but remember what attracted you to him in the first place: a self-imposed neo-Quaker lifestyle (his words, not yours) which means: no computers, cars and, above all, mobile phones. You put away your phone, order another drink, look at the menu and all the pretty vegetables. You decide to order some food, an appetizer maybe, and you call the waiter and tell him you want the shaved yucca and kale (or is it chard?) and the waiter nods and walks away.

You wait, drinking your drink. You finish the vodka tonic and ask for another. Or you try to but the waiter is gone and you look around for him and notice all the others, the couples, eating and smiling, having fun. And for a moment this makes you happy, seeing them around you, until you look at your table, the menu and empty chair, and the sadness you feel is a familiar one.

The waiter is back, appetizer in hand: three thin strips of yucca on a bed of greens. It doesn't look like the appetizer you ordered. You look at the menu, back at the appetizer, and back at the menu again. The waiter sets down the plate and you look at it and think how yucca is actually quite plain, bland, ugly. A strong feeling of hate for yucca overwhelms you, especially for the yucca in front of you. You look at the yucca, for a long time, quietly trying not to throw the plate when you feel the tear running down your cheek. He’s late, really late, probably not coming, you think.

You take a deep breathe and decide to do the same thing the last time this happened: get completely wasted. You push the yucca aside and look for the waiter. He's walking by and you tell him you want a vodka tonic—no, make it a whiskey, double, you say, and you look at the ugly plate of yucca and greens and think you might need some food, some real food, and you ask for bread too. The waiter shakes his head. No bread? Alright, fine, just bring me the whiskey, alright?

This shit happens, you think, to everyone, anyone really looking for someone to share their life with, and it’s not that bad treating yourself to a date, a date with yourself and it doesn't matter that he's not coming because you don’t really need him anyways. Who needs people? you think. Not me.

Your whiskey arrives. You pick up the glass and look at the ice and beads of water on the glass. You smile and hold the glass high and say: To me. To me! and you say it again but now it's more like a call, a yell, a declaration!, and the couples start to look over at you. You stand, holding your glass high in the air, turn to everyone watching, smile and say: To me! turning and smiling at all the couples in the room. You see a person lift their glass, and another, and another, and you laugh as the couples start lifting their glasses, some wine glasses and cocktail glasses, some water glasses and tumblers. Some begin to chant: To you! To you! To you! like scattered solutes around the dining room. You look at all the couples in the room, their glasses held high, and you smile before you put your glass to your lips, tilt your head back and swallow the whiskey thinking that it goes down so smooth, so easy, without any effort at all.

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