“I have kids.” I placed the fork on my tongue and suckled, my eyes never lifting from the cloudy potatoes. I was sure that the entire restaurant could hear our conversation.
A girl chuckled.
Our waiter shuffled over to ask questions that I let my date answer. My dates voice sounded the same as it had since the moment we first met about an hour ago. Casual, but certain. I wondered what he was certain about but more importantly what he could be convinced of.
“Kids?” He reached for his whiskey neat, I betrayed my potatoes to find his eyes above the rim, waiting.
“A few.” I said.
“Boy, girl, girl. All over the age of ten,” I dabbed my mouth, “you?”
“I don’t have any children.” His trophy gleamed.
I placed my hands in my lap. My dress strangled me. The air condition was blowing awfully hard. We should have sat on the patio. I looked to see the owner of the earlier chuckles. She was sitting across the room with her girlfriends, still guffawing.
“I’m surprised.” I offered.
“That I don’t have children?” He raised an eyebrow.
“You’re such a great catch.” I slid my tongue around my salted margarita rim. He watched me closely.
“Carol didn’t mention you had kids.” He cleared his throat.
“I,” pushing the plate forward I searched for the waiter, “well, yeah.” I spotted him across the room yucking it up with a couple and their kid.
“Were you married?” Here we go.
“We don’t have to do this.” I knew it was a bad idea to agree to a blind date. Damn Carol. Damnit Carol. I should’ve known something would be missed. This freaking fabulous guy sitting across for me didn’t know I’m a mom three times over, toppling over forty and acknowledging every inch of death that I notice in my thighs, the dips, the runs, the longing, the stretching, the burrows in the forehead.
“Hey, we’re just talking.” He eased.
“So, let’s start there. Just talking.” He gave an ambivalent smile.
“I’ve never been married. I’ve been in love more times than I care to admit… I just so happen to carry the evidence with me in flesh and bone.”
And there was his face. Everything looked plentiful. I could never run out of places to put my eyes. The lashes, the grin and big teeth. The width of his eyebrows, thick and rich — Pantene approved. He looked like he belonged somewhere. Like there was always someone calling and needing him. How did he escape so many open arms empty handed? No one had gold or silvered him down. No one bred him. Someone is upset, I’m sure. I searched his face out of enchantment not out of bravery. Not even my shyness could detach me from the view. I just wanted to know what he was made of. Was it sugar and chrome? Was it step-father?
Another mom. Carol knows I don’t date moms why would she set me up like this? She’s a friend of a friend, I can’t just dismiss the date as I normally would, damn. She does look great in that dress though. She wanted to impress me.
“You okay?” She asked.
“Oh, yeah, I’m just enjoying the flavors. This is great isn’t it?”
“Thank you for bringing me out.”
“Thank you for coming — uh wait, where are you going?” She was pushing back her chair.
“Oh, I figured that was it.” She stood and adjusted her dress. I didn’t want her to go, but I wasn’t sure how much I wanted her to really stay either.
“No dessert?” I forced a chuckle.
“Do you date women with children?” She placed a long leather strapped purse over her shoulder, never stopping. Throat dry I grabbed my water; the ice had melted.
“Then what are we doing?” She pursed her lips and waved a small goodbye, turning on her heel she headed out of the restaurant. The dress hugged her and moved seamlessly with each switch, baby was fine as hell.
Where is she going? Probably to relieve the babysitter. Probably to explain to her baby’s dad why she’s late, probably to make dinner for the kids. Probably.
Reaching for the phone I found her name, Diana, and pressed call.
She answered the phone right before disappearing from view.
“Is that always how you leave a date?”
“I have to go.”
“Nice meeting you.”
“Yeah?” The waiter signaled the check. I nodded and readjusted myself in my seat, sliding in my air pods.
“Uh, do you like being a mom?” I struggled for words that mattered.
The sound of outside danced in her background.
“Sometimes… I wouldn’t take it back.”
“Are you being honest?”
The waiter picked up my card and smiled, I mouthed a thank you.
“It can be challenging. Sometimes. I don’t know how to feel most days.”
“I can relate to that… not knowing how to feel… most days.” A loud honk broke through her silence.
“Be careful.” I said.
“I try. You seem more careful than me.” I picked up humor in her voice, okay, maybe we’re getting somewhere.
“I’m just lucky.”
“Luck is careful. Seems particular about who it lands on.” Wind blowing and the subtle sounds of music spoke when she didn’t. I chuckle. I grab my card that the waiter just returned and made my way out of the restaurant. What am I doing?
“I don’t like kids, that much.” I say in a huff. “But I like you.”
“I need to get off the phone so I can focus on the road.”
“Or maybe get off the road so you can focus on me?” I slid into my car and turn on the air condition. “Look, I’m not trying to be disrespectful.”
“It just comes natural huh?”
“Really, I’m meaning to say, I, I want to do this again. Or at least some variation of this… again.”
“I’m sorry, I have to go.” She hung up. My car melts into traffic.
Did she hang up on me? I call Diana back. It rings. It rings. It rings. Voicemail. The further I get across town the thicker the traffic becomes.
My phone rings.
“I uh,” Her car door shuts. Keys jiggle. Her heels hit pavement. “I do too. I want to do this again too.” Slow clicks and clacks. The road is still before me. The sun is swallowed up. I cradle the road, my truck pounds through. I turn off the AC and let down the windows, my mind was free to hang, blow side-side.
“But be kind. Let me go please?” Her voice was almost a whisper. “Thank you for the dinner, I wish you the best of luck.” And with that she hung up.
A horn blared. An angry driver raged in my rearview mirror. I called Carol.
“So! How was it?” She oozed.
“Please, don’t set me up with any women with kids again.”