It takes me a while to find the restaurant, after a short stop to do my shopping: dish detergent, makeup remover and nail polish, urgently needed, now hiding in my bag. That’s how serious I’m taking this night – it’s on the ‘to do’ list: plan lessons, deliver lessons, do shopping, go on a date. When I get in, I notice the size of the place and how full it is. I can’t help thinking I might bump into someone I know. I immediately spot him, although he’s sitting with his back turned to the entrance. I think it’s odd to sit with your back at the entrance when you’re waiting to meet someone for the first time, but I don’t bother with that now. He’s sitting at a small table with tall chairs. I go directly to his table and my hand reaches out to him.
“It’s cold” he says shaking my hand. “You’re so wrapped up” he continues without getting up.
“Yeah”, I reply unbuttoning my coat, putting my bag on the chair in front of him and searching for a place to hang my coat.
“Try over there” he says pointing to a wall nearby, still not getting up.
He looks the way I thought he would – short and cold and struggling to be proud. After meeting Turkish men though, watching other men attempting to be proud is so hilarious. It’s like stuffing your bra with socks and walking around as if those were your real boobs.
I sit down next to him and he passes the menu. Small, white, cold hands, unattractive. They look old, although he says he’s thirty. Blue eyes. A two day beard look. Tight blouse and slim jeans, revealing the perfect results of regular gym workout. And I have a hunch there’s some relevant drawback he’s trying so hard to make up for.
“I was thinking of wine. What do you normally drink?” he asks.
“Well, I don’t normally drink, but wine sounds good.”
“You don’t drink at all? No alcohol?”
“I don’t drink so often, but it’s ok, I’ll have wine tonight.”
“Ok, I’m looking at this Merlot, but I don’t understand, it seems so complicated with all these flavors – chocolate, cinnamon, fruits, it’s crazy, too many things. What kind would you like? I know women usually prefer white.”
“I prefer red. Dry.” I reply and check the menu and find this simple red wine, with a nice description of flavor – dry plums, raisins and cinnamon. Sounds perfect for this time of year. “This one, it’s more simple and straightforward, I think. And autumn- winterish.”
“Ok, I’ll go for that one as well”, he says.
For someone who claims to be writing, he’s so severed from life. Like he’s put himself behind a thick wall. I look at him and I sense fear and that he’s hiding something. I don’t buy his story with the sabbatical year and his private blogging. I’m not sure if I should believe his story about having worked for an oil company in Texas, either. Or that he lives in Calgary, Canada.
“I’m sorry I’m asking so many questions, but, you know, I write… I feel I cannot trust you”, I tell him with my brutal honesty.
“Really?” He says sounding so surprised.
“Yeah, it feels like you’re not telling me something. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you everything about my life, either. It’s just that I feel you’re not open and seem so separate from what’s going on.”
“I don’t really understand what you mean”, he says feeling more and more uncomfortable. “You’re looking at me so inquisitively”, he adds, grabbing and squeezing my hand gawkily. I escape the touch and recuperate my hand, placing it under my left armpit for a while, to warm it up after the cold encounter.
He changes position and his knees are now touching my legs more and more insistently, but I almost don’t notice it and cannot be bothered.
“It’s easier for you to travel alone. You’re a man.” I tell him without feeling any traces of envy.
“Yes, for women it’s more complicated. You have your makeup, your shoes, clothes, everything.” he replies and for a moment there I hope it’s a joke. When I realize it’s not, I try to explain what I mean in an effort to build a bridge, but the construction stops halfway in midair.
“Couch surfing has become an unofficial dating site”, he informs me.
“I still think maybe you should try to find people on couch surfing to travel or meet up with if you want to explore Romania.” I advise him enthusiastically.
“Maybe I can go with you”, he offers trying to tempt me without the slightest chance of success. “Muslim countries are not interesting for me”, he continues.
“Because I cannot find women there. Dating women is an important part of my travels. In the Philippines I was an attraction. They all want mixed babies. I’ve never made a woman pregnant. It was hard. I could never go unnoticed.” he says sounding almost upset in his attempt to cover his synthetic pride like silicone plumped lips under a nude lipstick.
I talk a lot, giving more information than I would and should normally give, attempting to make him feel more comfortable and open up and give both of us a chance. Nothing works. He’s so much in his head and nothing, absolutely nothing seems to surprise him or move him in a visible or even slightly perceivable way –bike fall, journey, threats, sexual orientation, risks, relationships. You name it. Nothing opens the door.
“Your center seems to be in Turkey. Everything is around Turkey for you. Any marriage proposals you got in Turkey?”
“Not really. Or maybe just one, indirectly. Anyway, I was almost like a star. All I needed to do was to be out of the house, that’s all.” I reply.
“So here I guess you have to put on a short skirt or something to get that kind of attention” he continues.
I ask questions and I pay more attention to the way he’s answering them than to what he is saying and, before finishing up the last sip of red wine from the bottom of the fat glasses, sex comes and lands on the table, like a big fat slice of meat still bleeding.
“Do you like crazy things, awkward things? What attracts you in men? Do you like women? The fact that we are here is because of biological reasons, not logical. It is nature’s way of telling us we can have valid offspring. For reproduction. That is what motivates us, even if we are not conscious of that. That means that your eggs are good.”
“I like Romanian women because they don’t wear a bra. Do you?”
“Oh, what a pity.”
“Yes, I know. But I have to. I get too much unsolicited attention anyway.”
“Do you keep fit?” he asks, his hand sliding under my cardigan and trying to pinch my abdomen. “You didn’t show me how you look”, he insists leaning backwards and checking me out from head to toe, like you would a horse you’ve just fed and are getting ready to ride.
“Really? Is that how you do it? Do you want me to stand up and make a pirouette for you?” I ask making it all a big fat joke.
“Yeah, so I can see your back, too”, he says eagerly.
I don’t bother to answer this time and I just laugh as if he’s just made a good joke.
And if I was trying to give him a chance, he totally blew it and by now I really want to go home and sleep. No, go home and write. I’m wasting my time on this stupid date and I have so much writing to do.
“Do you wanna come hang out at my place?”
“Sorry?” I ask, really surprised he’s actually still taking the risk of asking.
“Do you wanna go to my place?”
“I don’t think so, no, thanks though. I have to wake up at 6 in the morning and I’m tired. I’d better go home.”
“Come just for ten minutes, it’s just here, around the corner”, he insists.
Now why would I come just for ten minutes, really, I wonder. “No, thanks, I’m really going home.”
And after he pays the bill we get up and he hands me my coat, waits for me to put on my gloves and I take it from his hand and I put it on and as he heads for the door I’m following him at a safe distance. He opens the door and I can’t help thinking he’s not holding it for me and he’s getting out before me, leaving me to follow him behind.
He stops in front of the door outside, takes my hands in his and pulls me next to him, stretching his neck to reach my lips above my thick, fluffy scarf. I think it’s funny and I giggle. He doesn’t.
“I love your lips”, he says, placing small, quick and dry kisses on them, as if tasting some delicious cakes through the polished glass of the shop window. “And your nose. You’re so hot.”
I place my hands on his small shoulders and gently keep him at a distance. I’ve already told him I’m often too polite or shy or stupid to say no and I see he’s already taking advantage of that. So I smile and step back.
“Do you also have a big ass?” he asks, trying to grab it under my coat.
“I do.” I reply proudly and take a step backwards.
“You have big boobs. And you also have a big ass. Big everything?”
“No, just big boobs, big ass and a big mouth. That’s all.”
“And you also kiss with your eyes open.” he insists.
“Yes, when I’m getting ready to leave.”