Lorraine stood at the entrance of City Bakery torn between leaving in a huff and eating some pastry, which beckoned to her from the bakery case. She was on a diet, as usual, but in situations like this, where she was so distraught, a little sugar and butter was called for. “How dare that man stand me up!” she fumed, glancing at the cheese danish.
The day was drizzly and cold and she shivered as she stood. She kept looking at the old man reading the paper, wondering if he had seen a younger, more attractive gentleman come into the restaurant earlier. Maybe John had come and gone because she was just a little bit late. Suki wanted to go out to use the potty just as she was leaving, so she had been delayed a tad. The man was engrossed in the paper, though, and didn’t pick up her vibe as she willed him to look up. She dumped her purse and her damp coat on a chair and approached the man.
“Excuse me, sir…” He looked up. The man had a wizened face with a scruffy beard and slightly bloodshot blue eyes behind spectacles held together with duct tape. “Yes?” he asked, disinterestedly.
“I hate to bother you, but I was supposed to meet someone here this afternoon,” Lorraine began. He was staring at her blankly. “I wonder if you have noticed a man come in here before I arrived. I was supposed to meet someone here at 2:00, but my dog needed to potty and she made me a wee bit late. I wonder if he was here early and left for an emergency.”
“No,” he responded. After a few seconds where he continued staring without expression at her, he added. “Are you Lorraine?”
“Um, yes I am,” she replied tentatively. “You aren’t John Kelly, are you?”
“Yes. Hello. Why don’t you buy yourself a cup of coffee and sit down?” he added coldly.
Lorraine went to the counter, shaken. This old geezer looked nothing like the Match photo, which must be fifty years old. And the way he looked at her! As if she was the one who was trying to pull something over on him! True, her profile picture was a bit dated, but she looked as good as ever, even if she had added a few pounds. Part of her wanted to get an eclair and scarf it down, but she was feeling fat and unattractive and was embarrassed to eat in front of him, even though he didn’t seem to even look at her. She ordered a black coffee, though she normally took lots of cream, paid for it with the change she salvaged from the bottom of her big purse, and brought it to the tiny table where John was still studying the paper. She sat down and cleared her throat, wishing she had never come. This was not fun.
John took his time folding up the Times, and then looked at her. “So tell me about yourself, Lorraine,” he intoned. She felt as if she were on the witness stand being cross-examined.
“You first,” she commanded. She already knew that he wasn’t The One, and didn’t care a whit if he liked her or not. He began a long, boring account of his life and career, justifying why he was a law professor in Eastern Tennessee rather than raking in the loot at a big firm or teaching at a school she might have heard of. Unimpressed, Lorraine glanced at her Movado watch and reminded John that they needed to leave for the movie theater down the street if they were going to be on time for the foreign film they were planning to see. She had heard enough about his unimpressive life.
They hurried up Biltmore Avenue towards the Fine Arts Theater, and Lorraine stepped aside so that John could buy the tickets. “One senior,” he told the clerk.
Lorraine didn’t know whether she was angry or embarrassed. One ticket? Of course this was the day she had forgotten her money, so she couldn’t even pretend to be cool. “Um, John,” she stammered. “I seem to have left my wallet at home…Would you mind?”
John paused as if he were having to think over his decision. “Oh,” he managed. “Two please,” he told the clerk, disgusted and avoiding Lorraine’s gaze.
They entered the lobby where John bought himself a small popcorn and a Coke, not offering to get anything for Lorraine, and they went inside and found seats. As the film started and John crunched and slurped noisily, Lorraine fumed.
While she felt fat, she felt small emotionally. This old geezer looked through her and didn’t have the courtesy to pay for her coffee or the movie. Admittedly, Lorraine had been out of the dating world for a very long time, but last time she dated someone, he picked up the tab. He had invited her out, and he was the man, after all. She wondered if the rules for dating had changed and where she could read up on the new etiquette. Or maybe John was just cheap.
When the film ended and they were gathering up their things to leave, John perked up. “I enjoyed that!” he announced. “Would you like to go somewhere and discuss it. We can have a snack: my treat.”
Lorraine realized she had been worrying about the new rules for dating throughout the movie, and hadn’t been paying much attention to this Spanish language film. She had missed quite a few subtitles and then gave up. She couldn’t think of a thing she could say about the film, and would look like an idiot.
“Sorry, John. Wish I could, but my dog has been alone for several hours now, and I know she misses me terribly. Maybe some other time.” As if!! She had no interest in ever seeing this dull charlatan again.
John was warming up to her. “I enjoyed meeting you, and would love to see you again.” (He probably couldn’t pick her out of a line-up!) “Next time maybe you could drive up to Johnson City so I don’t have to come all this way.”
“That would be lovely,” Lorraine cooed. There was no way in hell she would drive two blocks to see this fellow again, but her mama had taught her good manners. She would rather be alone than with someone who made her feel this way about herself.