The first time I went to the bathroom to change my tampon, I noticed there was a window. I pulled back the curtain. The window was painted shut and there were security bars. Nope, there was no easy way of escaping this date. I’d have to hang-in there until closing time.
Chris found me online four days prior. His fascination with my writing and my red hair inspired him to inquire if I was still available. This led to a string of phone conversations and e-mails. “This one is different,” I told myself. He can communicate. He is compassionate. He knows what he wants. I was never so excited to meet someone for a first date. He had potential.
He suggested I come see his band perform on Saturday night at a bar in Monrovia, which is a community somewhere in the Valley near those mountains I can see for the smog. My red flag went up when he admitted he was a musician. Luckily, he doesn’t do it for-profit and has a day job as a sales person.
I accepted the invitation and made the trek to the inland empire. One hour, forty-five minutes and 30 miles later, I was parking at his apartment complex. When I walked up, the inside courtyard pool was a graveyard for leaves, almost filtering the backlighting. He stood in his door, smiling, and waited for me as I approached.
When I entered his apartment, I remembered all the questions I forgot to ask on the phone and in email. Questions I normally don’t have to ask the 28-33 year-olds I usually date.
“Welcome. Glad you made it. Here, let me give you the tour,” Chris said.
My five-second visual assessment had already delivered run-now-run results. From the multi-colored brown shag carpet to the brass and glass bookshelf adorned with trophies on the top shelf, I was not in the apartment of a successful, 43 year-old salesperson. Forgotten question: Do you own or rent?
It was a one-bedroom. Not much to see: galley kitchen, bathroom, bedroom with a down comforter. I sat down on the futon and he brought me a glass of water. I saw the ashtray on the coffee table. Forgotten question: Do you smoke?
“I had a great time at the birthday party today. My grandson was so excited,” Chris said.
“Grandson? I forgot to ask if you had been married before. Wow. How old is your son and where is your wife?” I asked.
“He’s 19 and my grandson just turned four. I never married the mother and didn’t know I had a son until they came to me for money. I only knew her for two weeks,” he answered.
I could almost forgive his living situation, but this was too much for me. I’d gone from dating boys who watch the Simpson’s and listen to Blink182 to dating NPR-listening grandpas with illegitimate children. Forgotten questions: Do you have children? Were the kids planned/do you use birth control? Were you married?
The first date now shifted to a “duty date.” This was like interviewing for a job I’d never take just to have the practice. I was there and I was going to make the most of it. I needed to shave my legs and color my hair…date or no date.
He insisted on driving to the bar. We got into his cracked-windshield pickup truck. The service engine soon light was on the whole time.
The bar was less than two miles from his apartment. It probably met Webster’s definition of dive: duck-taped naugahide bar stools, pool tables, electronic darts, and a neon chalkboard announcing that Sunday’s NASCAR special was $2.50, 20-ounce Budweiser. Music was not the primary function at this venue. I didn’t get the sense that musical tastes were very discriminating judging from the drunks at the bar. My nephew could play his Fisher-Price xylophone and deliver titillating entertainment to this audience.
But, as duty dates go, things could have been a lot worse. I had a seat at the groupie girlfriends table. I had a beer. I had musical entertainment. I had a lead singer date that didn’t actually have to interact with me. This permitted me to check my cell phone messages and write notes while the 40- and 50-something groupie girls went to the back to play darts.
Duty turned into agony when I realized I’d be on the barstool for five and one-half hours. I was being held hostage and force fed “Brown Eyed Girl” and a helping of “People are Strange” for good measure. I went to the bathroom every two hours to swap out tampons and to stretch my legs.
While I was on one of my final bathroom runs, the guys played a Joe Jackson-esque version of “Is she really going out with him.” I chuckled as I flushed and finished the song….’Cause if my eyes don’t deceive me, There’s something going wrong around here.’ When I came out, Chris was walking to the table. His Axl Rose bandana looked moist. He removed his prescription sunglasses and let them dangle from his neck on a leash.
“So, I have to ask. Is there a spark? Will we have a second date?” he said, panting like a pound puppy begging to be taken home.
I hate this part of dating. “I had a great time listening to you guys. You are such a talented singer. But, I’m not feeling it, I’m sorry.” He looked like he needed further explanation, so I added, “I have to be honest, I usually date much younger people. Your admission that you are a grandfather made me realize that I don’t think I’m ready for this,” I added. I know it was a lame excuse, but I had to pick something he couldn’t change or talk me out of.
I made the escape home in less than 30 minutes. The building alley cat came into my apartment and slept in between my legs. Until I can remember to ask the right questions for dates, I guess I’ll be the lady with the cat.