Craig’s is an endearing puppyish look with that floppy hair and those smiling eyes. In his picture he’s proffering a perfectly chilled glass of white wine. What’s not to like? His listed profession is Biology teacher. Now admittedly, it’s been years since thoughts of Biology encroached my head. At one time I had grasped the mysteries of both photosynthesis and metamorphosis. And who was it who phutzed around with dominant and recessive genes? Ah yes, it was Mendel, a man to whom I was eternally grateful. It was his exonerating research I quoted when my mother-in-law looked askance that two of my three children were blue-eyed, though both my husband and I had brown. As things transpired, sadly, our conversation never touched on genetics so I was ill-positioned to impress with name-dropping of my friend, Gregor.
When I arrived at the agreed coffee shop, Craig held the door open for me and looked deliberately at his watch, admonishing, “You’re two minutes late.” I almost expected him to reach into his pocket and hand me a ‘late slip’. Why was I compelled to fabricate an excuse regarding being stuck behind a driver navigating the length of Maple Bay road at 40 kmph? Why could I not have told the truth? I’d contrived to arrive a couple of minutes late so as not to appear eager.
Recollection of our conversation causes me painful flinching. I was subjected to monotone tirades regarding the stresses faced by teachers these days; cutbacks, government bullying, and substandard student literacy levels.
As Craig spoke I had ample opportunity for examination. I was intrigued. Parts of his chin and neck were beautifully smooth, other parts sprouted a two or more day growth. But it was his cheeks that were the most problematic. There were sparse clutches of scraggly hairs erupting randomly on his jaw line. Was he attempting to grow mutton chops in the manner of Darwin himself? How much better he’d have presented if he’d been clean shaven, as in his pictures. I felt quite deceived.
Thankfully, to distract from the ‘beard’, were the eyebrows. Now there was no shortage of exuberant growth! They were as tawny, very energetic caterpillars. They kept leaping northward unexpectedly as I spoke. It was disquieting as my words were not ones to cause astonishment. I was intrigued to watch them and anticipate, not always correctly, when they would leap. I resolved that this could be entertainment enough, but their jarring liveliness affected my ability to concentrate. When the anticipatory stress of the eyebrows became unmanageable, I cast my eyes around the cafe for respite.
A local man entered and sat at a nearby table. He was familiar from my distant past; we’d both attended the same church. I rummaged my cluttered brain for some minutes to uncover his name. I knew that he was divorced and, like myself, no longer attending. Backslidden is the applicable term, I believe. Never mind his spiritual status. I ascertained a much more compelling fact about him; he held much appeal in the visual department. I found my eye being drawn, with little reluctance, away from my coffee companion, and further afield to the other clientele. Well, one of the clientele to be specific.
My mother had instilled in me the importance of good manners, so I tore my eyes from more Diverting Sights and paid full attention to present company. His diatribe had now progressed to the firing of the entire school board in our district. Significant as these issues are, they proved trying conversation for a ‘first date’. As a small treat I allowed myself a surreptitious glance towards two PM. I was chuffed to be assured that the solo player who had entered during act one was still on stage. He was occupied with his coffee, a book and a tempting-looking muffin. His speaking part was yet to come. He was nonchalantly biding his time.
After some time, feeling buffeted, I absconded to the washroom for reprieve. In the privacy of my booth, I pondered my predicament. How to get rid of one man and secure that empty seat at the table of the other? I was not a brilliant tactician, and was unfamiliar with complicated social manoeuvres of this nature. Invocations to the Almighty were not a viable option, given my backslidden status. In the absence of an experienced and sympathetic friend to call for advice, I resolved to leave matters to fate.
Later, as conversation flagged, I made noises regarding the need to leave. We rose together and conveniently had to pass Mr Diverting’s table on our way out. To my surprise, the men knew each other and a conversation was struck between them. Act two was, thankfully, brief. The dialogue was poorly scripted and held little interest. Mine was the non-speaking, merely decorative role, while the men reminisced about a sailing course they’d attended. I stood some distance from Craig, unwilling to broadcast: ‘couple’. Their reminiscences eventually faded, and as Craig reached his hand to the door to leave, I heard music to my ears. “So, Anne, tell me how you’re doing?” A perfect and timely deliverance. A single line, but in my view, the most significant of the morning’s dialogue. The fates had smiled! I delivered the inspired final words of act two with concealed delight, “Sorry, let me just say goodbye to Craig, and then I’ll fill you in.”
Act three saw myself and Mr D sitting opposite each other at his table, chatting amicably. We caught up on many intervening years. With relaxed laughter, he admitted that he too had been internet dating, with limited success. I was not so forward as to give him my phone number. I do have some vestige of pride. But I was so forward as to say, “I’m in the phone book, if ever you want to connect again, I’d enjoy it.” With a cheery goodbye, I resolved, yet again, to leave matters to fate.
I am still waiting.
This is Anne Jarvis‘ first submission for publication — her passion for writing is a recent discovery. She is in the process of writing a book, serialized in blog form. If you’ve enjoyed this short story, The Internet Angler blog may appeal to you.