"I am on foot. Wearing all black. See you in 15."
It was Saturday. By the time, I hit Sunset Junction, the last embers of LA's magic hour had faded into the cool, ruddy gloaming. My favorite shirt was still on the lam.
I fished the tiny lifeline out of my pocket. The screen is blank except for a hairline fracture.
"Going in blind, naturally." The words slip out on the heels of an almost-icy but definitely strained exhale. "No worries."
I had been avoiding the place all week. Intelligentsia is already bastion for awkward interactions since an excessive number of moments always pass at the counter while you're forced to watch an art degree with a mustache pull your $4 americano.
But, I had a date.
I had scheduled a little hangout with a prehistoric-mammal-loving bassist whose band definitely soundtracked some of my high school and college years. Curiosity got the better of me. Plus, a woman can't spend saturday evenings cowering, caffeine-less, in fear of running into shirt-thieving gingers in shrunken navy chambray.
Under a heat lamp, we were debating the merits of Terminator 2 as a film (far superior to the original, obviously), when I got the confirmation I no longer needed:
"Yes. I'm working." Followed a few unanswered minutes later by "Why...What's up?"
How rude of me to have left my phone out on the table. If the shift in dopamine caused by slipping those texts, unanswered, back into a satin-lined pocket was imperceptible, the pull of a smile at the left corner of my mouth that was its result was not.
"It's cold. Let's go. I'll give you a ride home." the bassist says, amused.
Then, it's Monday in Hollywood. I'm bullshitting about the last few months over a bowl of vegan squash something-or-other. Elle and I have a mutual friend and this is our first lunch together.
"Wait. That's funny. He was having an s&m affair? But...not in person? What a waste. That doesn't count."
"Indeed." I said. "Unfortunately, it read much like a pamphlet for 7th graders on the Dangers of Sexting: 'Oooh. Baby. Please tie me up and fuck me now.' All hot air and daddy complexes, unfortunately."
"My thoughts exactly. This is how I justify non-dating an actor now. By comparison, it seems healthy."
We are cackling into our green teas when my phone lights up. It appears that the sartorial hostage situation will meet an imminent resolution:
"Driving past your street. You around?"
"Back in 30. Wait for me."
I take off my 2989s and, for a second, I'm actually surprised that he doesn't turn to stone. "Thank you. Your meeting now is at Intelligentsia?"
"Yep....OK. So...Alright. I guess I'll....see you sometime."
So, I'm not Medusa after all. But at least I have him stuttering a little bit. I feel back in control until he removes the reflective Doctor Strangelove-y shades he's wearing.
Touché. I haven't seen those eyes in two months.
"Um. Sorry? We shouldn't see each other anymore at all. I just cannot...." Then I remember my lunch conversation and throw in, "My last relationship was a fucking circus..."
"Sure. I get it."
I step down the last stair. Looking up slightly now, I am not even convincing myself. I drop my head back down and lean into a slightly-too-long goodbye hug.
"OK. Let me know if my hat turns up."
"Mmhmm. Bye!" I say, while simultaneously visualizing the exact location of his hat in my closet. I turn on my heels and head up the stairs and through the iron gate.
By the time I am back into my apartment, I can watch the red plaid of his shirt disappear around the corner towards the Junction. And I pull out my phone:
"I found your hat. Call me after coffee. We have unfinished business."
to be continued....What do you think happened?