We had met haphazardly at a restaurant. He was with his folks celebrating Christmas, I was picking up take-out. He seemed nice enough… after all, he was taking out his parents and that always points to someone who is generally a good guy. He called and invited me out for a drink. Okay sure! Just tell me where to meet you and I’ll be there!
We met at one of those hipster type bars where the drinks are colorful and there’s a lot of paraphernalia on the walls and somehow, everything’s bathed in a red light. The bartenders are appropriately tattooed and pierced and you feel as if you actually know what pop culture is all about (despite the fact that maybe, just maybe, you spend about 35+ hours a week inside a cubicle). I ordered one of the house martini drinks, something named ‘Lucy n Desi’… it was red with muddled serreno peppers. He had something chocolate-y and oreo-cookied martini w/peppermint schnapps. We split a calamari appetizer. We talked… we explored each other’s ideas… threw a couple of jokes in the ring… it was alright. He hadn’t fallen into the ‘friend’ category yet… yeah, I’d see him again if he wanted to see me too.
Then the waitress chirpily came by and said, “I’mjustgoingtodropoffyourcheckbutdon’tworrytakeyourtimeandpayitwhenyou’rereadytogo!” Big smile. Exit with flourish.
She had placed the check in a black folder that she now opened and propped it up between us. It was like a big vase but in the shape of a black greeting card. We both leaned around it to be able to continue our conversation.
But WAIT! A minute has passed, and no one has touched the black check in the middle of the table. No one, not he nor I, had even flinched TOWARDS the check. We both dandily just kept up our conversation, sometimes leaning to the right of it, sometimes to the left of it… and sometimes we both shared a hearty laugh over the very top of it. The check was starting to look like one big elephant sitting in the middle of my leftover calamari.
“Am I supposed to pick up the tab?” my mind furiously asked. “Was this a date? What’s the rule nowadays, whoever asks pays for it right? Maybe we’re just hanging out? It feels like a date… I certainly wouldn’t take my friends here, it’s too romantic of a place. Or maybe he just like frou-frou drinks. He did order an OREO martini for gosh’s sake. Maybe this was just hanging out… but why’s he all dressed up? Is he coming from work… on a Saturday? Maybe our conversation sucked. I shouldn’t have used the words ‘balls’ and ‘nads’ in my first conversation with him. He probably thinks I’m crude. Speaking of crude, do I have something stuck in the middle of my teeth?”
So I smiled over the check again. He smiled back. We both continued smiling… eyes locked. Like The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Who was going to pull out their cash first?!
2 minutes later, I leaned to my left where my purse lied on the ground. I leaned a little further. I leaned further. I wasn’t sure, did he just say, “No no, I’ll take care of the check!” or “That’s okay, I’ll get it… this time,” or simply, “Don’t be silly, I asked you out.” Nope. He just sat there smiling like the Joker. I slowly reached into my purse. Took my wallet out. Opened it. Took my heavily-used silver Visa card out.
The minute my card came out of its plastic sheath, I heard a relieved sigh. He hastily picked up his credit card and we stuffed our cards into the top pocket of the check booklet. The waitress trotted back. “Straight down the middle, ” he advised the waitress. She nodded accordingly. “Okay, $23 divided onto two cards. No problem!”
“We should do this again!” he enthused.