We decided to meet at Bing Crosby’s restaurant in Walnut Creek. I took a seat at the bar, and asked for water. After all, I’d had two glasses of wine already, waiting for him to get off work at the TV station and drive all the way to Walnut Creek. I listened to the jazz duo and waited for my charming date to arrive.
Charlie got there about ten minutes later and made a comment about the blonde in the red dress. It took me a moment to realize he meant me. I’d never been called a blonde before. I’d always been the un-noticed brown-haired girl.
My daughters didn’t like the “blondes” in our town and often made fun of them, like the classmate who’d said, “Biology – that’s math, right?” Or the other one that asked her friend going to Hawaii, “Are you going to take the bridge?”
To my daughters, blondeness equaled dumbness.
My blondeness had come on gradually – building up every time I got my hair colored to cover up the gray.
“I’m not a blonde,” I protested.
“Oh, yes you are,” Charlie said. “Stop pretending you’re not.”
Then he ordered two glasses of wine, both for himself. He must’ve thought he had some catching up to do since it was 10:30. We talked as he drank his first glass and then another. The music stopped, and the lights came on. The bar was closing. Charlie became agitated.
“They didn’t do a last call,” he complained.
I sat there thinking, You just bolted down two glasses of wine, buddy.
“Excuse me!” Charlie said, reproaching the bar tender. “What happened to last call?”
“Oh, sorry,” she said.
“You should have asked me for last call,” he complained.
“We’ll go somewhere else,” I offered, wondering why he was having a meltdown.
Little did I know that most of the bars in Walnut Creek had an 11:00 closing time. I’d never checked.
Charlie took my hand, and we walked to his car and drove to another part of downtown. We bounced from bar to bar, looking for one that would serve liquor after eleven. Each place suggested that we try another. Charlie became more and more stressed. He was on a mission. He needed that third glass of wine, and he needed it NOW.
I hadn’t had a drink in over two hours, and I was fine with just grabbing coffee. But Charlie needed alcohol. We ended up at P.F. Chang’s, where they were still serving. Charlie ordered two more glasses of wine and some Chinese food. I sat there thinking, What a cheap date I am. I hadn’t had anything but water since he’d shown up.
Between bites, Charlie started interrogating me as to what I wanted, no warm-up small talk, just a lay-it-out-there question, “How often do you like to have sex?”
“Excuse me?” I said. Was this the same guy I’d been emailing for a week?
“You heard me,” he said, shoveling in the food.
The date was circling the drain, but what could I do? I was stuck.
“I thought we had a connection at the Claremont, that’s all,” I said. “I liked dancing with you. I’m not ready to talk about sex.”
Charlie stuffed the rest of the Chinese food down his throat, and I wondered what I’d ever seen in him in the first place. His stomach hung over his belt, his hair was almost gone. Suddenly his sweet, funny emails had lost their charm.
Charlie drove me back to my car. Bing’s had long since closed. I found my car keys and held them in my hand, ready to escape.
Charlie leaned in for the obligatory good-night kiss, and I obliged, glad to get it over with, so I could go home. He wanted to ramp things up, and I was out the door and into my Subaru.
Adam’s apple, eyes, in-step, groin — the four vulnerable areas of an attacker, I thought to myself. But Charlie was three sheets to the wind and full of Kung Pao chicken.
I drove home, thinking, Internet dating can’t possibly be worse than this.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If I’d let Charlie get his way, we would’ve fallen in love, gotten married, traveled the globe for the best Chinese food. I would’ve bought all red clothing and changed my name to Blondie.