Sunday Scribblings: Stranger

Had I known it was an interview, I wouldn’t have spent the last half-hour of my shift gnawing on my fingernails, peeling strips of bloody flesh to the cuticles.
Not that it lost me the job.
We struck up a conversation in the check-out line at the grocery.
She’s wearing a gray flannel business suit, only a skirt instead of pants, black heels, white Oxford shirt and a tie. She’s got it undone, one button on the shirt undone, the tie unknotted.
She commented on the gruyere in my basket, said it was one of her favorites. Her basket was filled with high-end frozen meals, scrawled with the word “lite” on the cartons.
“See you,” she said as she collected up her plastic sacks.
My truck was parked next to her Lexus.
“Seems I just can’t get away from you,” she says as the window slid down, automatic.
“Is that what it seems?”
“Oh, I think so. I know this is forward, but would you like to have a drink sometime?”
“Sure, yeah.”
“I’m busy tonight, but let’s say 5:30 Tuesday? LaRocca’s?”
“Works for me,” I say, unlocking my door.
LaRocca’s is a cavern, low light, cocoa-colored leather booths, walls washed in peach.
I’ve got on a clean pair of jeans, black T-shirt, my good leather jacket. Even took a wet paper towel and ran it over my Red Wings.
She’s nowhere to be found.
I take a table near the bar, and the waiter asks – twice – if I want something to drink.
“I think I’m going to wait until my date shows up, thanks.”
I am a fish out of water here. I half think about skipping out.
When she walks in, waves. She’s dressed in embroidered jeans, red sweater, black boots with ginormous heels. Huge gold hoop earrings.
“You made it,” she says, offers me her hand to shake. Puts her other hand on top.
She orders a glass of Merlot, I get a tap beer, import. It comes in a glass with a fancy stem. She makes small talk, tells me about her day, her business. She’s an executive, a full partner in a firm downtown.
“Full disclosure, I’m seeing someone. He’s a bit older, and he lives in Arizona,” she says, swirling her second glass of Merlot. “Not sure where it will lead, but he’s there and I’m here. And because of my business, I get invited to a lot of parties. It’s getting to be the holiday season…”
And I realize that I’m being interviewed. For the role of arm candy. She’s down to interviewing total strangers culled from the grocery.
I’m start to sweat. Make small talk of my own. Try and salvage the evening, discuss my positives, my upshot. Even as my brain screams at my heart to shut the fuck up.
Her eyes wander the bar, looking for future candidates. Says “uh-huh,,” a lot. Smiles whenever her attention come back.
I do not do well in interviews.
She finishes her wine, stands, puts on her coat. I’ve got half a beer left.
“Really, this has been nice, but I’ve got to get going. Thanks so much for meeting me.”
A dry handshake, two pumps, and she’s out the door as the waiter drops off the check.
I unlock the truck, take a deep breath, fill my lungs with the cool night air. Fold the receipt into continually tinier squares, drop the thing into the ashtray.
It cost me $42.80, with tip, to find out that she and I were incompatible. Complete strangers.
Worth every penny.


Anonymous said...

Ooh, hot off the press Thom G with a vehicle to the Dallas TX days. I saw a lot of potential sugar daddies there and used to think it’d be nice to sidestep the hard work and get the luxuries highbred and spoon fed. But something about a no-nonsense New England upbringing puts a kaibosh on that empty folly. And that’s worth every penny I hadta scrape for ;-)

Mary said...

Well written. I love the ending!

Tumblewords: said...

Woohoo! Been on both sides of that one! Good writing.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes! been on both sides of that one! :) I like it!

Danny Wise said...

Yeah, makes a neat little story, a contemporary take on strangers passing in the night, perhaps.

lilly said...

I loved it! I love the ending.

quin browne said...

goodness. imagine if....well, just imagine.

Anonymous said...

Thom. I have a marathon bar guide for you. But need your e-mail to get it to ya!

"Sunshine" said...

Loved the ending.

Blondie said...

Do people really agree to meet based on an encounter in a grocery store? Huh. I must be shopping in the wrong grocery store. Wonderful story, I liked it very much! A delightful read!