I couldn't care less what you think, is what I’d like to say as I look Carlos in the eyes and hope he has telepathy. He doesn’t get the message. I try side glances, sighs, a dopey stare. Nada.
At least I get a meal from a great new restaurant out of this. I wish I hadn’t wasted this awesome outfit, though. I decided to wear my blue Indian-print cardigan with my white dress shirt and gray slacks. I’m even wearing my favorite bow tie. The one with the Texas flag on it. My getup is too fly to waste on this dude.
I devour my pad thai as he begins his lecture on the evils of Donald Trump. This date is hopeless. I knew that five minutes in. So, the plan is to finish my meal as quickly as possible and get the heck out of dodge.
“Whoa, slow down there,” he says, chuckling. “What’s the rush?”
“I eat fast,” I say, mouth chock-full of half-chewed rice noodles and peanuts. Gross, I know, but I stopped caring about etiquette the moment I saw Carlos’s face. The sneaky little catfisher looks so different from his photo. That picture must have been taken, like, five years ago. He looks like he’s gained at least 30 pounds since then and lost half his hair. I’d rather have it the other way around. I almost walked away right then, but he had offered to pay for dinner. I can never turn down a free meal.
As his dubious gaze lingers I shrug and continue to eat, concentrating on my plate. This goes on for a few more minutes until our waitress comes back to our table. Oddly enough, she brings another waiter with her. A handsome one at that.
The dashing gentleman accompanying our waitress is a light-skinned Dominican or Puerto Rican with a lined beard that places him somewhere in his early thirties. I notice a small scar near his right eye that makes him look even sexier, like some battle scar from war.
“I’m really sorry,” our waitress says, with a facial expression that looks like she just lost her puppy, “but I need to handle a family situation. Vance here will take care of you for the rest of the night. Again, I’m really sorry.”
She hurries off before we can even respond. Vance comes closer to our table.
“Sorry about that,” he says, with a soft Latin accent. Could this guy get any sexier? “Would you like some more water, sir?”
“Yes, please,” Carlos says.
“Anything for you?”
I stare into his eyes for a moment. “Yes, I’d like a Moscow mule, please, with plenty of vodka.” A little liquid courage will make this night a bit more interesting. As Vance nods and walks away I smile and notice Carlos shooting me a look from the side.
“How much do you plan on drinking?” he asks.
“Oh, just a little.”
“Anyway, like I was saying,” he continues, talking about politics and the news. Who does that on a first date? I pretend to listen as I slow down my eating and contemplate my next move. Vance makes my heart race. He belongs in a fashion magazine, not in a Thai restaurant. I wonder if he’s single.
“I thought you said you eat fast,” he says, an incredulous look on his face.
“Well, you know, I decided to take your advice and slow down. Live a little.” I give him a satisfied grin as I twirl the noodles around my fork. Vance returns with my drink and a pitcher of water.
“Here you go — Moscow mule with extra vodka.”
“Thanks. So, Vance, how long have you been working here?”
“I actually just started a few weeks ago,” he says, smiling. My god, those perfect teeth! We continue to chitchat while Carlos broods like some angsty teenager. Poor boy.
At the end of our meal, Carlos is practically fuming, but he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t have to. I’m sure he’s only staying just to be nice. If he had the balls, he would just walk right out on me. That would actually make him kind of attractive. Alas, he sits there and pouts as Vance leaves us the bill. Surprisingly, he still pays for me. I lean in and whisper a soft “thank you,” which causes him to loosen up a little. I almost feel sorry for him. I used to believe there was someone out there for everyone, but people like Carlos make me see otherwise. He is no doubt doomed to a life of Netflix binges over TV dinners and masturbation sessions.
Me? I’ve got plans. When Vance returns with the receipt, he thanks us and leaves it on the table.
“What do you think of the service?” Carlos asks with a hint of resentment. Just a hint. “Does he deserve a 15% tip?”
I shrug. “He was all right, I guess.”
Carlos signs the receipt and writes in the tip amount.
“I gotta go to the restroom.”
The moment he walks away, I grab the receipt and write my name and number at the bottom. Call me Vance, I sign with a little smiley face on the side. I quickly close the receipt book before Carlos can come back and see what I wrote. Maybe it’s a bit desperate to leave my number for a hot server, but I don’t care. At this point, what do I have to lose?
Carlos returns a few minutes later, and, thankfully, he doesn’t look at the receipt again. We walk outside the entrance together.
“So, you taking Uber or the subway?” he asks.
“I think I’ll take Uber.”
“Want me to wait for you?” he asks, hands in his pocket.
“No, it’s fine. I think I’ll walk around for a bit.” I’d rather go Oedipus and gouge out my eyeballs than stand another minute with him. I rock back and forth on the balls of my feet. “Well, thanks for the meal.”
“Yeah, it was my pleasure.” He nods and heads to the subway station.
Thank god that’s over. When I look at my phone I see a text from Vance. I didn’t expect him to respond so quickly.
Me: Oh, nothing. Just thought you were cute, I guess.
Vance: Weren’t u wit your bf just now?
Me: No, silly. That’s my cousin.
Vance: Wyd later tonight?
Me: Nothing planned…
Then there’s a pause that makes me anxious. Did I say something wrong? I review my texts several times for spelling errors or something inappropriate. Is he just waiting for me to initiate? Leaving my phone number should be a clear sign I’m interested. Finally he responds a few minutes later.
Vance: Sorry, we got a little busy. Anyway, text me your addy and we can chill. My shift ends in an hour.
I give him my addy and head home, half expecting him to blow me off. He doesn’t. After two episodes of Breaking Bad, Vance texts me that he’s on his way.
That night we have some of the best sex I’ve ever had in my life. Then he doesn’t call me the next day. Or the day after. Or the day after. I’m tempted to go back to the restaurant, but I’m much too proud for that because…you know, dignity. Only one person gets what they want in this story.