"He's horrible," is Rachel's response as I tell her about my date the night before. "You're not going to see him again, are you?"
Even worse is the moment of thought I give her question.
"No," I sigh. "I won't."
I'd been excited to go on a date with Mark. He was a sexy man (or so I had originally thought), and there were definitely some sparks between us. We had had wonderful conversations over the phone. Would it lead to more?
There are two sides of me that divide immediately when dealing with men I desire. I refer to the "let's party" one as Now. She's the "give me what I want when I want it" type of girl.
Then there's Sergeant, a woman of few words. Always observing, she eyes the goods deciding on whether they belong in our private brigade. Now and Sergeant have been fighting their own secret war since I was a teenager.
* * *
Though the car ride to the restaurant is fun and relaxed, the mood quickly changes. This date begins travelling downhill as soon as we sit down.
"Why are you holding your menu in front of your face?" Mark barks in my direction. I stop scanning it, look to see who he's talking to and tentatively lower it. "Excuse me?"
"Why are you hiding your face from me?"he asks.
"Sorry, uh, I didn't realize I was blocking my face. Sorry," I say, a little anxious and a lot confused.
"It's just rude, that's all," he says, shrugging his shoulders around as if to relieve tension. I'm suddenly uneasy. Sergeant is on full alert.
"A large glass of red wine," I tell the waitress the minute she arrives. I had perceived this man as humble, easy-going and mysterious. Now I'm aware that his quick temper is the least of his issues. I feel trapped, and allow myself to sit though his insecure and egotistical ranting about how he's destined to become a star.
"People stop me on the street all the time to tell me I look like this actor or that actor. I guess it's just fate."
"I guess," I reply, bored and disappointed.
"Do I look like I'll be famous to you?"
"Hey, you aren't secretly taping our conversation, are you? I know you writer types. I don't want to become famous and have you come out with some tape of me," he laughs.
Maybe it's my Catholic school upbringing, but men seem to want to tell me everything. Mark is no exception.
"I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but you look like you'd be fuckin' great in bed," he says, a huge smile breaking across his face. "Excuse my language."
I'm choking on my tomato.
"Thanks," I say, as dryly as I can.
"You're quiet but intense at the same time. That turns me on."
Please, I feel like begging Mark, don't say any more. Even though you're an asshole, you still have time to change it. Maybe we can both win tonight. And then, for no reason, he relaxes again, and I begin to see the side of him I'd originally found attractive.
"Chaka, you're one of the most unique people I've ever met. I like being around you."
"Thank you," I say cautiously.
"Sorry if I've been a little on edge tonight." He looks genuinely apologetic.
Relief flows through me. Maybe he isn't as bad as I thought a moment ago. It was probably just first-time-hanging- out nerves. Good boy, I think to myself, we're back on track. We smile at each other and begin eating. For the next hour, everything runs smoothly.
And then we hit the wall again. "It's too bad you're one of those prowomen types. See, a girl like you and I would probably not make it in the long run. I need to be with a woman who aspires to be a wife and mother. Not going out there trying to be a writer. That's what destroys relationships."
Three strikes and you're out. Sergeant has had enough. So has Now. This is Now's third horrible date in the last few months, and she's tired of trying. A little fun was all this girl wanted. Was that a crime?
"We're done," say Sergeant.
"Yes, he's acting like a jerk again, but a while ago he was fine, remember?"
"Give me a chance tonight and we can ditch him tomorrow. Maybe he's better when he's not talking."
"Now listen closely. Mark is denied entry." Sergeant has just about lost it.
"He's an asshole, but for once who gives a shit?" Now screeches back.
Sergeant has won again.
I sit with a straight face as this war rages in my mind.
"No offence, but you can have a really blank expression on your face sometimes," Mark blurts as he stares at me smugly. "You need to work on that."
That's it. The barricades are closed. The night is over for me.
When the bill arrives, he grimaces.
"Eighty bucks. Chaka, you owe me."
That's the last straw. "I've never met anyone quite like you, Mark," I spit while looking at my watch and arranging my things to leave. He smiles. He's taken it as a compliment.