A Little Bit of Chemistry
I had just finished bartending at an outdoor concert in downtown Buffalo and I had a hot date to get to.
The concert ran late because of a weather delay and my primary mode of transportation at the time was a bicycle. So when I finally finished my shift I hopped on my sweet chariot, Janet, the late 70’s yellow Huffy Scout of my dreams and I pushed those pedals until my cheeks were the color of lobster tails. I made it back to my Allentown apartment in record time. I threw my bike down and ran up the stairs to the bathroom, left all my dirty clothes in a sweaty pile on the floor and hopped in the shower. I was out of there with delicate makeup on and a beautiful new dress in no time. I slipped on some wedge heels and walked to the door of my apartment. I took a moment to take a deep breath then I grabbed my umbrella and stepped back out into the world which had just tossed me around. It couldn’t have been forty-five minutes since I had left work.
As I began my walk the few blocks to the restaurant where I was meeting this man for the first time, the rain started to fall again—my feet slipped around in my wedge heels and I tried my best to hold it together. On the way to the restaurant I had to pass a bar where a few of my friends just happened to be outside smoking. Friends - with benefits. One of them wrapped his arms around my waist and slobbered into my ear, “oh my gawdd, Gabi, you look amazing!” I took this compliment and tucked it into my belt of confidence as I continued my journey toward my date. By then it was pouring, but I had my umbrella, it was fine.
When I walked through the doors, I searched around for the man. He should be tall, blonde, handsome, early forties, and he said he was wearing a denim button-down shirt. His name was John. I scanned the bar area but didn’t see him. I spotted one guy in a denim shirt, but I didn’t think that was him. Then I heard a voice from the corner near the door, when I turned around to look that way again John was standing within a foot of me. “You made it”, he said in a calm and confident manner. He was much more handsome than in his photos (not that he wasn’t handsome in his photos) and his smile was much more charming. I was delighted.
We make our way down the dimly lit bar to the hostess stand at the end. We had reservations for a patio table. It was 11:30 at night, this is a semi-fine dining hang out for industry folks and other assorted weirdos that like a nice meal and good service late night, and it was a Wednesday—so wouldn’t you know that seated right next to the hostess stand at the very end of the bar having an after-work drink is my boss, my boss’s boss, my boss’s boss’s boss, and other assorted folks in management for the company in which I had just finished my shift. My boss is a friend of mine, a handful of years older than me, married with a couple of kids, and she’s a boss. Not in the way that like, she is my boss, even though she is my boss. But she’s a BOSS. Like a bad bitch. Knows how to get the job done. Any job. A go-getter. A take-no-names asskicker. I love and respect the fuck out of this woman.
She whipped her entire body around to stare at us, and I watched her jaw drop and nearly crash on the floor. Her eyes just scanned the situation and spoke for her, “how in the hell?” - “how did you..?” - “you look beautiful.” - “who is this?” - “he is very handsome and put together.” She didn’t have to say these things out loud, we sort of have our own language, I got it. An hour before this run-in I was covered in goo and red-faced from a long shift dealing with drunk assholes - just like she had been, and everyone else at the bar beside her too. She picked up her jaw from off of the ground and attempted to wiggle it back into place still entirely speechless. I giggle and say hello and introduce her to John and then we exit to the covered patio where our dinner ensues.
John made great eye contact. He was engaging. He was intelligent, funny, and a high school chemistry teacher. He was witty and lovely at making and holding conversation. He was complimentary and delighted by me. Our food was wonderful. The wine even better. I laughed for the better part of two hours. And when our dinner was finished we left...er, um...tried to leave. But not before we had to pass the bar again. Management now two hours deeper into their cocktails, waved us over to join.
I looked up at John, with a “just one drink?” eyebrow to which he accepted. There, my boss swept him up quickly in conversation. “So, I have two children,” she begins. I giggled, rolled my eyes, and side-stepped down the bar. I was just going to leave them to have that conversation. There was a girl there in HR that’s close to my age and we started chatting about, I don’t know, traveling and getting a real job and life stuff. Very surface level, I-just-met-you-but-let’s-be-polite conversation. It’s fine. I don’t remember her name.
I finished my vodka soda rather quickly and looked to John for a sign, he locked eyes with me, a small smile drawn across his face, confidence and kindness in his eyes. My boss’s voice cutin and brought me back to reality from this dreamland I had just momentarily fallen into. “But do you think I’m a bad mother?” she directs toward John, her voice drones and John’s eyes now displayed a plea for help. I walked back over and interrupted their conversation to say that we were awfully tired, it being two in the morning after all, and that we should probably get going. I winked at my boss and we headed toward the door.
When we leave, I’m smirking. “Why does everyone want to tell me about their fucking kids?!” John questioned the universe. I bursted out laughing and so did he. I asked him if he wanted to see my apartment. He did. So that’s where we went and we did things that grown-ups do and in the morning, he left.
A few days later, I’m with a girlfriend, we’re cruising around going thrift shopping and doing all the girly things and I’m telling her all about this date I had, with this man, John. “ He’s so handsome and he’s smart and charming and funny and intelligent and...” I pause, grinning. “He’s just really great.”
So she asked me, “Well, what’s he look like, do you have a picture?”
And I remember, “Yeah, I can show you his Tinder profile.”
So I found what I thought to be is the most attractive photo of John and I flipped the phone to show her. She looked at the photo and gasps, her eyes bulged and quickly diverted back to the road.
“What?” I ask her, confused by her response.
She takes a final breath, giggled quietly to herself and confesses, “He was my high school chemistry teacher.”