The Tinder Date
A spindly blonde, wearing a brown suede skirt, and a frilly silk blouse cautiously walked into the Moon. She was middle-aged and sat next to me near the center column. She looked at the side of my face, and she seemed to have carefully inspected the entire crowd as she opened her black purse, she exhumed her smartphone, and with her left forefinger she tapped at the screen; she closely examined it. And then, she again reinspected the crowd.
“E’llo, e’llo, poppet,” he said. He had a cockney accent; he sat at the far corner of the bar within the Snug section slouched over near the cash register. He was heavy set with dark skin, and a mischievous expression. “Hap-yee, Yanks-giving… oh, right?”
“Hey love,” Jane asked. She grimaced back over at the man, she turned, blocked him, and smiled up at her. “Welcome back, Paige set ya up? What are you thinking?”
“Thank you, Jane,” Paige said. She adjusted her frilly blue blouse. “Tito’s soda with lime?”
“Oh, for sure thing,” Jane said. She turned toward the liquor rack along the bars back wall that was covered with a fancy mirror, stenciled above her in block letters, The Moon. She searched with her right hand along a soldier like line of the vodka brands. Without turning around, Jane asked, “Soda, right?”
“Yes, please,” Paige said. “Soda, with a lime.”
“E’llo poppet,” he said. “Want a shot? Jane, hey Jane, shot for everybody round, for my new poppet.”
“Simmer down,” Jane said as she poured the vodka into a tall glass with ice. “Try to be nice.”
“Hey, hey” Paige said, in my direction. She turned to look at me. “I’m Paige, how’s it going?”
I turned, and shook her hand. She had long tanned fingers, with nice rings, but no wedding band.
“Hi, Paige,” I said. “Rob.”
“E’llo, poppet?” He asked. “Just being friendly, over here, hey love, don’t want to be a wanker, but?”
“That dude always so obnoxious?” Paige asked. She tilted her head away from him. “Can I hide with you, act like you know me?”
“Here we are,” Jane said. She tapped on the bar. “Open a tab? Keep it open?”
“Sure,” Paige said. “Keep it open.”
“Poppet,” he said wistfully. “Is it a race thing? You know… I’m a dark brownie and all.”
“I’ll take you in, don’t know him,” I said. I gripped the bar edge. I leaned forward just past the square column; I twisted my head left, and stared over at the loud man, and then over at his large friend. I hoped my stern expression would work, because I was certain I would lose an eyeball without an anesthetic in the back alleyway if they decided to join us. “You’re too late.”
“‘Ere, just trouble and strife, over there,” he said. He dismissively waved back over at us. “Bugger-off, then, no shot for you, or you love.”
“Thanks,” Paige said. Paige tapped me on the arm. “He looks a bit dangerous.”
I sat back on the stool. I glanced over at Paula, as I had tried to hide behind the column.
“Yeah,” I said. I looked behind Paige, and then behind me. “I sometimes wish I carried some heat.”
“It’s legal here,” Paige said. “I’m usually packing, but this purse is too small. I think the dude comings safe, we’ll see, you know, never met the man, but he’s a professional.”
“Blind date?” I asked.
“Really, Rob?” Paige asked. She shook her head. “Tinder.”
“Oh, of course,” I said. I tapped my hand on the bar.
“Aren’t you on Tinder?” Paige asked. She smirked, and quickly blinked her eyelids. “Or, you know, there are some others. The Burg has lots of menu options.”
“I was,” I said. I was certain I had not wanted to know what the ‘others’ meant. “But nobody seemed to notice me, although I did get some offers to be their SG?”
“Sugar Daddy,” Paige said. She chuckled. She had a smokers cough. “Let me guess, recently divorced?”
“Am I that obvious?” I said. I frowned as I looked over at her.
“Pretty much, you have that lost and found look,” Paige said. She shrugged. She checked her smartphone. “You’ll figure it out, I did, hey, can you save my seat, going outside for a quick smoke, perfect night outside.”
“Sure,” I said. I reached forward and snagged a paper coaster and I placed it over her drink.
“Thanks, ah, such a nice guy,” Paige said. She pointed at her drink. “Don’t ruphie me, dude.”
“Really?” I said. “With this apple pie face?”
“Oh yeah,” Paige said. She looked down at me. “It’s always the quiet ones, the loners, besides, Jane makes strong drinks, I need to give it some time to, well, settle down.”
After Paige left, I noticed those already on a date, they were nervously obvious, or, the handsy ones that were merely gearing up for an intimate dessert, or, friends hanging out with friends, or behind me the older comfortable couple dining at the bar noshing on Chana masala with naan bread. I just sat alone guarding Paige’s drink. A few guests stopped and ordered drinks that Jane handed to them back across the bar. It was an odd sensation, as I sat there. It was as if I had been hidden inside a Christmas snow globe for twenty years that had gotten knocked off the fireplace mantle; And it had been shattered into unfixable pieces. And now the little house was gone, and all the fake snow had melted away. And then I sensed movement, and I smelled the blended perfume and cigarette smoke fragrance.
“Thanks, dude,” Paige said. She sat up straight, and took a proper sip of her drink. “Whoa.” Paige shut her eyes, she squealed, and squirmed while holding the drink glass above the bar. “Jane makes a serious drink, whoa.”
“Yes she does,” I said. I noticed Jane standing nearby grinning with pride as she fixed another drink. “Girls got skills, reason I stick with Guinness, it’s safe.”
“Whoa,” Paige said. She set the drink on the bar, she shook her shoulders, and flapped her hands. “I can feel again, praise the lord, I love you, Jane. But good-god.”
“I take care of my girls,” Jane said as she walked toward the kitchen doors. “You’re one of my regular girls.”
Paige seemed like a happy-go-lucky soul that was not afraid to experience adventure. I admired her willingness to compete for attention, to spin the modern dating wheel.
“What’s he look like?” I asked.
“Good question,” Paige said. “That’s why I’m early, so I can get a good look. I’ve had dates with people, it must’ve been a high school photo because they were either fat, or bald or both.”
“What do you do?” I asked. I leaned toward her. “You know, you’re on a date.”
“Oh no,” Paige said. She wiggled a dismissive forefinger. “I’m to old to be nice, I’ll tell them no way, and walk.”
“Good thinking,” I said. I nodded in agreement. “I should remember that.”
“Or, I’ll let them buy me a drink,” Paige said. She sipped her cocktail. “And then I walk.”
“Well, I hope this is the right one,” I said. “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” Paige said. She stared over the bar at a large custom beer tap. “I start to lose hope, but then I get a ping, and I think, why not, he’s cute.”
“Or, he appears cute,” I said. “Right?”
Paige pursed her lips. She nodded.
“Can I ask a favor?” Paige asked.
“Perhaps,” I said. “If it’s legal.”
“I’m hungry, nervous energy,” Paige said. She tapped her fingernails on the bar. “If I order some seahorses, French fries with gravy, you’ll share with me, and if he shows up, I’ll act like it’s yours?”
“Sure, I guess,” I said. “Seahorses?”
“It’s a girl thing, don’t want to look Miss Pigish,” Paige said. “Oh, fish things, I love them.”
Paige placed the order, the deep fried, golden brown food appeared, and it quickly disappeared.
“Hey, Rob,” Paige said. She waved toward someone behind me. She wiped her lips with a white paper napkin. “He’s here, talk soon, click, click.”
“Good luck,” I said. I moved the empty fry basket forward, and acted like I was about to leave.
As I inspected the already paid bill, I voyeured into the nearby conversation. I was curious, I supposed it was just a typical human reaction. But, what I heard was not encouraging, and then I mistakenly glanced over at Paige. I understood there are moments that once seen, like the aftermath from a plane crash, you cannot simply snuff the images out of your memory. Perhaps the first tip off was her expression, it was not happiness, or a pleasant face, it was in her eyes, it was that irritated stare.
And then I heard it, it was more like a growl.
“Dude, no dude,” Paige said.
“What, baby,” he said. “I’m here now.”
And then it happened, he had grappled her shoulders with his thick hands, and he had slowly leaned forward to kiss Paige. But she easily Bob Uecker’d her face away from him. And all he had left was an imitated kiss; a whiffed kiss that had missed ‘just a bit outside’, leaving behind his lonely puckered up lips. I thought he should have at least kept his eyes open as he had tried to yank-one out, in the first inning. But once he was committed, he was left alone with his pride kissing bar air.
“Dude, not on the lips,” Paige said. “I just met you.”
I had averted my gaze, I was frozen on the wooden stool, and I stared directly at Jane. For Jane’s part, she covered her mouth with her hands, and walked down the bar’s bartender side appearing to inspect the rubber floor mats, and dirty-dish bins.
“See you later, Jane,” I said. I got up, and twisted away from Paige. I sensed emotional carnage had left the station and it was building up steam. I heard other comments behind me that spewed from Paige. He was still overconfident.
“What baby, what?”
As I strolled up the brick alleyway, my hands in my jacket pockets, I couldn’t stop laughing, actually, I had been reduced to tears. I suspected those that I had walked past thought I was in deep sadness, but I had felt the polar opposite. But then, as I stood trying to regain my composure in front of a colorful mural painted on the side of the Moon, similar art shared throughout St. Petersburg, I was curious what I would have been like given a similar situation. I had to give Paige credit, she was prepared to keep entering the fray, but, I shrugged, as I was not quite prepared to enter that domain.