“Hi, it’s nice to finally meet you,” I said and held out my hand.
“You too!” Grady said with a bit too much enthusiasm for a first date. He leaned over and gave me a bear hug, his 6’4″ frame practically lifting me off the ground. He smelled of sweat and three-day old cologne.
“Your table is right this way,” the hostess said picking up two menus.
We had been communicating via email and phone for a week now. I glanced at Grady trying to take in his physical appearance without staring–it’s a task I’m not very good at, but I was practicing. He dressed appropriately for Houston wearing khaki shorts, a polo shirt, and flip-flops, but not to impress. I smiled at him, hoping to keep my eyes from gawking.
We were seated in the corner; even at noon, the place felt like a dank hunter’s lodge. Animal heads jutted out in random intervals while they sneered at us from their lofty locations. Dust, visible from our vantage point, coated antlers and fur while the lone ficus tree attempted to add a touch of softness. It failed. Instead, it compounded to the dirtiness with a large dust bunny dangling from a silk leaf. The hostess returned with a basket of chips and salsa. I smiled at Grady again.
“What?” Grady said as I tried not to stare at him.
“Oh, it’s just that dust bunny,” I said lying, trying not to let him know I had focused on his gummy grin. Putting a slight bit of salsa on a chip I puckered my lips as I tested the heat of the hot sauce.
“What? Where is it?”
“Right above your head,” I said as I took another bite of the tangy salsa
It was true; the dust bunny waved back and forth as the air conditioner rattled from the ceiling.
“Oh,” he said standing and trying to swat it away. It was higher than he could reach. Not wanting to give up, Grady pushed his chair to the tree, stood, and took another swipe. He managed to tip the edge and the breeze of his hand caught the offending filth tossing it into the air where it slowly fell apart scattering particles of dust and hair.
We both began to swat at the pieces hoping to steer them away from our chips and salsa. The bits landed silently on top of our table leaving my stomach unsettled.
“I’ve never been here,” Grady said while he picked up a menu and began to read.
“Me neither.” Having lost my appetite, I opted for a margarita on the rock, no salt. Surely, the sharp smell of tequila, the sour of the lime, and the coolness of the ice could help me survive this date. Or, I thought, I could just go to the bathroom and not return.