By Patricia Gimer
It’s too late for us to turn back now, thought Claudia, while freeing a strand of grey hair from the zipper of her slinky red dress. After spending all day cooking balsamic Brussels sprouts with bacon and goat cheese, a red wine reduction sauce, and filet mignon worthy of the sauce, finally, this was a real date!
Adam, who had previously dressed exclusively in hiking clothes, arrived in suit and tie as requested. He presented her with one fragrant red rose, a bottle of her favorite Cabernet, and surprised himself by indulging an impulse to pat her softly on her backside while she ladled sauce over the beef. We’re going to the opera, he thought, no matter where it might lead – no matter how afraid I am of what might happen. They were committed now and he knew how it would go. He would be a gentleman, help her out of her raincoat, present her seat, get back up to retrieve another program, a cup of water, and a few napkins – just in case she cried when the protagonist died.
Adam would be the perfect gentleman, all while a growing panic distracted him from reading the English subtitles projected above the stage, making it impossible to follow the story thread. He knew she would be waiting for another sign of affection during the performance and even more afterwards, but his sole focus would be hiding his moist palms, slowing his heartbeat and breathing – and she would become disillusioned, just like all the others.
He tried to visualize himself on horseback, riding down into one of those remote canyons he loved to explore – just him atop his old stallion, Archibald – no woman with expectations, no woman whose eyes would eventually fill with tears of disappointment.
It would be simpler if they would leave me alone, he thought, but one-by-one they come, auditioning for my approval, hoping to rein me in.
Finally, the curtain dropped and they rose to leave.
“So… that’s La Boheme,” Adam moaned.
“Maybe opera’s not my thing,” Claudia admitted.
She caught one of her heels on the steps and reached for his arm. “Better hold on to the handrail,” he directed. As they crossed the parking garage, her purse strap broke and she struggled to contain its contents.
“How about this weather?” he asked.
“Think I’m ready… for a break,” she said.
It was a long time before another driver let him back out into the line of cars waiting to exit. As he turned to do so, he noticed her silent tears. “Delayed reaction?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Claudia whispered, shaking her head. Dating is so exhausting! she thought.
She asked for a tissue and permission to look in the glove compartment but found only maps, sunglasses, and quarters.
Why didn’t she bring the napkins I gave her in the theater? Adam wondered.
She sniffed, turning toward the side window, watching raindrops merge into vertical rivers that washed their collective mood down to a place neither wanted to go.
They had been silent for ten miles when he pulled into her driveway and hurriedly made sure she had her purse, umbrella, and program. He solemnly escorted Claudia to the front door where, clutching her belongings, she fumbled to insert the key.
Depositing her just inside the threshold, Adam said, “Thank you for a delicious dinner,” and mechanically kissed her cheek. As he reopened his umbrella, he heard the deadbolt lock behind him. He knew they would never see each other again – it was too late for them to turn back now.
Patricia Gimer, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, lives in Los Osos with a white Cockapoo named Winston. She has been writing for as long as she can remember because she “has to.” Patricia is a Board Member of SLO Nightwriters, for writers at all levels in all genres. Find them online at slonightwriters.org.