“I think this is a test at best and a trap at worst” I said in a winking tone to my new verbal-sparring partner. She shot me a look that seemed to communicate a clear message that my conversational jab would not give me any breathing room and my only practical option was to answer the question that her date could not: what is the difference between romantic and foolish.
I attempted the “let-the-silence-work-for-you approach” but she knew it too. Jessica simply sat there holding my gaze until I acquiesced and answered the question. She did re-cross her legs at one point during the ten second staring contest. It was either an attempt to display her resolve by demonstrating her capacity to multitask while keeping eye contact or it was an effort to weaken my resolve by giving me a better look at her platform mary-janes, Either way, it worked.
“The differential between foolish and romantic exists primarily in the perspective of the object of the effort” I began. “To be sure, there are other distinguishing characteristics, however, the receiver holds the primary lever of distinction. Foolish is a weekend in Paris when your lover doesn’t have a passport or that much interest; romantic is a weekend in Paris when it’s the grand gesture that indicates depth of interest. Foolish is suggesting a walk in the rain when all your date wants to do is go home; romantic is a walk in the rain when neither cares much about the falling drops because all you want to do is make the night last just that much longer. Foolish is the mix-tape for the woman who is unmoved by music, romantic is the mix-tape of songs with lyrics that felt like saccharine before but now seem like honey since you met her.”
It was now my turn to win the game of silent satisfaction. Jessica took a deep pull on her glass of pinot noir before responding “Do you always have that smug little smile when you think you’ve done well?”
That made me laugh at the familiarity of the notion. “An ex-girlfriend/current good friend refers to that as my ‘checkmate grin’… she tells me that I’ve had it for quite a while. I’d get rid of it if I could but I’d also be willing to bet that the differential between its benefits and liabilities is slim like skinny-jeans on a hipster.”
“There you go again – using a whole mouthful of words…”
“By the By, madame, I do think the lady doth protest too much” I interrupted. “Any woman who makes reference to the convoluted language of Cornell West, and differentiates between the licking and sucking of farm animal gonads, all in the same conversation… well, clearly that lady must like words, and lingering lyrical phrases.”
This begat another loaded pause in our conversation. There was nothing awkward about this silent beat or any of its precedents; it was just filled with more non-verbal communication than any two strangers have a right to expect.
Jessica gave me another asymetrical smile – the right corner of her mouth seems to be a bit higher than the left when she seems pleased – and asked “So I think I know what your ex means with the term ‘Checkmate Grin’ but explain it to me anyway.”
I told her the story… amidst many interlocutory tangents and laughter.
“So you know I have to ask” Jessica said once I finally reached the end of that tale.
“Jessica, are you fishing for a compliment?” I jokingly chided.
“Not in the least… I know these shoes are hot; I’m just checking your skills” She fired back.
“Well played… and I concur – those Mary Jane’s are pretty-damned hot. OK, the obvious stuff: one inch platforms to go with the four inch heel makes them ‘Friday’ shoes that are a touch too sexy for other days of the week… and I’m sure that at least one of your colleagues took extra notice in a way that made you smile a little…”
“Quit stalling” Jessica deadpanned.
“Fine” I replied, “my guess is that, like a good friend of mine likes to say, they’re ‘wearable art’ and they worth every one the massive stack of pennies required to get ’em… and I’ll guess that they’re Dolce Gabana.”
Another loaded pause, another shared smile, “Was I right?” I asked.
“No” Jessica replied with the same bent smile, “but you’re not far off.”
“So we’ve been sitting here for about ninety minutes and somehow I’ve let you get away with asking at least three questions for every one you answer…”
“And how do you propose to resolve that, Refugee?”
“In a moment, I’m going to excuse myself and go to the washcloset” I said while pulling a pen from my right breast pocket and a napkin from the bar. “While I’m gone you can answer three questions for me” I said while cupping my right hand over the napkin to avoid her peaking.
“Make ’em good” was Jessica’s only reply.
I thought for another moment and then slid the napkin and pen her way. It read:
1 – why?
2 – when?
3 – how?
A few minutes later I was back at the bar. The napkin was turned face down. I flipped it over after a quick scan of Jessica’s face. I read it twice… just to be sure.
1 – why? Good conversations are like a dance. You may take too many steps but you Tango really well.
2 – when? If you haven’t figured that out by now, you don’t read women as well as you think
3 – how? A little bit of tango, and a little bit of waltz… and I’m not talking conversation
“Jimmy, I’ll take both of our checks now, please.”