My concern over too much sun on the roof proved to be well-founded but slightly misplaced. When I returned from the gym my face was that special shade of red reserved for post-exercise, extreme lack of oxygen look on a humid day despite indoor air conditioning. I took a cooler than usual shower that felt surprisingly good in an effort to bring my face back to its regular flesh tone. Without steaming the mirrors, I was able to immediately see upon exiting the shower that my red nose had little to do with thirty minutes on the eliptical with my new workout playlist and more to do with my forgetting to apply sunscreen to my face. I would be meeting my blind date as rudolph with a faint hint of racoon eyes. Luckily after a bit more foundation and powder than usual I was able to feel presentable. More than presentable.
Walking out of my building in my new favorite dress, I ran into my neighbor who boosted me with a simple "you look amazing." I was cutting it close and only had fifteen minutes to reach the restaurant on time. Luck was still on my side and a cab was waiting right in front, collecting the fare from the exiting passengers. I climbed in, gave the address and my driver asked "who's the lucky guy?" As we sped down the nearly traffic-less West Side Highway with the Hudson to my right and the sun just starting to consider its descent, my driver continued tossing compliments over his shoulder then told me about his family in Yemin and the beautiful house he just finished building. He told me how life doesn't completely begin until you find a companion who makes each day worth any amount of sacrifice and shared an Arabic saying and something from Muhammad that I unfortunately forgot. I even obliged him and removed my sunglasses so he could see my eyes and did not feel creeped out when he told me to let my date get lost in them.
I walked into the restaurant one minute late and had no trouble spotting him sitting on the white leather couch to my left. He was probably around six feet tall and very thin with a shaved head and glasses. He was neither attractive nor unattractive, the type of guy who could improve with a good sense of humor and charm and he was visibly nervous. Initially, he had a difficult time holding eye contact and seemed paralyzed in conversation. I realized immediately I would be taking the lead. Our table was a few short inches from two older women seated next to us who from their loud conversation and monopolization of the waiter's time with questions about the City appeared to be from out of time. It was a distraction that did not improve my dining partner's comfort level.
With a significant amount of questioning on my part and a bit of rambling personal disclosures from my end as well, even without return questions, we made it through dinner without too many awkward silences. I felt the entire team of wait staff that was stationed not far from our table waiting for our water level to dip an inch below the surface and possibly placing bets on our back story. I may have imagined it but I think our very attractive server with the New Zealand sounding accent may have been giving me knowing, sympathetic smiles for enduring a somewhat uncomfortable, but tasty, dinner.
I don't want to create the false impression that the date was an unbearable bore. It wasn't. He relaxed as we moved from the complimentary amuse bouche of strawberry gazpacho soup served in a beautiful handle-less white tea cup into our appetizers, he revealed his interests. Working, running and reading - non-fiction only. No travel interests. Doesn't take vacations. Runs 20 to 25 miles a week on purpose. Ran 13 miles earlier in the day so he "wouldn't have too much energy." Self-described clean freak and manic. Works 70 to 80 hours a week. A week. Doesn't socialize. At all. Checked his blackberry during dinner because it was "going crazy" on a Saturday night. Saturday!
The setting was beautiful, through the glass windows over his left shoulder I watched the sun slide spectacularly into the Hudson River with two orange streak slicing horizontally and vertically with perfect right angles. My skate fish with julienned vegetables was excellent. His well done steak that he sliced into multiple pieces before taking a bite looked unappealing without a trace of pink or even red but he seemed to enjoy it. I especially enjoyed the ginger beer our server urged us to try because it was freshly made on site.
I was disappointed when he suggested we pass on dessert at a restaurant known for its desserts and walk to find something else but agreed a walk would be nice. I did not realize that a leasurely walk through the Village would feel more like a sprint in two and half inch wedges trying to keep up with someone who had already ran 13 miles earlier that day. It is rare that I struggle to keep up walking in New York. We wandered and continued sharing and divulging pieces of our lives that really only overlapped for that one dinner. He had a difficult time choosing a place for dessert because too many of them looked dirty or one *gasp* actually had someone playing the trumpet inside!
We selected a risky place, an Italian bakery that he thought was promising because it smelled like bleach. Not really how I select bakeries but I agreed to try it and selected a brownie sundae that could have been better and he pieced at a raspberry tart.
By the time dessert was over I realized we were chatting far more comfortably but maybe that was because I had resorted to telling stories about our mutual friend - such as our midnight bobsledding and camping (he shuddered) trip in Yellowstone years ago. When we reached 7th Avenue he abruptly asked if he could "put me in a cab" and I realized the date was over. As he held the cab door open and I thanked him again for dinner and dessert he handed me a $20 bill. I told him it was not necessary and he said "please, it is on me." I did not realize that sort of gesture happened in real life but there you go.
As my cab retraced my route from two hours earlier heading north on the West Side Highway I did not receive compliments from my driver and I don't think I noticed the Hudson River as I gave my mom a recap of the evening emphasizing that although I believe he is quite neurotic, OCD and possibly truly manic as he claimed, it wasn't the worst blind date I had been on and I really didn't mind that my friend had lined us up. He isn't a bad guy and it wasn't a painful ordeal. Just not a love connection.
When I reached my apartment I dashed inside, made a quick change from my dress to some white shorts and a black short-sleeved tuxedo ruffled front top and jumped in another cab happy I would not be too late for my friend's surprise birthday party. I knew she was sad and upset that I was not able to make her birthday dinner and I loved getting a shreak of delight and a hug when she spotted me walking onto the roof. The party was small and was not attended by anyone of particular interest to me but it felt good to relax and talk to people who didn't recoil at the idea of "domesticated animals." Of course there was a considerable amount of recoiling when, as I was talking to a friend (coincidentally TW of last summer's dating dramas), a large cockroach peeked around the side of his shirt, its long antenna twitching. I was told I screamed and I know I jumped back. TW claimed he expected something worse from my reaction but a number of people were screaming and putting as much distance as the roof allowed between themselves and the cockroach. It was close to two inches long and a couple of boys stepped up and tag teamed the nasty roach by capturing it in a cup and then smacking it to death with a flip flop. I offered my heavy cork-soled wedges but was told the narrow heel didn't offer enough surface space so the killer had to hit the thing a number of times before we all felt safe to mingle again.
Even though the blind date was not a success, I think I learned, as pointed out by my cab driver earlier that evening, that a good attitude will always take you places. Mine made a blind date an enjoyable evening.