“Jacquie?” I turned around on the bar stool and faced the man who had just called my name. His coat was blue. Not the pretty blue color of the sky or a freshly lain robin’s egg but an iridescent, unnatural, hurt-your-eyes bright cobalt blue. Perched on his head was a knit cap in the pattern of a checker board…black and white squares. It was pulled so low on his forehead, I wasn’t sure if he had hair. But I remember thinking… This is Florida for heaven’s sake and this is supposed to be a fifty-year-old man.
I don’t have a favorite type when it comes to men. Looks aren’t the most important thing to me… I’m more inclined towards nice. Because I think nice is underrated. I’m generally not one to judge a book by its cover, but holy man. This cover was painfully blinding.
No, he didn’t remotely look like the photo he posted on his dating profile. In that portrait he sported an open collared white shirt; wide blue eyes set in an open, friendly face; brownish hair long enough to curl a little at the ends yet look groomed. His teeth were a little uneven in his picture, but I liked that slight imperfection. Flawless, I’ve learned, is hard to trust. He was a practicing attorney, the missive claimed, his specialty business law. I had forgiven him that…set aside the Shakespearean mantra “kill all the lawyers” in my new, more open state of mind. Who was I to be picky? This was my first internet date and I had reasoned myself into being unbiased.
“You look just like your picture,” he said. “Actually… prettier.”
It was impossible to say the same; the lie would have made me self-combust. I pictured myself as a ball of fire, perched on my bar stool. “Hmmm,” I replied. My lips felt glued together. I have a reasonable command of the language and a fairly large vocabulary but given all the words I know, I couldn’t muster one… not one measly word. Few things have ever rendered me mute.
I focused on what felt like a hairball in my throat, because I couldn’t look at that coat one more second. It made my eyes cross, as if they were stumbling over each other trying to look anywhere but directly at him. The vodka martini I’d been sipping was suddenly burning in my chest.
“So let me ask you,” he said. “If you could f**k any cartoon character, which one would it be?” This was his opener…he hadn’t even ordered a drink yet. So much for nice.
It felt like slow-mo as my eyes uncrossed, the hairball in my throat dissolved and reason settled over me like a cape. Every word I ever learned rushed into my brain… a cascade of prose tumbling, pushing on the back of my teeth, kicking the inside of my lips, begging to be set free in a torrential tirade. A bucket of words meant to dissolve the blue coat and checkerboard hat into a puddle before me, as surely as the pail of water melted the wicked witch of the west.
“It was a joke,” he called to my back.
And so it ended. My first internet date… and I spoke not one word. Nothing I could have said would save the world from this philistine. Yet, looking back, I wish I could have done something to save the planet from the sight of that coat.