I was on a first date.
The man talked and talked and talked, seemingly free-associating about people he hated, bands he hated, scams and conspiracies that he, and only he, had the 411 on … and hated. I sat there nursing my frozen screwdriver and observing him, having a kind of out-of-body experience. If I’d known he was going to plop down and embark on a rant with no end, maybe I could’ve tried to head the situation off at the pass. But no. Instead, the mouth belonging to the man continued to move. Should I … do something?
I glanced at my date, who, I should add, was not the talking man. There were two guys sitting at our patio table, and I was out with only one of them. The other, we’d run into; we both knew him a bit through work, and he either didn’t know or didn’t care that he was crashing our evening.
My date, I realized, had gone completely silent, and was scowling at the other man contemptuously. Later, I would come to understand how entirely uncharacteristic such behavior was from him. As for me, it made me too uncomfortable to ignore the interloper entirely, so I continued to nod tepidly as I began to fantasize about disintegrating right in my chair, until I was nothing but a skeleton clutching a glassful of sand.
The evening hadn’t been a resounding success, as it was. Trying to be proactive, my date had done a little online sleuthing and learned about a Vietnamese place I liked. But what he’d failed to realize is that a great restaurant doesn’t always make a great romantic spot. Our dinner destination was too brightly lit; worse, there was no bar. We’d gotten to one as soon as we could after gulping down our tofu, only to be presented with the crasher—a greater obstacle than the most fluorescent of fluorescent lighting.
But then, it happened. Maybe the man figured out he wasn’t welcome; maybe he got to the end of his list of hate-able things. Either way, he finally stood up and ambled off. Another round of screwdrivers was procured; much eye-rolling and giggling about our common enemy commenced. He and I were on the same team now, and we were having fun.
Did I guess, on that long-ago night, that I’d arrived at the end of my decade-spanning dating career? That I was going to marry the contemptuous scowler and picker of wrong restaurants sitting across the table from me? Hell, no. But we’d started to fall for each other. It was all already underway.