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Words by Iris N. Schwartz
Image by Fabrice Poussin
Sarajane was eager to go out with the inscrutable man she’d met at The Golden Corral. At the salad bar, he jostled her, she dropped broccoli, they bent down simultaneously, and then the two bumped heads. Sparks ignited in her heart and nether regions.
He smiled, barely, said, “Pardon my clumsiness.”
Sarajane, her Aunt Mabel, and Uncle Ray were almost out the Corral door when Leon dashed over and introduced himself.
He asked, so softly that Sarajane had to incline her head toward his, “Could you see your way to a no-head-butting evening in my company?”
Who could say no to that?
They hadn’t planned anything specific, but Sarajane did mention she was partial to amusement parks.
That Friday evening they didn't visit an amusement park. He deposited her in a grungy social club. Downtown. On a block with nothing to recommend it but a fat orange tabby fastidiously licking itself.
Inside, a bunch of bony guys and hard-looking girls sat around talking about, respectively: pistons, handling (hardcore automotive stuff); and eBay, QVC. Who were these people?
Leon smiled at her─for no good reason─and pointed to a corner recliner, in the “female section,” in which to make herself at home. Why would he leave her with strangers? Uneasy about speaking up, and half-hoping he’d return soon, Sarajane leaned back in the chair. In minutes she fell into slumber.
When she awakened, talk was winding down. She decided to inform her so-called date that if he didn’t escort her out of there some serious head butting would begin.
Leon jarred her by putting his arm around her, as if he thought he might get some. Said nearly nothing to her the whole night, spent his time with those motor monkeys! Then he put his raggedy coat on her shoulders.
“Take that off,” Sarajane protested. “It’s suffocating.”
Leon collected his coat and led her to a long, rickety table on which dinner was being served. (Would this sham of a date never end?) Rubbery noodles; overcooked catfish turned up at both ends; half-burnt carrots, limas, peas. Sarajane should have called a cab. (Or a restaurant that delivered.) Instead, she took two bites, left the remainder on the paper plate.
Somebody’s grandpa crept over, notified Leon, “Don’t look like your date’s having fun.”
Sarajane turned to Leon, narrowed her tired eyes. “He’s right, you know.”
This was the last time she’d glance at a quiet man without knowing he didn’t have a damned thing to say.
Leon started heading toward his car, motioned for her to come with, but she’d grab a ride with the wise old coot who spoke her truth. Then Sarajane would buy herself, Aunt Mabel, and Uncle Ray a decent dinner.