Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21 (pending)
Recently divorced Anna Waite is learning to appreciate life after first love. With the support of her best friend Kira, and a solid sense of humor, Anna tackles the world of dating. This is her coming-of-middle-age story.
THE DATE WHERE I GO TO LUNCH
The crowded restaurant buzzes, servers moving, conversation floating, and light music poking through the quiet gaps. I bounce my knee below the table, glancing at my watch: 1:57 p.m. and still no food at our table. A bolt of anxiety strikes my gut, and I breathe through the dread.
The worry started when Isaac texted: Got called into work. Mind if we move our brunch date to lunch?
No problem, I said, knowing there were several hours between the afternoon meal and my 4:00 plans to see the storefront with Dylan. But then Isaac picked me up and took me on a thirty-minute drive to his favorite place to eat, a quaint café priding itself on quality over efficiency. The sign read, “We don’t serve fast food; we serve fresh food,” should have tipped me off. And when the waitress spent more effort gawking at my date’s biceps than taking our order, I knew time might become an issue.
“Are you okay?” Isaac asks for the second time since we sat down. Clearly, I’m giving off an unsettling vibe.
“Sorry,” I say, forcing the nervous motion to stop and meeting his glowing gaze. “My mind’s wandering.”
He takes my hand across the table, concern creasing his forehead. “What’s going on?”
Other than prepping myself for a potential dumpster fire of awkwardness? “Just thinking fourteen steps ahead. You know how it goes. One minute you’re on a date with an attractive guy who bench presses small cars, the next you’re trying to solve the energy crisis while simultaneously figuring out how to be in three places at once.”
A murmur of understanding hums from his lips. “Sounds like you have a lot going on. How can I help?”
If this were Dylan, he would have laughed. Made some joke about lifting vehicles and maybe flexed his muscles before gliding into what’s bothering me. But Isaac handles things in a softer way. Not bad. Just different. “I’m good, but thanks.”
The waitress approaches with a tray of food, and I applaud—legitimate clapping. I stop mid-slap when I realize how weird I look. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy food as much as the next gal, but a grilled chicken salad rarely deserves effusive praise. The din of conversation quiets. Curious stares search the restaurant. Embarrassment creeps up my neck, and I tuck my hands in my lap.
“Sorry,” I mutter.
“Nice enthusiasm.” A soft smile tips his lips, and it should make me feel better. Instead, the kindness holds a magnifying glass to my awkward edges. Like a poorly finished piece of furniture that, upon closer examination, needs some sanding and an extra coat of paint.
“Yep, super hungry,” I lie, pretending an empty stomach caused the cheering, not an end to the food delay pushing me closer to my meeting time with Dylan.
“Everything here is amazing. You won’t be disappointed. Am I right?” He turns to the waitress. The sudden attention shines on her, the glory of the sun dispelling all shadows from her expression.
She bobbles the plate (please don’t drop it), babbling in an incoherent agreement. Her eyes stay focused on Isaac’s biceps, and she flings my food with the grace of a newborn giraffe. Lettuce splatters the table in a scene of salad murder. A cherry tomato rolls to the floor in a solid plop. By contrast, she gently sets Isaac’s food down, using a cloth napkin to dab the water ring left by his cup.
“Can I get you anything else?” She asks him, sparing no glance for the invisible person (AKA me) sitting across the table.
We wave her away, and she walks backward, keeping Isaac in her sights, bumping into walls and people until she rounds the corner. Watching her obvious admiration reminds me I’m on a date with a superior specimen. A man who inspires mind-numbing attraction in café waitresses. So why am I not embracing this?
Smooth, black skin and sparkling amber eyes. A strong body with muscles for days. Gentle hands, kissable lips. Mega eye candy. Add to that his kindness, the way I imagine he helps old ladies across the street, and he’s the total package. Cute and courteous.
Suddenly, I think back to the early days of my divorce, telling Kira I wanted someone kind and attractive. You just described a dog. Or a cat, she’d said. This is your second chance at love.
“Tell me something about yourself. Something I don’t know.” Desperation drives me to turn this date around. No more comparing Isaac to cuddly pets. And no more thinking of Dylan. In fact, no more awkward Anna.
He sets down his turkey club, wiping his fingers on a napkin. “I volunteer at an animal shelter when I have extra time.”
“Don’t you like animals?”
“I love animals, but you can’t be that perfect.” I stab aggressively at my salad. Stuffing it in my mouth, I speak through a face full of lettuce and chicken. “Why aren’t you married?”
Blurting out such a personal question isn’t my style. But really, attractive, nice, holds down a job, rescues small kittens. What are his flaws? The blazing red flags to warn off unsuspecting women?
“Well.” He glances away and rubs the back of his neck. “I’ve struggled to find a woman who…you know.”
He stops, expecting me to fill in the blanks, and I lean in. “I’m not following you.”
The chair squeaks under his shifting weight. “You know,” he tries again, making a motion to encompass his general being. “Most women I’ve dated are only interested in this.”
“Your ability to make circular hand motions?” I ask.
“No. My—” he glances around, looking anywhere but at me— “my body.”
The fork pauses halfway to my mouth. An urge to laugh bubbles, and I choke it back. “Women only want you for your body?”
“Yes.” His eyes stare a hole through his turkey club.
Meanwhile, my laughter burns a hole in my esophagus. “That must be really exhausting. Hordes of women, chasing you down for sculpted biceps and chiseled quads.”
“You can joke around, but I want more. A woman who enjoys a good conversation, watching a movie, or walking dogs at the shelter.”
“Sorry, no more jokes. What you’re looking for is really sweet.” And it is. Sweet, kind, courteous Isaac
Oh no. Dating Isaac is the equivalent of dating a puppy.
We continue to eat, talking the whole time, and I force my attention away from the clock. But when we finish, it takes forever for the waitress to bring our check. Another eternity to pay. Time ticks, moving from 3:00 to 3:15. I already calculate the thirty-minute drive home and strategize how to escape the car, running for the house with a fast goodbye.
“Can you drop me at my friend’s?” I ask as he opens the passenger door for me.
Since I have no car yet, Kira was kind enough to pick up Josh and Devin at my house. The plan was to hang out until Dylan arrived. Now our together time shrinks to an incremental, dread-inducing amount.
To make matter worse, Isaac drives like an old woman on a Sunday. His speed remains steady, never tipping above the limit. If the light turns yellow, he slows and stops, refusing to accelerate through the intersection.
“You’re acting nervous again.” He reaches over, covering my bouncing knee.
“Sorry,” I apologize for the umpteenth time. Get a hold of yourself! 3:38 p.m. “Tell me about your volunteer work at the shelter.”
“A couple of weeks ago, one of the cats had a premature litter.” An actual glow enters his eyes, his voice going soft. “Some of the kittens had to be bottle-fed.”
Isaac is a cat man. I imagined him as a dog man, like big dogs, a drooling rottweiler, or a muscled Doberman.
By the time we reach Kira’s driveway, I know the name of every kitten in the litter, their personalities, and quirks. His current story about Cat Benatar stretches, keeping me in the car instead of allowing for a dead run into the house. I smile and nod, peeking at the ever-ticking clock. 3:49 p.m.
When he pauses for breath, I jump in. “Thanks for lunch. It was great.”
“I’m glad you liked it.” He flashes a devastating grin. “It was nice talking to you. I really enjoyed our date.”
“Me too,” I say and move to grab the door handle.
“Don’t you dare.” He hops out and jogs around the car, getting my door for me. “My mama would be ashamed if I were less than a gentleman.”
My heart pounds through my chest. I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. Say goodbye, send him on his way. Ten minutes until Dylan comes, I can do this. Because repeating the awkward Isaac/Dylan meet-and-greet holds as much appeal as licking the floor of a public bathroom.
We step on the porch, and he tugs me around to face him. No. No tugging. No face-to-face. Only running. A slat of the blinds drops with a distinct clack, and I know my sneaky best friend has been spying. 3:51.
“I’d like to go out with you again. Is that okay?” he asks.
“Yep.” I nod, my hair swishing with the enthusiastic movement. “Sounds great. Text me.”
Pulling me into a hug, he laughs against the top of my head. “You’re doing the nervous thing again.”
Tucked in his arms, I feel small. Tiny. I want to take a minute to appreciate this moment in the Bicep Sanctuary and enjoy the strength and comfort of a man’s embrace. But 3:52.
“Sorry,” I say, drawing away from the warmth.
“Stop apologizing.” He tucks my hair behind my ear, his fingers trailing down my cheek to cup my chin. “I think I know why you’re nervous.”
“You do?” He doesn’t. No way he figured out I overscheduled my day, moving from one man to the next.
“You’re wondering if our kiss was a fluke or if it’ll be as good as we remember.” His eyes blaze, the sun catching the gold flecks and making them sparkle.
In my peripheral vision, I see a white Jeep Cherokee. Dylan. No! “It’s okay. I have a good memory.”
“There’s only one way to find out.” Moving his hand to the back of my head, he presses closer.
Everything goes into slow-motion, Dylan’s Jeep approaching at a crawl, Isaac’s head inching toward mine. I emulate Dr. Strange, my mind sorting through hundreds of scenarios to find the least awkward solution. But I’m not a superhero. I’m Anna Waite, the queen of bumbling embarrassment.
The cinnamon of Isaac’s breath tickles my lips, the rumbling of Dylan’s Jeep amplifies. I feel Kira’s presence spying through the blinds. Sweat pools at my lower back, and my pulse spikes, the rhythm yelling, abort, mayday, man overboard.
I spin, Isaac’s lips glancing my cheek before I jump from the porch. A row of holly bushes awaits, and I land in an inelegant lump in the spiky leaves, not quite making it behind the shrubbery. Scratches adorn my arms and legs, angry lines seeping red.
“Anna?” I hear my name in stereo, both Isaac and Dylan shouting in a combination of horror and confusion. The front door opens, and Kira rushes out, adding her exclamation of my name to the bunch.
The scrapes sting. My eyes sting. I want the ground to swallow me whole or a time stone reversal to take me back a few minutes.
Dr. Strange would be so ashamed.