I sit alone at the bar at Altus Cafe and scan the area, seeking a familiar face. No one. But my eyes settle on an empty table for two. Three months ago, Luke and I sat at that very table, the candlelight flickering as he caressed my hands. A few kisses and a heartfelt conversation later, he asked me to be his girlfriend. He didn’t want to be with anyone else, and neither did I. His presence, energy, humor, and endearing eyes, made me feel loved. And so I said yes.
Now, I sit in the very establishment where my relationship with Luke was solidified, though it did not last. I glance over at the table once again, picturing us again and how we were then – happy, united, naive, and blissful – while I wait for my date.
How ironic that Raymundo chose this very place.
I could have said no, considering the emotional attachment and possible reminiscing. I could have asked to be taken elsewhere. But I realized that no matter where we’d go, a song, a phrase, a drink, a street corner…anything…would remind me of Luke.
I turn away from the table, stacked with memories instead of hor d’ evours, and turn to the bartender. I ask for the drink menu, hoping my date arrives soon so he can fork over the cash for my margarita. I could have purchased the drink. Started without him. But refuse to pay on a first date, or drink alone for that matter.
Raymundo suddenly walks in. I smile a toothless smile as he approaches me. He teeters over, seeming a bit sluggish. I glance at my rose gold Fossil watch. 7:35pm. He’s late. Only by 5 minutes but still late. This time, I was going to note these type of things.
He is inches away from me now and we greet each other hello with a peck on the cheek. He’s just as cute as I remembered. Dirty blonde hair, sharp blue eyes, and a culito chin hidden behind his facial hair. He isn’t my type physically, yet I am attracted to him. Maybe it’s the facial hair. When we met at APT.78, his face was bare. There is nothing that attracts me more than a mustache and a 5 o’clock shadow.
“What do you want to drink?” He asks. I order a margarita on the rocks, no salt. He orders the same for himself.
“Wow! I am so exhausted. I got home at 2:30am last night and got up to go to work…I need to stop doing this to myself…” He exclaims, rubbing his hair as if to wake himself up.
I nod. Agree that he should get some rest while mentally jotting down, “party animal,” on my list of red flags. They truly are everywhere.
The conversation continues and I notice a few other thing that are cause for concern. While ordering food, he shares how much he loves to eat out. He’s a foodie, I think. That may be a problem since I don’t eat anything mushy, cold, raw, or from the sea. Minus arenque, of course. That’s the Dominican in me. Then, while I’m in mid sentence, he asks to be excused. He grabs a pack of Marlboros from his left pocket and walks outside. I see him light up, inhaling the tobacco with such pleasure, that I am disgusted.
That is what I feel the first time he steps out. After the third time he leaves me at the bar to go puff, I am fuming. He walks back in, reeking of ash and chewing gum to mask the scent of smoke breath, and I let him have it.
“I don’t appreciate being left alone at a bar when out on a date,” I fume.
His eyes wide, in shock that I’d be upset at something as silly as him walking out to take a drag off his cigarette.
“Sorry, but I don’t date smokers,” I finish, summoning up our evening. He shakes his head and smiles before telling me how much he likes me.
“You’re beautiful, more beautiful than I remember, and you’re funny, sharp, and opinionated,” Raymundo expresses with a smile. “I love all those qualities. You’re the perfect package.”
I smile. I’ve always been a sucker for kind words and compliments. Words of Affirmation is my love language.
After his speech, I lighten up and enjoy the rest of the evening. So what that he drinks like a college frat boy and is addicted to tobacco. So what that he owns a few bongs and dresses like he just stepped out of Walmart. He is cute and somewhat entertaining. Didn’t mean he’d be my husband, no matter how many times I replayed my last psychic reading.
By the end of our date, I am sure I want to see him again. He walks me home and we continue speaking easily, sharing details about our lives. We begin to walk up hill when Raymundo blurts out, “I have a girlfriend.”
I stop mid-step.
“You have a what?!”
“Let me explain.”
Raymundo begins to tell thesame tale I have heard before. He lives with his girlfriend but they don’t have sex. She’s crazy. He doesn’t love her like she loves him. She’s crazy. She’s literally on medication. He’s breaking up with her. He really likes me and wants to see me again. He thinks we could be…something.
I zone out halfway through his explanation. While he hee haws about how horrible his relationship is, I think back to the table for two. The candlelight still flickers, hoping for another caress, another kiss, another declaration of love. I return to that table, where everything began, and wish for another chance at yes.