Standing in front of the men's room sink and looking into the mirror as he dried his hands, Gabe shook his head.
"Man," he whined plaintively, "what the hell am I doing here?" Finishing drying his hands and dropping the wadded paper towels in the trash basket, he stood indecisively at the restroom door.
Outside, in the restaurant, was a table. At the table was a young woman, probably chewing her food too loud, the left side of her face rising unnaturally high as she did and casting quick glances around the room as if searching for something shiny to arrest her attention.
She was short, had curly light brown hair, full lips, green eyes and a small nose. She wasn't a bad looking woman. Not exactly cute either, he reflected, for he had noted upon meeting that she carried perhaps an extra twenty or so pounds and given her diminutive size, that would be like him carrying an extra sixty or seventy.
She had talked incessantly throughout the evening. At first Gabe had given her the benefit of the doubt, allowing that she was possibly covering so much ground in random conversation looking for something they shared common interests in.
She had repeatedly given bland anecdotes involving people he didn't know. He wouldn't have minded it so much had she only ceased referring to people by their first names as if he should know them. He had heard her refer to several celebrities by their first name as well and for some reason he couldn't quite grasp, it got under his skin.
The few times he had commented, she had looked shocked, almost as if she felt she had been interrupted. After a brief hesitation in her monologue, she would at those times, rejoinder him politely and then launch into some new topic of discourse.
Watching her eat had been as unpleasant as listening to her speak. When the waiter had come, she had questioned him on the menu items, ended up making a special order and had embarrassed Gabe by telling the waiter it had better be good or she would tip minimally.
She ate like a man Gabe had decided as he sat across from her, picking at the food on his own plate. She didn't seem aware of his scrutiny as she wordlessly attacked her plate like a woman about her most urgent business. It was the only time that evening Gabe had noted her to not be talking and was relieved of the strain on his ears. Apparently, eating was the only thing that warranted more effort than flapping her lips.
She ate with a precise almost disciplined manner, which drew an unnoticed look of disgust from Gabe. With her fork, she separated the items on her plate, then heaped them into tight piles and lowered her face to approximately within nine inches of the plate and began shoveling the food into her mouth.
Using her left hand, she had turned the plate as one course of the meal disappeared, placing the next course directly below her hovering fork, therefore saving herself the trouble of adjusting her eating posture in order to consume her meal.
By the time the check had arrived she was talking again. Gabe sat sipping his coffee and nodding dimly at her as his eyes quested around the restaurant, his mind roaming in search of an excuse to cut the evening short without being rude.
His phone rang, the ring for an incoming text, and he glanced at her as he silenced the ringer, noting she hadn't taken any notice of the interruption. Keeping his hand below table level, he flipped the phone open and read the message.
"How's the date?"
Gabe grunted displeasurably, drawing a surprised look from his date. How's the date? He raised his hand slightly to draw her attention and was going to excuse himself to the restroom when the waiter showed up with the check.
Smiling blandly at Gabe and his date, Heather, he slid the check onto the table pushing it towards Gabe. Heather smiled warmly as Gabe hesitantly picked up the bill. Glancing at it, he noted her supper had cost twice what his had and that the sum total was worth about four hours of his wages.
"You are sweet! Jelly was right." She cooed at him, encouraging him to pay for her meal.
He smiled back weakly and stood from his seat. Looking down at her, feeling as if he were doing a poor job hiding the disgust in his tone he excused himself from the table.
"I gotta go take a piss."
And, as he cracked the door and stepped into the small hallway that separated the dining area from the restrooms, he saw she was still there. Her phone was to her ear and she was laughing as she talked with someone. Gabe didn't really care whom.
Passing his hand over his face, he thought his situation through quickly. He had been talked into going on this date with this girl he had never met by his best friend's girlfriend. Being against it from the start he had eventually caved when, drunk and low on money, he had lost a game of pool to his friend Aaron.
When he had been immediately unable to pay the wagered fifty dollars, Jill had stepped in. At her suggestion, Aaron had told Gabe he would forget the bet if he would only go on one date with Heather. When Gabe at first insisted on paying back the fifty, Aaron had privately informed him that it would help get Jill off his back. Glumly, and with no enthusiasm, he had acquiesced to his friend’s proposal.
Tonight, at precisely seven forty five, he had been at the doors to the local Olive Garden, awaiting his date whom had only been vaguely described to him. He had recognized her by the necklace she was to wear and when he saw her thought briefly of just ignoring her.
But, he had been wearing a certain shirt so she could identify him and with eyes quick and alert, and probably used to such meetings, she had spotted him less than three steps into the restaurant lobby.
He hadn't wanted to come tonight and he certainly hadn't enjoyed himself. There was no way, no fucking way; he was paying for that pig's meal.
Hadn't he told her he was taking a piss? Wasn't that just another way of saying bye? He was pretty sure he had heard the term in some British movie within the last year or so.
He looked away from the table where she sat, waiting his return, towards the lobby and decided he could walk away unseen and leave her to pay the tab. Casting one last look in her direction, he stepped into the dining room, turned left and did just that.