STRIKES AND LIGHTS

“Hi, I am Eustace”

There he was, broad chested, broad smile. Lara was never much for blind dates; she was thoroughly conservative, in the type of way one could refer to as excessive, and prefered not to be taken by surprise in her social interactions. Besides, she was terribly picky – probably why she was still single at 30.
She liked to take an assessment, a rigorous scrutiny of people, men even more so, before choosing to relate with them – especially, with the men, if such interaction is in view of romantic relationship. In any case her standards were darn high, in the snobby type of way. But her friend Dana had insisted, said he was a great guy, that he was cool and that she would have dated him herself, without thinking, if she wasn’t already married. (Not like that was any reassurance seeing the guy she was married to). No, Lara did not trust Dana’s taste in men, nor did she fancy her kind of men at all, but Dana had insisted that this guy was a Lara Type , whatever the hell that meant, and so she obliged – not so much compelled by Dana’s assurance or insistence as by her own fears. Every girl her age was married or getting married – she did not exactly consider herself the type to be pressured by such statistics but cutting the bullshit, her biological clock was ticking and ticking fast. She was not about to grow old single, stuck in an illusion that she was somehow above stereotype. So she obliged, Blind date it was – shame on her self-aggrandizing standards!

And there he was, broad chested, broad smile, the excessively colourful outlay of the fancy open air restaurant fading into a blurred watercolor background behind the elaborateness of his frame.

“ Lara” She said, curt as she was meant to be. She took his hand as he offered it; his shake was firm and yet somehow delicate. He offered a sit and she took it, noting his chivalry but wondering if it was all part of his act. They almost always had one.

OK, Frankly, he wasn’t bad – maybe more than just not bad; maybe Dana didn’t have such terrible taste afterall. He was thoroughly manly, oozed that undiluted maleness, the type that would have intimidated other girls, had fuzzy brows and a sexy crooked grin and hard cut chiseled face that simmered into the mind – molded like granite. He wasn’t dark, caramel skinned more like, clean skin, clear eyes, receding hairline that made his face pop and a thick face of beard that made her reconsider her reservations about bearded guys. He was OK, maybe not exactly outlandishly handsome – but he was attractive , the kind of guy you would want to sleep with from the very first moment. (If you swung that way or that fast of course).

The evening wound down fast, between two cups of wine, a three course meal and occasional laughter, she noted that he was a good conversationalist, has remarkable talents in poetry, doesn’t exactly consider himself outrighly sexy, has the natural wits of a phycologist, likes rap, could make good soup, learnt Karate to impress ladies but later found out they were more interested in money, sings occasionally, could do nothing in a swimming pool though, has a comfortable life as a bachelor, once left a job because he didn’t “feel it” , has a respectful and yet somehow imposing personality………and could speak french. Oui!

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She could almost concede that she liked him. That intro from J. Cole’s Motiv8 popped in her head when she first thought it, shocking her as it did, but she banished it quickly.

I think I like him, He’s Pretty Cool…..

She wasn’t admitting, not yet. It had to be because she was listening to the Album on repeat these days; seeing that Michy, her co-worker, forced her to download it and it turned out pretty awesome. To think she would end up enjoying Rap after her long spell of rap-shaming.

And so, the evening was going great until he dropped the bomb shell.

“What do you mean ‘you smoke’?” She was visibly irritated, to think she had such high hopes for him. Oh, the nonsense.

“What does anyone mean when they say they smoke sweetheart?” He replied, making light of the situation. She’d made a comment about how she didn’t like smokers, and for the life of her had not expected that he was one of ‘them.’

“Seriously? Wow! There just had to be a hamartis” At least he was honest enough to say it, she noted. Now she could leave and forget him the moment she took a bath.

“You are funny. So lemme guess, you’ve been scaling me all evening? You just had to be one of those girls” He replied, the smile vanishing from his face for the first time that evening, replaced by a cold look that complemented a sheering eyes. He was actually handsome, she finally saw it now that he was angry.

“What do you mean?”

“You had to be one of those girls, the ones that irritate me”

“You are the one irritated now? Really?”

“Yes, I am. You’ve sat here for the past 3 hours and all you were interested in was measuring me up like a lump of meat in a Bazaar. That’s just disgusting, you don’t relate with people like that. Thats strike two”

“ Don’t you dare make this about me” Was he really going to turn this on her? Just how outrageous was he intending to be, she wondered.

“Strike Three”

“Huh”

“Disney Princess Syndrome. Oh, it’s never your fault. It’s always the other person’s fault for daring to have a fault for you to highlight with glee at the very first noting – well Princess, there goes strike three”

“I can’t believe this! You are seriously doing this?” She was lost for words! The guts on this guy.

“What’s harder to believe? That you have a fault yourself? Or that you are not the only one that has a measuring tape? So, yeah, lets measure each other up”

“You do realise this was never about me right? I just told you I don’t like smokers and I am after all entitled to my preferences:” She said, sounding as snobby as she could afford.

“You still don’t get it do you? It’s not so much about what you dislike as it is about how you dislike it. You are a personality snob; whatever is not you, disgusts you. Strike Four”

“Oh freaking Christ Dude!!” She was mad now.

“ You are judgemental and intolerant – in that order, Five.”

“ How dare you! You don’t know anything about me”

“Neither do you, and that kind of ignorance to the truths of your own person is the root of all self-righteous indignation. Tell you what, strike six”

“I am not doing this with you”

“You are obliviously arrogant which is terrific because obliviousness shouldn’t blend with arrogance”

“You are crazy!!”

“No, I am not. But I am pretty sure you are mad right now. Temperamental. Not because you are angry, but because you’ve been angry since the very moment I took you up on your averment and you finally opted to be just as courteous as you naturally are– which isn’t much. So here we are, it down to insults. Might as well add that you are pretentious – which is a shame because you’ve got yourself believing in your own false accourtments. You know what, add self deluded to that list. That’s how many strikes?”

“OK. Thanks for the meal. Have a good night” She said, standing to take her bag.

“ I am sorry” He finally said, as she called the waiter to pay for her food. It was her way of making a finally statement – something to hurt his ego as she wasn’t in the mood or with the skills apparently – much as she wouldn’t admit- to exchange words with him. She should have just left.

“ I am too. I am sorry we wasted both our evenings.”

“ Can I say something before you leave?”

“ Another strike? Aren’t you tired?” She joked, wondering where the humour came from as she was still seething. They both laughed, she was genuinely surprised by herself, how was she still joking with this dude?!

“ Truth is, I smoke. But, I am working to stop. As you would have noticed, I have been licking what looks like sweet – menthol. It was a habit I picked in school, one that I shouldn’t have, not for anyone else’s sake – I was never much for pleasing others anyways – but for mine. I don’t exactly know how to stereotypically deride a habit of itself, so I might not consider that I smoke a bad thing, which is troublesome. Someone once said I have a weird moral compass ; I tend not to consider anything as necessarily bad or good – well except for really terrible shit. It’s probably the downside of being free spirited and naturally liberal at the same time. ” He said, eyes beckoning as he did.

“So, there you have it. I am not Prince Charming, I have faults, I admit I do. I don’t expect that they are to be tolerated simply at my request, but I always have felt that people should respect each other faults even more than their virtues– as they are truer to our persons. I do hope you find Prince Charming though…..and for what it’s worth, it was nice hanging out with you. ” He concluded, his eyes beaming with that genuineness that she had earlier found quite endearing.

“ Uhmmm….I am sorry I judged you so fast. I shouldn’t have been so ….bourgeois”  She apologized, her anger vapourizing too easily. 

“ I am pretty sure the word you are looking for is snob, but I wouldn’t strike you on that.”

“Oh, shut up!” As they laughed, he eased out of his chair and helped her out of hers, casually left a tip on the table since she had paid for the food in her outburst and saw her to her car. Then he winked her, not the disgusting perverted way, the way that said “No hard feelings sweetheart” as he would have if he had spoken the words, the way that eased her tension about the evening, the way that typified his most charming attribute : that ease of person and then he walked away. It was only when he left that she realised what strike one was; she had been late and he had mentioned in a most courteous manner how he did not like waiting in open places.

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She called him when she got back home. It took 1 hour of pacing and disconcertion before she finally chose to just go on with it. Fuck It! It was strangely refreshing to throw caution to the wind, to be less uptight for once.

“It’’s Lara”

“Hey! How are you?”

“I am ok. Are you free this Saturday?”

“Nah. My schedule is tight”

“Sunday?”

“ I’ll probably be busy ”

“ Oh okay then.” She felt crushed. To think she would end up in this position. What was she even thinking?! She was more than this.

“ Anything?”

“No, not really. Good Night”

“ Alright, Good night”

When he called back 40 minutes later – because somehow she knew the time he called back – she convinced herself that she was not going to pick his call – for all of three seconds.

“Hey”

“This one you’ve called me this midnight, it’s better be serious” She joked, shocking herself again. Who is you woman?! She sounded like a blushing teenager!

“ I’ll pick you up on Friday after your symposium. I heard you like Afropolitan Vibes”

“Wow. Dana will never shut up”

“Isn’t that why she’s so adorable? It’s’ a date sweetheart”

With that he ended the call, leaving her with words at the tip of her lips. The cheeky bastard!!

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