We ended up in a hole (both figuratively and literally) through no real fault of our own on the very first date.
Doug had invited me to meet for a quick and early dinner on a Wednesday evening last fall and suggested a bar nestled on the lakefront for our meeting. I arrived early - as I'd warned him I would do - and reminded myself that I need not be nervous. I was older and wiser than when I'd last dated years ago. I was calm and composed and, well, delightful, dammit. And if he didn't like me, that was fine - I was very happy with my life overall and there were other men with whom I was corresponding. And if I felt a bit sick and moved my car twice before convincing myself to go inside, well, we already know I'm neurotic.
I entered the bar upstairs to find it occupied by a private party and the bartender - a little wisp of a girl with long, auburn hair - smiled and motioned me downstairs to the lounge instead. I thanked her, sighed at the ease with which the party-goers interacted and laughed, and descended the steps with a feeling of dread. Blind dates are hard.
Cheered when I found a table by the window, I ordered (and paid for) a glass of white wine and took calming breaths while staring out at the chilly brick patio and lake beyond. I think I told Doug it was a nice place when he arrived a little later, taking a moment to think him rather cute as he shrugged out his puffy jacket and settled on the wooden stool across the tiny table. He ordered a soda and burger after asking if I wanted anything.
I demurred and he noted that he had a meeting at 7, temporally separated from us by no more than 90 minutes and spatially no more than 2 blocks. I recall being amused that I was being tucked into a small opening in his busy calendar, neatly on the way between work and his event that night. Still, I cocked my head curiously as I sipped wine and we chatted easily.
I'm shamefully experienced when it comes to blind dates and I normally predict their outcome. And all signals were pointing to vaguely uncomfortable and mostly disinterested for Doug. Little eye contact, vaguely evasive answers to some questions. And I looked up to smile at the pretty bartender from upstairs as she swept out the door behind Doug.
I blinked in surprise when he stopped her on her way back in from the patio. They talked about mutual acquaintances and I raised my eyebrows and smiled benignly when she glanced at me before tossing her hair. She directed a couple of comments in my direction and I nodded and smiled where appropriate, wholly unbothered by the interruption.
It happened once, maybe twice, more - she walked by and Doug stopped her to ask a question or exchange a few comments or jokes.
I was tickled by the end of the evening, having decided that he liked the lovely woman and perhaps was trying to get her attention by being seen with someone else. I wondered if I should tell him that someone like me would never bother someone like her - there is a reasonably clear ranking of who's desirable among females and she crushed me without effort on said spectrum. They would make a cute couple, I decided, having acquired a glass of water that I'd almost finished sipping.
It was raining outside when we departed, Doug hurrying to his divorce support group. I said I'd enjoyed meeting him - and I had as he was smart and focused and clearly loved his children - and waved before walking to my car and waiting for him to reverse and slip from the parking lot before I did.
"Silly," I said into the silence of the Jeep, unsure if I was referring to him or me or both. But I mentally closed the matter, expecting to never hear from him again, and idly wondered if he'd muster the nerve to pursue the bartender.
Instead - and hell if I can figure out why - he decided to pursue me. But that's a story for another day.