It started out innocently enough.
I was making my way through the grocery, finding the items that would coalesce together into a wondrous symphony for lunch. Already holding a bag of baby carrots, I walked through the juice aisle. This whole “eating healthy” thing was new to me. I had no idea what juice would go well with a bag of baby carrots. Apple? Orange? Carrot, so my full serving of beta-carotene for the day would be accomplished in one fell swoop?
A voice from behind me spoke up. “Water’s really the only good thing when you’re eating carrots.”
I turned around and came face to face with a woman who could accurately be described as pretty. Brunette hair, slight curls that ended just above the shoulders. A body that was in perfect proportion to her height. And oh, her height! In one of the rare instances, here was a woman who was shorter than me!
I nodded and laughed. “Sure, yeah, makes sense,” I said, trying desperately to tread that thin line between mysterious sex appeal and buffoonery.
She smiled at me. And what a glorious smile it was! I could barely take my eyes off of it long enough to grab that 20 ounce bottle of refreshing water. This was unusual behavior for me. Typically, I responded to a woman attempting to begin a conversation with me by ending the conversation as soon as possible. I knew I was not a Casanova by any means, the only time feeling comfortable in my own skin being when I was onstage. And even then, that was debatable.
“Are you grabbing lunch?” The woman asked, snapping me out of my inner monologue. She was still talking to me? Yes! I nodded again, then remembering that I wasn’t mute, told her that yes, in fact, I was grabbing lunch.
“Cool!” She replied, the smile which looked to have been created by a thousand tiny tooth-brushing angels beaming at me. “Why don’t we eat together?”
I was at a loss for words. This woman…scratch that, this stunning woman was asking me for a lunch date! And right then and there! What other choice did I have but to accept?
We sat together in the grocery’s cafe, and immediately began the small talk. Where we were from, what we did for a living, all that. It was, to put it succinctly, nice.
And then the neuroses began to show. I am rarely approached by women, let alone asked out on a lunch date. The last time that happened was 2003. It had been a while.
“Look, Linda (name changed), I’m really glad that we’re doing this,” I began. “But, I mean, I’m usually not asked out on dates.”
She smiled warmly. Leaning toward me, her hands flat against the surface of the table. “Zach, I’ve made it a point in my life to not judge people based by on their looks. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
HOO-RAY! My heart did a double back-handspring. Never mind that this bit of dialogue had been inserted into every after-school special based on looking into someone’s inner beauty. It had never been spoken directly to me and blast it, I was going to revel!
We finished lunch and agreed to meet again that Saturday for another lunch, at someplace a little nicer than a cafe area in a grocery store. Maybe someplace with servers. And napkins on the table. After exchanging numbers, we bid adieu and went our separate ways.
Then Thursday happened.
I was in the midst of writing out yet another piece of brilliant text when my phone rang. Seeing her name on the screen resulted in an uplifting of my mood as I hit the Accept Call button.
“Linda, hey, how are you?” I began. There was a pause on her end of the line. Uh oh. “Linda, you okay?” I said, moving my full attention over to the call.
She responded with a loud sigh. “Zach, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be able to make it Saturday.”
My heart, which had previously been doing flips 48 hours before, was now sinking back into that familiar pit of solitude. “Oh. Everything all right?”
“No. It’s my car. I just got back from the mechanic, and they told me that I need a new transmission.”
“Oh man,” I said. My instinct told me that she wasn’t lying. Never before had a lady broken off a date with me due to false car trouble. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
And just like my neuroses came to bear that afternoon at the grocery, so did LInda’s come to bear on this Thursday afternoon. “Yeah! You should be sorry! I don’t know what I’m going to do, that’s like three grand, and I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Not a lot of people do. If you want, though, I can give you the names of a couple of places I go to for work on my car.” I replied.
Linda scoffed at the idea. “Yeah, because that’s what I need, is names. How about you help me out?”
“…Well, I don’t know much about cars…”
“No, I mean in paying for it.”
“I pay half, you pay half.”
“…Ah, Linda, as much as I’d love to, I’m not exactly rich. And I just met you Tuesday.”
“So what you’re saying is you won’t help me in my time of need?”
“I’m saying I’ll give you a couple of places that could fix your car up right.”
“That’s not what I need, Zach!”
“Well I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”
There was a long pause at the end of her line. Finally, she said, “I thought you would be different from the rest of the guys. But I guess not! So good luck to you!” And she hung up.
I looked at my phone, and slowly shook my head as I quickly deleted her number from my contact list. I’d like to think that her whole deal about looking beyond someone’s appearance was genuine. But no, she was shaking me down for cash. Some people.
On the positive side, however, that was the first time I’ve ever been seduced in an attempt to get cash. So hey, get to cross that off my bucket list.