A middle-aged fellow is having a libation at an upscale bar and restaurant in a big city. It’s about an hour or so after work and the place is rather full with a white collar, professional crowd in attendance. The protagonist is sitting at the corner of the bar.
A reasonably attractive, early 40s-looking woman sits next to the protagonist but as the bar has a corner, she’s 90 degrees to him. She orders a cosmopolitan and then proceeds to dig her cell phone from her purse to look at it with a hopeful expression on her face. Then a brief and darker look crosses her face.
Our protagonist, an observant fellow, notices that the woman isn’t wearing a wedding or engagement ring. He also notices that her hair is down and her very red lipstick is quite fresh. He glances down and sees high heels that are too tall for work and a skirt that ends just above the knee. Her well-cut jacket covers her blouse so he can’t see what she might be wearing there.
The woman looks up from her cell phone and sips her pink drink and then sighs almost imperceptibly while looking away from the protagonist. She looks back to her drink and the phone.
He finally speaks to her.
The woman looks up at him, almost puzzled.
“Oh… cheers” She raises her drink glass and has a sip.
“Pity about your date being cancelled.” He says flatly.
“Do I know you?” The woman has an expression of surprise and wariness.
“Not at all, but I can tell your date cancelled.”
The woman regards him carefully for just a moment, as if assessing a threat.
“How did you know I was even supposed to have a date?”
The protagonist sips his drink – an imported draft beer – as a way of pausing. He then looks at her directly.
“Your heels and skirt are too high for work, your lipstick is also too red for work and it’s fresh. You’re not wearing a wedding or engagement ring, that means you’re single. You were supposed to have a date.”
The woman leans back to look at the protagonist. She raises one eyebrow.
“I could be here to pick up men, did you ever think of that?”
The protagonist smiles wryly.
“We both know there are better places in town for that.”
The woman crosses her arms in front of her and almost glares at the protagonist.
“OK smart guy, how did you know my date was cancelled?”
The protagonist continues.
“You checked your phone as soon as you got here. You had a hopeful look at your face and then you saw something you didn’t like. Probably you got a text just as you entered this place and waited to sit down before you checked it. Also, it’s five minutes past 7:00 so it’s likely you had plans to meet at 7:00. He’s not standing you up because you would be looking like you were anticipating something.”
The woman glares at him.
“What are you, Sherlock Holmes? I don’t think I like this conversation and I think you’re kind of rude.”
She looks around the bar and sees that no empty seats are available. The protagonist calmly takes a sip of his beer.
“I know I’m rude, I’m actually rather good at it.”
“You know you’re rude?” This remark surprises her. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“Should I continue?”
“You might as well.” The woman lets out an exasperated breath of air.
“OK…you’re not here to meet friends or colleagues because you would have tried to get a table or they would have already been here. I’ll even go out on a limb here… this was supposed to have been your fourth, no, your fifth date with this guy.”
As the protagonist talks, the woman leans in and opens her mouth slightly. Her stare at him is unblinking.
“Fifth date and have you been following me or something? This is really creepy.”
The protagonist sips his drink again.
“Nope, not following you. I have better things to do.”
The woman leans back and opens her eyes widely. The protagonist doesn’t react to her expression. He reaches his hand towards her.
The woman reluctantly extends her hand.
“Well, now that we’re not total strangers, should I go on?”
“No, I think you should stop.”
“Fair enough. Pity about your date.”
“Yeah, I know.” Claire turned and sipped at her drink and then turned back to Douglas. “He didn’t even say he’d contact me later, just said he couldn’t make it tonight. He didn’t even apologize. I was about to text him back.”
“It won’t do any good.”
“No? Why is that?” She looks both surprised and crestfallen.
“If he were serious about seeing you again, he would have texted that he would call later or for you to call him, or something like that.”
Clair looks at her drink pensively.
“I had high hopes.”
Douglas smiles thinly.
“We all do, even at our age.”
“Why do men do that?”
“Because we can.”
At this, Claire looks almost angry.
“This conversation is making me uncomfortable. I don’t even know you except for your name.”
Douglas leans back on his bar stool. He crosses his arms.
“Do you want the truth about men and women? I figured out your situation in about minute, I have more to say.”
Claire looks away. Then she looks back at Douglas.
“This is going to be uncomfortable.”
Douglas doesn’t smile.
[For Part 2, click here]