[Source: Google search.]
My wife and I arrived at a popular Upper West Side restaurant about fifteen minutes before our friends. Mariam remained by the door to wait. The place was crowded and noisy. We’d been here before. It was always like that.
I made straight for the bar to get a beer and wait for our friends and a table. We switched our reservations from 8:00 pm to 7:00. There was some confusion. My wife made it clear that we couldn’t and wouldn’t wait until 8:00.
I snagged a seat at the small bar and ordered some kind of imported beer on draught. I took a sip. That is when I heard the woman next to me say something.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Were you talking to me? Is the seat taken?”
“No,” she said. “I was talking to myself”.
I had the feeling she thought I was going to hit on her. She clutched her iPhone in her right hand.
“Are you waiting for someone?”, I asked.
“Yes, he’s late.” She turned to me and looked me full in the face. I saw an attractive woman with just a bit too much red lipstick and too much hope in her eyes. I took a risk and asked:
“Waiting for a date?”
“Yes,” she said. “And he’s late. He already cancelled once before on me claiming there was a sickness in the family.”
“So, you think you’re being ‘stood-up’?” I ventured.
“How late is he?”
“He was supposed to be here at 6:45.” I looked at my watch. It was 6:48.
“Hey, it’s probably traffic. His Uber didn’t arrive. Give him a little more time.”
“Give him until 7:10 and then make a call or text him,” I said.
I sensed that this woman has been let down more than a few times on the blind date thing. She even admitted that it was true.
“I have a lot to offer,” she said. “I saw a guy for a year and a half. He didn’t want to go anywhere, movies, opera, museums…I told him I wanted to get out and experience what New York City had to offer.”
“Good move,” I said.
She looked at me again, not avoiding direct eye contact. “I’m sixty,” she said. “I have a lot of living to do.”
Our party arrived and our table was ready.
“That’s my wife over there with the white jacket. She was a former opera singer.”
“Interesting,” she said. “I’m an opera singer too.”
I got up and took my coat off the seat. It was a few minutes after 7:00 pm.
“It was nice talking to you,” I said as I made a move to our table. I felt suddenly very sorry for this woman. She wanted to have a date on this night. She wanted a companion. She most likely wanted a lover. She was sixty and she said she had a lot of living to do. I thought for an instant to ask her to join our group but realized it would be awkward for everyone. I turned to her as I left her side. She still clutched her iPhone.
“I hope he gets here. I hope you have a date tonight,” I said. She smiled.
I went to our table and settled into my chair.
“I met a most interesting woman,” I said to our friends and to Mariam. “She was an opera singer.”
I ordered a Malbec and ate a thumb-sized piece of bread.
I looked over at the bar stool. The woman was gone. I glanced around the room to see it he did indeed arrive. I didn’t find her. She most likely went home alone again that night. She would wipe off the red lipstick. She would pour herself a glass of Chardonnay and sit alone…maybe watch an old movie…maybe call a friend…maybe go to sleep..she probably had a cat or a dog. Everyone else in Manhattan seems to. But it wasn’t a pet she was looking for that night. It was a man.
She probably cried, alone and wishing for another chance to find someone to join her in life.
I can almost cry myself thinking about her hope that was dashed and her lonely night before her.
Actually, I did.
There are a million stories in the Naked City…and this is one of them.