He watched her study the cocktail menu. The place was very dark. He took his phone from his pocket and set the flashlight. He held it above the menu for her. She looked up from her examination and smiled as she waved him away. “I can see okay.” She held the menu closer to the lit votive and looked at him as if to say, “See? I got this.”
She returned to her selection process. He returned to watching her. She looked down at the list, and her averted lashes cast a shadow on her smooth cheek. He appreciated the contrast of the thick black eyelashes against her creamy skin. He liked the corkscrew tendrils of her curls that fell over her shoulder. Her chin and her nose were a little sharper than what he thought of as his “type,” but she was objectively pretty.
She flung her head back up and looked at the drink he had in front of him. “I can’t decide. I’m thinking either this Cicada Song or the Whatever Doesn’t Kill You. What are you drinking?”
Ugh, he thought. Here we go. He purposely got there early so he could order before she arrived. He wanted to avoid this part of the conversation. He didn’t drink, but having drinks is what people do. So he invited her for a drink.
He was soft-spoken but it was clear that he grew up in a New York borough. “It’s a club soda.” He waited for it.
“I don’t drink. I never have. It’s not my thing. But you go ahead. We can get some snacks.”
She started to feel very awkward. “Well,” she dragged the word out as she tried to pull her thoughts together, “Well that’s cool that you don’t, but why did you invite me to this bar if you don’t drink?” Drinking alone was not what she had in mind for a first date.
“Well this place was top of the cocktail scene on Yelp and it’s a cool place, don’t you think?” Would she go for his diversion? He looked into his cooler glass as stirred the ice and poked at his lime with the cocktail straw.
“We don’t have to stay here if it’s not your thing,” she offered. “There’s a new coffee joint down the block–they have this special single origin organic & fair trade coffee that they roast on site. Why don’t we go there, and we can talk?”
“Sure, we can do that.” He left a bill on the bar. She pulled her tote over her shoulder, and they walked out into the early evening. She stood still for a minute as her eyes adjusted to the brightness.
She was much shorter than him. Online he didn’t realize she was so small. She skipped a little to keep up with his stride. She was a little sorry that she wouldn’t try that pink drink with the mezcal and egg white. She decided that she’d come back with her roommates sometime to try it.
The sidewalk was full of people making their way to and from restaurants and happy hours and to the theatre. He lost her for a minute as a posse of teenagers stepped between them. He stopped and looked around. He was supposed to keep track of her. Meanwhile she was opening the door to the coffee shop. She looked up and wondered what happened to him. He followed her in a long minute later.
She drew in a breath of the eau du cafe. It smelled amazing. None of that burnt coffee smell, just the earthy sweetness of coffee. There were just two people in front of them.
“What are you going to get?” He had his hand on his wallet. He had asked her out.
She motioned to the cashier, “You go first.”
“Oh, me?” He took a step back. “I’m not getting anything. I don’t drink coffee.”
She stopped herself from asking the snarky question that was forming in her head. Instead she just repeated him, “You don’t drink coffee?” Her phone rang. It was her best friend. She was so glad that they took care of each other. “Sorry, I need to get this.”
Her roommate asked her how it was going. She answered forcefully, “Oh no! I’ll be right there!” She looked up at her non-imbibing companion and drew her most concerned face. “I’m so sorry, but there’s trouble with our plumbing and I need to go home. Text me?” She stepped out to the curb, threw up her right hand and hopped into a cab.
He was confused. He stood in the doorway of the coffee shop until somebody pushed their way past him. He should have hailed the cab for her. She was gone. He walked towards the garage and realized that her eyelashes were so long and thick because they were fake. Also, she was entirely too short.
Next week she would go back to the cool bar. With her friends. She was pretty sure she wouldn’t bump into him.