Another paper smacks against the door like a smack in the face. She opens the door and picks it up, reading the date, “2.14.10.” Figures. But she’s not going to be ‘that girl’ this year. She’s not going to hyperventilate at the unsightly appearance of all things pink,white and red hanging from ceilings, sitting in windows, and tucked under loving arms. She’s not going to get overexcited about any of this, either. No, she’s going to be cool. So cool, in fact, that even a cucumber would envy her coolness. There isn’t time to freak out, anyway. Work continues to be the leech that sucks fun out of her life and she has a blind date to dread tonight instead.
The day breaks as the snow trickles off of the naked branches of winter trees outside the window and coffee percolates into the glass bubble topping her stove-top coffeemaker.
For five immaculate minutes she sips her coffee and pretends to read the newspaper while instead marveling at the beauty of quickly disappearing snow. She snaps a couple of photos through the panes of her window before stuffing a slinky red dress and heels into her bulky laptop case. The day commences to take on the familiar and ugly shape of monotony.
People jostle around in the crowded metro station and she decides to stand and wait in order to avoid the uninviting, minimalist marble bench covered in some spilled coffee and god-knows-what-else. The train is five-minutes late and nothing is new except that it’s crowded with teddy bears, store-bought roses and boxes of chocolates along with the regular mix of newspapers, overcoats and briefcases.
Men offer her their seat in some sort of acknowledgement to the fact that it’s the manufactured holiday, Valentines Day, but she gives them a half-smile and stands to watch images smear across the window of the vehicle carrying her too fast into another day at the office.
The sound of her work shoes clicking against the brick walkway of the metro station pounds her mind back into submission before she reaches the door. When the door opens it will be: e-mails, ringing phones, “Got special plans tonight?’s” meetings for the sake of having meetings to plan other meetings, proposals to potential clients, spreadsheets, eager interns with hot coffee, “Did you get any flowers sent to you today?’s?” pick up lines from unlikely male coworkers because it’s Valentines Day, smiles, more e-mails, more ringing phones, and more pointless meetings.
She closes the door behind her after the standard day that went exactly as she imagined it would. She’s the last to leave the office as usual, except this time reluctantly dressed up for another blind date thanks to her friend Shell, short for Cecilia, nicknamed Seashell. She’s meeting him at the restaurant in case he turns out to be a creepy psyco-killer or in case he’s just like the past ten blind-dates she’s been on. Too eager, too full of himself, too this, too that, not enough of A, B, or C.
People eye her on the train with her strange combination of dinner clothes and a laptop case instead of a purse. An older woman with a ring on her finger smiles at her in that way that says, “I know you’re trying to pretend like you don’t look fabulous, but you do anyway.” She doesn’t notice. She’s too busy checking her watch that screams at her she’s late.
With a deep breath and a glance in the window of the restaurant she’s walked by a million times and never eaten at she opens the door and walks to the only table for two that’s occupied by only one.
“Kyra?” He stands to greet her as she walks to the table.
“Yes, you must be Dave.” She smiles, she sits, she has absolutely no expectation of this going well or of going badly. He’s at least attractive and not in the in-your-face kind of way that throws a person off of their game.
“So, I don’t really know how to have a blind date on Valentines day,” Dave raises an eyebrow and smiles with the side of his mouth instantly putting her at ease.
“Oh thank god. I don’t either. To be honest I’ve been dreading this all day. That’s an awful thing to start with. I’m so sorry,” she laughs and tosses her hair over her bare shoulder.
“No, I appreciate your honesty! And I’ll raise you one and say that I considered moving our date to tomorrow in order to not have it on this night of all nights. Well, now that we’ve set the bar extremely low, things can only get better from here, right?”
“I suppose they could, if we could get out of this pretentious restaurant and go eat some real food?”
“This is kind of a pretentious restaurant, isn’t it? The waiter has been smirking at me since I got here. I think he and the other waiters had a bet going to see if I would be stood up or not. Where should we go?”
“Hm. Well there’s a pizza place down the street with a great house chianti?”
“I’m there. Let’s get out of here,” Dave says as he grabs her laptop case and she explains that she’s just come from work and that she doesn’t usually carry around a laptop to dates.
“It’s charming,” he tells her and means it. Kyra wonders whether this guy is for real or just humoring her as they walk down the street to a hole in the wall crammed into the alleyway.
“Kyra! It’s so good to see you! And who is this dashing young man?” Mario, the owner winks at her as he seats them at the table.
“Well, Mario, I’ve only just met Dave and haven’t quite decided if he’s dashing or not yet,” she says with a smile.
“Is she always this fun Mario?” Dave asks jokingly. “I hear you have a great house chianti, would you mind bringing some to the table?”
“Of course, and Kyra would you like the usual?” Mario asks and she nods. She decides that either Dave is humoring her and she’ll take full advantage of that, or Dave is for real and in that case she’s not going to pretend to be anything other than herself tonight.
Candles on the table flicker light across their mutually smiling faces as they trade banter back and forth at the table for two. They argue lightheartedly over who will get the last slice of pizza and Kyra caves in and trades the slice for the last glass of wine instead.
“So, may I ask a personal question or are we sticking to purely superficial topics tonight in order to avoid potentially disliking each other after tonight?”
“Well, since you’ve plied me with wine all night I suppose we can delve into some personal topics, but at this rate, I may not remember tomorrow,” she says in jest. It’s a lie. She knows that she’ll remember every word.
“Why are you working in this ‘nothing-job in corporate-somewhere-America’ as you’ve described it?” he looks straight into her eyes and she can’t avoid this question with another joke but she tries anyway.
“What are you talking about? I love my ‘nothing job’!”
“Seriously, I think there’s more to it than you’ve alluded to.”
“You’re right. Well, I don’t want to bore you. Long story short, boy meets girl, girl helps boy through med school and pushes her passion projects to the side until he graduates and leaves her because she’s become this bland girlfriend machine that forgot who she really was. Blah, right?”
“Not blah at all. That just, sucks, to be honest.”
“Tell me about it. But it’s whatever. I’ve grown up and I’ve got to pay the bills just like everyone else. But, now you’ve got to tell me your story so we’re on even footing.”
“Ok, well I’m not sure if I can tell mine so eloquently as you’ve put yours into one sentence. Basically, I’ve dated just about everyone in the world who has been wrong for me and no one that’s been right. I’m ‘that guy.’ So cliche.”
“Not cliche, just normal. Normal is good.”
“Haha, I can’t tell if you mean that or not yet.”
Mario brings out some tiramisu on the house and Dave pays for the meal before Kyra even gets a chance to offer to split the check.
“Dave, do you realize we have been here for three hours?”
“It feels like it’s been five! You’re absolutely no fun to hang out with,” he says sarcastically and offers her his coat when they get outside.
“So, do we part ways?” Kyra asks, still unsure whether or not this guy is for real and if he is for real, why Shell hadn’t set them up earlier.
“I’d rather we didn’t. Can I walk you home?”
Kyra nods and checks her phone as they walk. Three text messages from Shell:
8:00pm “Are you having fun?”
9:00pm “Are you alive?”
10:30pm “You better like him, K, I saved the best for last.”