A bit of fiction on a topic too real.
I’m quite comfortable with small talk. I view it as a necessary cure for the unfamiliarity between strangers in much the same way one lowers oneself slowly into a liberally heated hot tub. It wouldn’t feel good to just dive right in.
I hang no hopes on physical appearance, the packaging of a person. In my years I’ve come to know that external factors can be misleading, if not an upsell. So when the date I’d arranged via an online dating app that serves as a joke among partnered people and a last attempt at hope for those of us living single, I could very easily dismiss his unattractive, entirely different from advertised visual offering. Happens all the time.
It could have been that he was bad at math, 5'6 and 6'1 are so easy to mix up. In the place of the thick, reflective blonde hair in all of his photos clung the last whisps of feathery follicular remembrance. I would have been happy to suggest a few flattering styles of hat.
It’s not that his clothes didn’t fit, it was just perhaps he’d purchased them in the pajama section and mistook them for daywear. It can happen to anybody. In order to shake my hand he had to reach into his sleeve to locate an appendage drowning in fabric.
He had listed in his profile that he worked in finance. When I inquired if he worked downtown, as I do, he replied that no, that he worked in a currency exchange booth in Times Square. All the wonderful travel tales he must hear.
We discussed the normal conversation buckets, the weather, the inevitability of public transit woes, and then back to the weather again. I suspect his memory was befuddled by his order of vodka neat.
We touched on plans for the future, me to Paris following my next startup exit and him to father no fewer than four children with a wife very skilled in the mothering arts, and quick with his home-cooked dinner and cocktail, nightly. He didn’t believe a woman should work outside of the home, naturally, as homemaking is no less a job than any other, and didn’t I value women with professional goals different from my own?
I remarked on popular entertainment, the latest buzzworthy miniseries and a young standup comedian I recommended he check out. He only watches the news, I discovered, exclusively Fox. He’d tuned the television to that channel and then disposed of the remote. I suggested that might be a limited number of options in this modern age. He suggested I had too many opinions for a woman.
When I retired to the ladies room, he asked if I was going to powder my nose. I told him I had to urinate while answering a work email, and walked to the back of the charming Italian cafe I’d selected, given the rain.
When I returned, he’d ordered my next drink for me, a Diet Coke, as a woman should have no more than one alcoholic beverage per evening, and had already closed our separate tabs for me. Very thoughtful, as the bartender was busy and would have been difficult to flag down. As we finished our beverages, I told him I should really head home, at which point he placed his hand upon my upper thigh and said he didn’t think that was necessary.
I kindly asked him to remove his quite paw-like, hair-covered hand from my person, picked up my bag and umbrella, and headed for the door, feeling the matter settled. I felt an animalesque grip on my left arm.
“Don’t you think you’re a little old to be walking away from a man?”
And there he was. The one. The one that did it.
It wasn’t so much that he was the one who didn’t tell me he had two children until I met them, or the one who wasn’t as divorced as he said he was. He wasn’t the unwashed tiny man with yellow fingernails who yelled at me for seeing value in popular music or the one who shook with nerves the entire time we conversed. He certainly wasn’t the one who looked at every woman other than me during our date or the one who spent half the time on the phone outside. Thank goodness he wasn’t the one who really just booked the date because he wanted an “in” with the company I work for or the one who still texted me every Saturday night at 11:45pm. He didn’t leave while I was in the bathroom before he’d paid his bill, and he didn’t sleep on a mattress on the floor at 35. He didn’t wear flip flops and a bathing suit and bedhead to meet me and he didn’t stare down at the bar without asking a single question the entire time. He didn’t have any erectile disfunction that I know of and to my knowledge he didn’t view women as prudes for not sleeping with him, and simultaneously whores if they did. He didn’t use his physical prowess to force unwanted kisses upon me and he didn’t whisper all his sentences into my ear with hot, foul breath.
But he did follow them all, and countless more, every last one of them, over years, and years, and years, and years of dating. I guess every woman has her breaking point and he tapped on the glass just right. So he was the one. The one that did it.
The wine bottle was the first thing I saw and it didn’t seem particularly expensive, I supposed the cafe was light on cash. I cracked it over his fleshy head right before I noticed a fork nearby that was the perfect instrument to jam in his ear. I can’t remember whether or not it was clean. A woman was smoking near an open window and I borrowed her cigarette to singe his neck. I asked her friend if she wouldn’t mind texting me this video afterward. She did, and we’re still quite good friends. While his pants were too saggy to accurately locate his groin area I thrust my pointed toe shoe in the general target direction and achieved quite the intended response. A coatrack will wield oddly similarly to a baseball bat if you try hard enough and have adequate ceiling height, which I did. And after I’d extracted the screams and bright red blood I felt I was owed, I knelt down to where his remaining good eye could see me and whispered:
“I’m not old. You’re not a man. And I’ve had quite enough of this shit.”
I made vegetable lasagne for dinner that evening. It was lovely.