Guido’s Playground

Online dating is similar to jumping off a moving swing in the park… you hope you land on your feet.

The drive was accomplished with calm reluctance and a tinge of anxious excitement. A terrifying thought flickered briefly as I considered how online dating was so much worse than the one blind date I’d experienced. At least when that disaster went sideways I could point a finger at a friend.

Quickly I shook the thought and considered this one had to go well. After all, he arranged our meeting at a reservation-required restaurant that by the looks of the parking lot was quite popular even for a Thursday night. Parking took a round robin through the lot twice before finding a sketchy space in the shadows behind the eatery. I swiftly walked to the front thinking maybe I should have brought the mace after all.

Pushing second thoughts aside, I moseyed my way into the dimly lit building. The corridor was packed reminiscent to pushing my way through a Black Friday sale at WalMart. Elbow to elbow and with no sure direction, I searched the dining room attempting to match a face with his posted pics which he had just the night before confirmed were recently taken. I had no success in the large room so turning towards the bar I continued scanning nearby faces.

One step, two steps, the third step – freeze. My feet felt as if I had just trampled in ten feet of snow. I froze as the figure speaking to the bartender turned and made eye-contact. A chill ran up my spine.

The slow motion images of George Costanza and Felonious Gru‘s love-child began mentally dancing in my head. As hastily as the images appeared they dissolved. My eyes refocused on the individual now sauntering towards me and I lost all coherent thought except for one….

He had on a flaming hot tamale red silk shirt. At first glimpse I thought he had a black ascot accessorizing the ‘give me some attention’ 70s garb. Only as he drew closer did I realize his shirt was unbuttoned all the way down to his black polyester dress pants revealing his naval. And NO, I am not talking about an orange!

I know I stared. This obviously taken the wrong way as his 10-pack-a-day smoker smile widened. My dismay surely had to have been written all over my face as I leered at the inky mess protruding out of his shirt like a dried-up gooseberry bush.

Mentally untangling my eyes from the matted mess on his chest, I immediately was entranced like a bird distracted by shiny objects. As my peepers moved of their own accord further up his chest, I was blinded by the glint of his three Mr. T gold link chains. I caught myself as my eyes ricocheted from jewelry to his beady eyes and back again. I pitied the fool for his apparent admiration for a wardrobe selection that would have Vinnie Barbarino and Rocky Balboa shaking their heads.

Still unmoving, I considered turning and walking, no I considered running from the restaurant, as his cologne – undoubtedly, Old Spice – hit my senses long agonizing minutes before he pulled me into an uncomfortable greeting.

I am pretty sure I heard him smell my hair….

When I dislodged myself from his big knuckled paws he proudly informed me he did not secure a table as he thought standing at the bar would be cozier…. Yep, no need to reread – standing at the bar and cozy in the same sentence. Again the thought of fleeing crept into my mind. Would it be THAT rude if I turned and ran?

I can now confirm, I have a heart as I pushed all thoughts of escape to the back recesses of my brain. I am a walking advocate for not judging a book by its cover. I mean really, how bad could it be?!?

Conversation was awkward. He spent most of the time in a loquacious tirade. My attempts to join the discussion were futile as he managed to consistently and abruptly cut off my every attempt to participate. He made the moment a gabfest about his mother, his obnoxiously high-paying job (his words), and more about his mom. He shared the countless years of online dating he had enjoyed, confessing he was tired of using the internet as his own personal playground. He even filtered in a story about double dating…. with his mom.

As the chitchat began to die, he finally conceded and asked what I was looking for in a relationship. I mechanically went through my mental list rattling off my must haves of mutual respect, romance, understanding, honesty and other highly regarded characteristics. An uncomfortable silence ensued. I took the moment of silence to ask about the pictures – his pictures. Explaining the resemblance was that of a younger brother . He laughingly informed me the photos were taken many, many years ago but were the most recent he had. He ended his explanation proudly with “see, I’m honest.”

While I gazed at him in disbelief and questioned my own sanity for standing there, the silence became almost deafening. Seemingly slow on the uptick, I saw the moment he recognized he did not fit my list at all. As I began to thank him for ordering my still untouched glass of wine and for ensuring I exceeded my stand goal for the day (yes, we stood the entire time), he took my hand in his sweaty meat hook and indomitably propositioned me and “my toys.”

The gentleman standing next to me snickered while his companion made eye contact that screamed – OMG, did he just say that!?! I mumbled a brisk dismissive ‘no thanks’ then spun on my heels and dashed out of the restaurant.

No sooner had the fresh air cleared my nostrils of his aftershave than a new dose made me almost keck. I felt his sausages-like fingers grip my elbow as he spun me towards his waiting vehicle murmuring some token of it being a joke. As I dug my heels in, protesting that my car was just around back, I noticed he was attempting to steer me towards his vehicle which was parked in a handicap space. I backed away slowly gawking at the sign then at him.

He was more adept than I believed or had received similar reactions in the past because he made a snorting sound and immediately muttered, “Mia cara ragazza,  don’t worry. I use my mom’s handicap placard. Wherever I go, they reserve a spot for me.” In a half-witted move, he leaned in lips puckered asking for payment for the undrunken glass of wine. 

Nearly emptying the entire contents of my purse on the sidewalk, I rummaged through my wallet and handed him a 10. I all but ran to my car, locked the doors and immediately blocked his number.

This date will always be a reminder that stranger danger and repressed memories are real. I have no recollection of his name.

To me he will forever and always be that one coherent thought ….. Guido 

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