The Tinder Date
A spindly blonde, wearing a brown suede skirt, and a frilly silk blouse cautiously walked into The Moon. She appeared middle-aged and sat on a wooden stool next to me near the bar’s center column. She looked at the side of my face, and she seemed to have carefully inspected the entire crowd as she opened her shiny black purse. She had exhumed her smartphone, and with her left forefinger she tapped at the screen; she closely examined it. And then, she again reinspected the crowd, and the side of my face.
“E’llo, e’llo, poppet,” he said. He had a cockney accent. He had sat at the far corner of the bar within the Snug section, he was slouched over near the cash register. He was heavy set with dark skin, and I had thought he had a mischievous expression.
“Hap-yee, Yanks-giving… oh, right?”
“Hey love,” Jane asked. She grimaced back over at the man, she had turned, she blocked his view, and she 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 around toward the liquor rack along the bars back wall that was covered with a fancy mirror, it was stenciled above her in block letters, The Moon. She searched with her right hand along a soldier like line of the clear vodka brands. Without turning around, Jane asked, “Soda, right?”
“Yes, please,” Paige said. She set her smartphone down. “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, dude,” Paige said, in my direction. She had turned to look over at me. “I’m Paige, how’s it going?”
I had shook her hand. She had long tanned fingers, with nice rings, but no wedding band.
“Hi, Paige?” I said. “I’m, 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, she leaned 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, thanks,” Paige said. “Keep it open.”
“Poppet,” he said, wistfully. “Is it a racial thing? You know… I’m a dark brownie and all.”
“I’ll take you in, but I don’t know him,” I said. I had 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 have lost an eyeball without any anesthetic in the back alleyway if they had decided to join us. “You’re too late.”
“‘Ere, just trouble and strife, over there, now,” he said. He dismissively waved back over at us. “Bugger-off, then, no shot for you, or you love.”
I sat back down on the wooden stool.
“Thanks for that, girl needs friends, you know,” Paige said. She tapped me on my arm. “He looks a bit dangerous.”
I glanced back over at Paige, as I had leaned back, and then hide behind the square column.
“Yeah, for sure,” I said. I looked behind Paige at some nearby guests, and then I turned to look behind me at a middle-aged group lost in conversation. “I sometimes wish I carried some heat, you know.”
“It’s legal here,” Paige said. She nodded. “I’m usually carrying, but this purse is too small. And, I think the dude coming, he’s safe, we’ll see, you know, never met the man, but he’s a professional, his texts have been, mostly, clean.”
“Blind date?” I asked.
“Really, Rob?” Paige asked. She shook her head, she laughed. “Tinder, dude, you know how things work.”
“Oh, of course,” I said. I tapped my hand on the bar.
“Aren’t you on Tinder?” Paige asked. She smirked, and then she 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 SD?”
“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.
Paige inspected my face, my clothes, and she shrugged.
“Pretty much, you have that lost and found look,” Paige said. She re-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 guess,” I said. I reached forward, and I had snagged a paper coaster, and I had placed it over her drink.
“Thanks, ah, such a nice guy, I hope?” Paige said. She pointed at her drink. “Don’t ruphie me, dude.”
“Really?” I said. I stared up at her. I pointed up at my face. “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 had walked past me, and then I had noticed those that appeared to have been on a date, they were either nervously obvious, or, the handsy ones that were merely gearing up for an intimate dessert; or, there were groups of friends hanging out with friends; or directly behind me, the older comfortable couple dining at the bar noshing on Chana masala with naan bread. I had just sat on the wooden stool guarding Paige’s tall vodka drink that I had crowned with a paper coaster. A few guests stopped next to me, and they had ordered drinks that Jane handed over past me back across the bar. It was an odd sensation, as I sat there inside, The Moon. It was as if I had been hidden inside a Christmas snow globe for twenty years that had just gotten knocked off the fireplace mantle; And it had been shattered onto the hard wood floor and smashed 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 with cigarette smoke fragrance.
“Thanks, dude,” Paige said. She sat up straight, and she took in a proper sip of her drink. “Whoa.” Paige clenched her jaw, she shut her eyes, she squealed, and she squirmed while still held the sweating drink glass above the bar. “Jane, you make a serious drink, whoa.”
“Yes, she does,” I said. As I had noticed Jane stood nearby us grinning at Paige with a proud expression, as she shook a two piece drink shaker. “Girls got skills, reason I stick with Guinness, it’s safe.”
“Whoa, she numbed me,” Paige said. She had set the drink glass on the bar, she shook her shoulders, and she flapped her hands. “I can feel again, praise the lord, I love you, Jane. But good-god girl, thanks for the soda splash.”
“I take care of my girls,” Jane said. She had served another drink, she had turned to walk toward the kitchen doors. “You’re one of my regular girls.”
Paige seemed like a happy-go-lucky soul, I thought. And I had admired her willingness to compete for attention, and to spin what was now the modern dating wheel. It was strange to consider dating again after all the years had passed by me like a quiet moment suddenly interrupted by a loud noise.
“What’s he look like?” I asked.
“Good question,” Paige said. “That’s why I’m here early, so I can get a good look. I’ve had dates with people, it must’ve been their high school photo, because they were either fat, or bald or both. But if you don’t try, you don’t get.”
“What do you do?” I asked. I leaned over 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, I never know.”
“Or, remember this, I’ll let them buy me a drink,” Paige said. She sipped her cocktail. “And then I walk, you know, let them put me on a brief drink scholarship, for my trouble and all, and then I walk.”
“Well, I hope this is the right one,” I said. “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” Paige said. She looked over the bar at a large custom beer tap. “You know, Rob, I started to lose hope, but then I get a ping on my smartphone, and I think, why not, he’s cute.”
“Or, he appears cute,” I said. I shrugged. “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, I get all geared up,” Paige said. She tapped her manicured fingernails on the bar. “If I order some seahorses, French fries with brown gravy, you’ll share with me? And if he shows up, I’ll act like it’s yours, and I was just you know, was taking a few samples?”
“Sure, I guess,” I said. “Seahorses?”
“It’s a girl thing, I don’t want him to show up, and I’ve got French fries shoved in my mouth, and to look like Miss Pigish,” Paige said. She took in a deep breath. “Oh, the seahorses, the fishy things I order here, I love them, deep fried, golden goodness. They comfort me.”
Paige placed the order, the deep fried, golden brown food appeared, and it had quickly disappeared. And then Paige had fake coughed. She sucked in a deep breath as she looked past me.
“Hey, Rob, go time,” 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 French fry basket left with a lonely wax paper bottom forward, and I had acted like I was about to leave. As I had inspected the already paid bill, I voyeured into Paige’s nearby conversation. I was curious, I supposed it was just a typical human reaction. But, what I had heard I thought was not encouraging, and then I mistakenly glanced over at Paige. I had understood there were moments that once seen, like the aftermath from a plane crash, or, if I had been driving down a freeway, tapped the brakes, and I had rubbernecked into fatal car crash, that I would not simply have been able to have snuffed the images out of my brain. Perhaps, the first tip off I thought, as I glanced over at Paige, was her expression, it was not a happy face, or a pleasant face, it was in her green eyes. I had been married long enough to know that look, it was that irritated stare. A stare that warned me she might have been hiding a sharp shiv, and if you turned your back on her, or looked away at another woman, you’d soon have bled-out from a puncture wound on The Moon’s tiled floor. And then I had heard it, and by it, I thought, it was more like a low cougar-like growl that had emanated from Paige.
“Dude, no dude,” Paige said. She had shoved at him. “Really?”
“What, baby,” he said. He had moved in closer to Paige. “I’m here now, daddy’s home.”
“Daddy?” Paige said.
And then it had happened, as I had slowly backed away, I had made the mistake to have looked back over at Paige. Her Tinder date had grappled her shoulders with his thick hands, and he had slowly leaned forward to kiss Paige. But she had easily turned her face away from his. And all he had been left with was an imitated kiss; a whiffed kiss that had missed, and his lonely puckered up lips. I thought he should have at least kept his eyes open before the crash. But once he had committed, he was left alone with his pride, and kissing The Moon’s bar air.
“Dude, not on the lips,” Paige said. “Really? I just met you.”
As I had tried to look away, as I had not wanted to remember the scene. But, I had stood frozen next to the wooden stool. Jane had coughed. I stared directly over at Jane. For Jane’s part, she covered her mouth with her hands, and she had turned to stroll down the bar’s bartender side, she appeared to have closely inspected the rubber floor mats, the back stock, and she had inspected the dirty-dish bins.
“See you later, Jane,” I said. I had twisted away from Paige. I had heard her other statements that seemed to have bounced off her Tinder dates ears. He was still overconfident, I thought.
“What baby, what?”
“What?” Paige said. “What is wrong with you?”
As I walked from The Moon, down the front stairs, and into the human traffic, I had strolled up the brick alleyway, with my hands in my jacket pockets. I had not stopped laughing, actually, I had been reduced to tears. I suspected those that I had walked past thought I was in deep sadness. But then, as I had stood trying to regain my composure in front of a colorful mural painted on the side of The Moon, similar art I thought was shared throughout St. Petersburg. I wondered if art imitated real life, what would an artist have painted that night from inside The Moon?