In honor of Valentine's Day, Short Order offers a three-part story on a date gone wrong.
Weeks later, I awaited Ken at Metro Organic Bistro (7010 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). He courteously suggested the venue because I had noted my veganism in e-mails and on my profile. I sat at the bar inside the tall-yet-tiny modernist restaurant, taking in the simple, clean lines of the furnishings. The smiling chef reached across the counter and handed me a menu, and I proceeded to inquire about the vegan options.
Ken arrived a few minutes later. He looked just like his photos, and he was smiling. A lot. "You got here before me," he stated, his grin and his gaze unwavering.
"Yep," I parried sarcastically. "The chef here and I have had time to discuss the ins and outs of every item on the menu. That's how late you are." I found myself mirroring his unnatural grin and tried to stop.
We sat at a long, pub-style table outside, where a cellist accompanied a stringy-haired man in muted green boho clothing as he sang in a passionate falsetto. We discussed the construction on Biscayne Boulevard, and I related what I thought was a charming story of how I almost didn't make the date because I had "lost" my house key at the gym.
"So what are some of your favorite Hitchcock movies?" he redirected, referencing something I mentioned on my profile.
I rattled off a short list, including Vertigo, The Birds, Psycho and North by Northwest.
"What about Rear Window?" he asked.
I wasn't sure that I'd seen it. He explained the plot ― in detail ― and I became sure that I had not seen it.
"Do you read books?" he asked.
I was starting to feel that this was more an interview than a date. I sheepishly explained I hadn't read a real book in months, but that I read lots of short fiction, since I like the format and it fits in better with my demanding schedule...
The performers finished a song as I scrambled to mask my Philistinism. He and a few other patrons clapped while I tried to complete my thought.
He interrupted me. "That's one of my pet peeves, by the way. When people don't clap for live music."
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Simultaneously stunned, shamed, and infuriated, I could only muster an "Oh," in response. I remembered something I had read on his profile that I hadn't given much thought. "I'm very forgiving of my friends," he wrote, "but I hold my partner to a higher standard." A familiar and uncomfortable feeling of smallness came over me, and I was quietly aware that ignoring the comment was a poor choice.
Then the waiter delivered my chickpea cakes -- fritters stacked strawberry shortcake-style and topped with avocado, butter beans and tomato. They were delightful in presentation and flavor, but I was talking so much, trying so hard, that I'd only half finished them 15 minutes after Ken had polished off his grass-fed steak. Was that a disapproving look he cast at me as I finally let the bus boy take my unfinished plate, or was I just paranoid?
Hoping the semi-formal dinner setting was to blame for the anxious feel of our interactions, I suggested we head to the cute divey-looking bar across the street for an after-dinner drink.