I watched PLA walk by the picture window of the of the hotel bar and reflexively ordered her a glass of champagne. Prior to that morning it had been nearly two years since we had seen each other; yet the indelible memory of her sipping champagne above and before all else was as fresh in my mind as what I ate for lunch. Her glass arrived just as she finished leaning forward on her very high heels to kiss me on the cheek. “I’m surprised you remembered” she cooed. “Apparently there are some things I am not intended to forget” I replied in yet another reflex – flirting back. I made a mental note to stop doing that.
I had specifically selected a table with two chairs rather than one of the couches thinking that it would be more likely to sustain a plutonic air than if we were next to each other. Facing each other we exchanged summaries of the last two years of our lives. I finally left the restaurant business and became a refugee, am reclaiming my life in increasingly larger chunks, and told my recent experiences in on-line dating. PLA’s last two years were about losing more of her life in her effort to make partner, a couple of horrific dating episodes, and the closet full of shoes acquired through retail therapy which drew my attention to the shoes she was wearing.
“You bought those today” I declared rather flatly. A mix of consternation, embarrassment, and pride was tattooed across her brow. Before she could say anything, I told her that it was good running into her this morning and that she looked just as fantastic on the subway as she did now. It was a presumptive statement and had a minor component of hubris too. Yet, somehow it encapsulated and closed a conversation we didn’t need to have and left a sheepishly sexy smile on her face.
We began discussing our mutual loves – politics, food, wine, and Shakespeare. About the time we were finishing our second round of drinks a heated discussion about the recent STC production of Hamlet erupted. I contended that Hamlet was played with too much whimsy for my taste. She countered “if I am going to kick your ass up and down the table on this point we need to get some food.” “This is not a date, this is not a date, this is not a date” my better angels shouted in my head. I can only surmise that it was my flirtatious demon that made the call to Capitol Grille, paid the check, and had the hotel Town Car waiting out front all in record time.
As we left the bar, her arm slipped around mine – the better angel didn’t protest but he wasn’t happy. Once the car was away, I applied the romantic brakes. “This is just dinner, right” I queried. It was sloppy; I regretted the words as soon as they escaped my lips. There is only so much hubris that can be playfully dismissed. Her voice turned a bit acidic as she coldly declared “you made your emotional position clear, perhaps we can return to having a good time, now?” The remainder of the ride had clipped conversational attempts to return to the joviality that was the early part of our evening.
Just out of the car and before the door to the restaurant – the scene of our first and only real date – “I’m sorry” I said softly. “I am trying to navigate through a difficult time. And seeing you today reminds me of the ease with which we converse, the flirtatious banter and everything else that attracted me to you. I just don’t want to misrepresent my capacity at the moment. I need to be candid; I need to be synchronized in our expectations; and most importantly I need to be careful with myself and the people around me.”
She moved closer to me and gave me a kiss that lasted too long to be friendly but not long enough to be seductive. “You’re cute when you’re confused, let’s eat.”