Boy, I can tell straight off that these two are gonna be a train wreck, right when they walk in the restaurant. He’s like tripping over things because he can’t stop looking at her but she’s like looking everywhere but at him. I flag the hostess and point to myself, and she makes sure they’re seated in my section.
Awesome. I go over there and I’m just fast enough to hear her tell him that she isn’t interested in a second date, and the guy starts, like, wailing. The lady rolls her eyes and looks at me all pissy.
“Can I just have a glass of Merlot, please? And—for God’s sake—the chocolate tart, how about that? With the whipped cream. Now, please, thank you.” She said dramatically, I thought. I do that, I narrate. I’m a screenwriter, you know. Right now I’m working on a script about a waitress who makes it big when a producer comes into her restaurant and sits down and realizes how smart and pretty she is and takes her to Hollywood and she makes a lot of money and sleeps with the producer but he breaks her heart so she kills herself. It’s really good.
I love working in the restaurant, the material that these two are giving me is fantastic. The guy won’t stop crying. Like, really loud. People are looking.
Jesus, he’s howling. He’s actually howling. I’ve never heard a person make that sound. I once had a dog that got his dick trapped in a fence he was humping and he made that sound.
There’s nowhere to hide from the howling, and the waitress isn’t even pretending not to listen. I think about telling her to pull up a chair, instead of trying to be sly about slowly cleaning the next table over. What she’s doing with that dishcloth is downright pornographic. There’s no man or object that needs to be fondled like that.
Paul’s ululations finally die down and he wipes his eyes with his fists like a snotty little kid before looking at me. His eyes are red, and I remember that the dog’s dick was also red after we got him unstuck, sticking out like an angry little zucchini, and I accidentally spit wine all over Paul’s face.
He doesn’t even wipe it off. He just lets the wine sit on his cheeks like he’s the little mermaid and he doesn’t know what napkins are for. I think about reaching across the table and cleaning it off, but no. That would be catastrophic.
I try to force my face into sadness or empathy or something, anything, that’s not a grin, but that damn dog keeps jumping into my head, all swollen and shrieking. I clear my throat and try again. I reach halfway across the table but stop before I touch his hand. Any encouragement now and he might show up outside my house playing crappy love songs on a boom box held over his head until I either agreed to go out with him again or shot him. I just want this to be over.
She stands, ever graceful, and I rise with her. The first time I saw her on Tinder I thought she was the only woman in the world for me. When we started exchanging sweet messages I was sure of it. What a dastardly fool I was.
She holds out her arms and promises that we can be friends. I hold her for the first and last time, my dove. My Kathleen. Her scent is intoxicating, leeching from her hair like the gayest perfume. “I’m going to miss your rosy lips,” I whisper, and she chokes, pulling away and hiding her eyes. Even in sorrow she is beautiful and magnanimous.
She nods and smiles and strides away—it seems she is always striding, with great purpose. She walks out of the door, and out of my life. Forever. Forever. My Kathleen no more.
The waitress comes to the table to clear away the dishes. I think of keeping a token of our love, but the wineglass stained by Kathleen’s red lips is already swept away and gone. The waitress pauses and, with the light behind her, she smiles down on me like a kind goddess.
“You all right?”
“Not yet. I will be.”
“There you go.”
“I’ll bury myself in my work to heal my pain.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a producer.”
She smiles. It is the most beautiful smile.
Erin Copland is a writer, reader, and Army veteran who currently works in communications at the University of Maryland. Her greatest ambition in life is to live in a shack in the woods.