Bad Date

by

08/30/2020

Neighborhood: West Village

 

(photo credit: Elizabeth Schoettle)

Sometimes it seems New York will get hotter and hotter until the greenhouse glass breaks and we are all dead.

But this was the winter of 2006. The night was cold, bitter, the swelling sky would not let loose, hair hit my face, and my coat blew open before I pressed my hands to keep the flaps down. The streets were empty and restaurant hostesses stood at doors hoping for customers.

I ducked inside the hot vestibule of Café Figaro.

“Welcome, hi, wait inside by the window,” a host who looked like a cruise ship greeter said.

“No,” I told him, “I’ll stay at the door.”

“The window,” he motioned his hand.

“That’s okay,” I told him.

“No, sit down, it’s cold, you should be warmer by the window.”

“Really, I’ll just stand here.” NUT, leave me alone. 

Paul said meet on the southwest or southeast corner of MacDougal. But where. Fuck. I pushed open the Figaro’s heavy doors and stormed over to the café on the next corner, and then a café on the next.

NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST, NOPE, NO PAUL.

Clack. Clack. I clacked my heels back down the street and into my building, past the blood staining the floor, where it looked like someone’s head had been dragged, and up my stairs, before I finally looked at the little piece of paper where I’d written Paul’s excruciating number.

“Hello, Paul—”

“Where are you,” he said, “you said 7:15 and I’ve been waiting since 7:15.” I looked at my VCR. The time was 7:17. Asshole. 

“I’m so sorry Paul, where are you, I thought we were meeting—”

“The Green Lion,” he cut in, “I’m here…I told you if the weather was bad…Did you even come in?”

“No,” I apologized—asshole, “I must have missed that part of the message, I’m—”

“Just get here,” he told me, and I said fine, and out the door I ran, down the steps, into the cold, up Bleecker, past the girl I always pass with her menus—glad she saw me in my red velvet coat, running like I was famous, like I was always late like this.

Then.

“So where do you want to sit?” Paul said as soon as I stepped inside The Green Lion. Wow. The place was full of green, green velvet everywhere, and there were a lot of portraits of kings on the wall. Paul took the little couch, or not even; it was this sunken treasure chest with a thin piece of velvet on top. I sat in the iron chair (adjacent) looking down at him, until I realized this was not comfortable at all, and moved over, on to the velvet strip with Paul. Awkwardly.

“Never saw you without your hat, pretty,” he said. “You got a pretty face. You’re like,” Paul snapped his fingers, “turn to the side,” he scratched his prickly beard. It was trimmed shorter than usual and all I could think was vagina, mine, and how I trimmed it on the toilet the other day for that doctor’s appointment.

“Nice cheeks,” Paul said. “You gotta’ good profile, turn back.” He stared at my nose. “Who’s your plastic surgeon?” he laughed.

“Thank you,” I said, not really knowing what to say.

A squat waitress with a Generation Y walk slouched over.

“Ready,” yawned the waitress.

“Yeah, what’re you getting?” blurted Paul. “No wait, lemme guess,” his lips made a smacking gummy sound and he tipped his head back, “WATER,” he said, outrageously.

“No. I think maybe,” I held the menu, “I’ll be decadent tonight Paul, I’ll get the, no, well, tea, I might go with, I can’t, god, I’m sorry, sorry, you go…” 

I must have scanned the royal menu sixty times: salads, breads, cakes, tea, my eyes kept going back to this very Egyptian sounding tea, called the “Egyptian Tea.”

Paul’s head shot up, he threw his menu down and folded his arms. “An éclair and a milkshake.”

“Wow, good idea Paul,” I stalled with the menu, “Okay, maybe I’ll get a diet coke then, that would be a treat…” And it would, drinking a diet coke at eight o’clock on a Monday night, sneaking in this stupid date. Edward was coming to get me in one hour.

“I’m going out later,” I told Paul.

“Later,” Paul looked at his watch. I wasn’t sure if I should have provided this information, but then I decided I did not want Paul to think I put on this outfit (tight gray skirt, flush white shirt, crisp collar and buttons) for him. Whoops, my hand brushed his knee.

“That’s okay,” Paul teased. He was wearing dark jeans that were too tight and sitting Indian Style, with his legs crossed, trying to look young. Then he proceeded to tell this incredibly long-winded story about how he almost died over Christmas. I didn’t understand what Paul was talking about at all. Something about E. coli, this infection he had where the something he got was all the fault of this egg he ate, and it went into his brain, then they had to operate, the doctor made some mistake and stuck a needle in his eye.

“I almost lost my vision,” Paul said.

“Really.” Thrilling.

“Doctors don’t care,” Paul looked past me, “doctors are some of the stupidest people on the planet, better off without doctors. This one said I was lucky I lived,” he held up his stubby finger. “Imagine that…So anyway, I was taking nudes of this Japanese girl the other day, my thing, I like the body, naked,” Paul stretched his arms wide out, “in bright light. You should try it sometime, really…it’s uncontainably delicious.”

“Your milkshake,” the waitress eased Paul’s skyscraper shake onto the table. Paul picked it up right off the plate and practically threw it in his face. The milkshake spilled all over his leg. Paul flicked his hands at me and yelled, “Napkins, got any napkins?”

“No.” Yes. I had one in my hand behind my back, squeezing and crumpling it into what I told myself was going to be a neat little ball that I would soon throw at the hole in Paul’s head. Watching Paul feel stupid about his milkshake mishap made me happy. “These bubbles are amazingly crisp,” I told him as I sipped my diet coke.

“Not much ice,” Paul said. As I watched Paul wipe himself off with his chocolate covered fingers, I said, “At least it’s not eight dollars, that’s how much diet cokes are at the Carlyle.” I turned my straw in slow circles. 

His eyes didn’t so much sparkle tonight as fizzle, and the shape of his head was so depressing that I couldn’t take my eyes away from it. It was a shape that said major childhood problems, I was picked on, yes sirree, I got called a lot of names for the shape of this head. He couldn’t hide that, not even after telling me how he stood up in kindergarten and announced to his class, “I told everyone I’m going to be a famous artist one day, and I am.” 

I watched his head and couldn’t stop looking at his teeth, tucked way back behind his beard. Every time he smiled, I tried to look between the bushes and see, were they white, were they gray? They were small teeth.

 I imagined Paul was always small for his age, and that he stayed small a long time. He reminded me of a man who might have been born of a pig, his mother just this big fat hog, his brothers and sisters pigs too, all gathered around the mother trying to suck her udders for food, with Paul never getting any, oink oink, always the one getting pushed and kicked out.…

”Date?” he looked off to the side and laughed like it was just so ridiculous I could have a date. “A hot one, so who’s the guy?” Paul pinched my arm and picked up his spoon again. “So who’s this guy…?” Paul restated his question.

“Just this guy.”

“Lover,” Paul said.

“No,” I hesitated. I never tell people what Edward really is. “More like a good friend.”

“Sex—” Paul was not so much intrigued now, as he was mad. I uncrossed my legs and adjusted my shirt. I really had to go. I saw our waitress across the room sitting down. In her hand was “Brave New World.”

“A fling,” Paul kept going, “Whaddya bang every now and then, on-off type thing? Luscious.” Paul licked some milkshake out of his beard, “Those things are delicious, have one of those myself, this girl from England, comes and goes…So where’s he takin’ you?” Paul asked, and I said, quickly, “Probably Elaine’s.”

Paul rolled his eyes. I truly hated his eyes at this moment. They were small and beady. “What, you don’t like Elaine’s?” I knew he wouldn’t. This was not the type of man who eats any place where the waiters are more important than he is, and so I FINALLY announced, “I’ve really got to go.”

“Oh yeah,” Paul fanned the air. “Date, I forgot, me to him, date hopper,” he lightly thumped my arm. I picked up my coat. Paul didn’t have one. It was ten below outside, and he was just wearing that thin blue club shirt.

“Right, we gotta pay,” Paul took out his wallet. “Did we even get a bill?” his eyes moved around the room. “Where is she?”

“Do you want me to help?” I asked Paul, pretending to take out the money I did not have.

“Nah, I got it,” he said. Suddenly he spotted our waitress—she was now outside smoking a cigarette, having a very quiet waitress moment, until Paul stood up and leaned his head outside the door (we were right by the door) and screamed, “ÉCLAIR, MILKSHAKE,” in her ear then leaned back in, “Whadda you get again?”

“A diet coke.”

He leaned back out. “OH YEAH, AND A DIET COKE FOR THE DIET OVER HERE.”

The waitress came back inside, handed Paul the bill, which came to seventeen dollars. He studied it for a while, and then handed her a twenty and just stood there. But why? What for, certainly that was—or no… She brought Paul change, he looked at the three dollars, waved them in her face, “Here you go, take two,” he said before reaching into his pocket, “and wait, hang on there, got some,” he flipped through his change, “fifty cents ought to buy you a ticket somewhere,” he laughed. “Ready.” Paul went through the door. First.

—-

Elizabeth Schoettle is an artist and a writer, living in New York City. She is currently working on her first memoir about her life as an artist. 

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