‘A HOT SUMMER night, fell like a net,” sang Robert Palmer, and on this particular night those lyrics fit perfectly. The summer heat did hang in the air like an East Coast August, and nets have a nasty habit of catching all kinds of things, as I was soon to see.
Leaning over to allow the little fan hidden behind the bar to do its cooling work, I looked languidly up and down the bar.
There sat a couple paying for their drinks out of a white envelope marked “soccer.” Further down a businessman furiously punched the keypad on three different phones; next to him, a golf shirt and baseball hat wearing guy sat waiting for a cab. Even further down sat two ladies dressed to the nines, presumably not for each other as Van Morrison once sang. Altogether just another normal weekday night, except for the heat.
The little fan whirred.
An arriving couple sat between the ladies and the golf guy. The couple had that sheen that comes with humidity. They also had a severe case of the giggles and the touchies, all signs of a first date.
He was all dark deep eyes and swarthy good looks. She was perhaps a touch older and beautiful in a way that was only accentuated by the silver tracing the edges of her long graceful hair.
Young love is always magical, even if only in the sense of the relationship and not the participants.
He waited for her to order before ordering his own drink. Gentlemen truly are getting harder to find.
“What do you think of the pinot noir? he asked.
“It’s a bit pricey for what it is,” I said.
“Do you think I can’t afford it?”
I looked around weakly. “Uhhh,” I stammered.
Sometimes, people say things that sound like jokes but they aren’t. They are deadly serious. There is always a split second before you know for sure. That moment is about as uncomfortable as it gets.
“I meant for me,” I said, dodging that net.
“Try the Carmel one,” said his date, unaware of the casted net.
“What do camels have to do with it?”
“Huh?” she and I said in unison.
“Not everyone with a Middle Eastern background owns a camel.”
Again, it sounded like a joke but was anything but.
“Not camel, silly,” she said. “Carmel, as in Central California.”
He eyed her suspiciously before shrugging off the dysfunction.
Sometimes, we hear what we want to hear.
I poured the nearly offensive wine and retreated back to my fan. Later I was again summoned from my breezy respite by the now openly canoodling couple.
“We want to try something different?” she said.
I presented them with a wine list and stood by patiently as she looked briefly at it.
“Why don’t you just tell me what the wines are?”
Years of experience have taught me that reading glasses are rarely acceptable fashion on a first date. I listed the wines that we carried, including varietal and vintage as best I could. He stopped me at a 2007 cabernet.
“Do you have anything younger?”
“Who is not getting any younger?” she said, turning to look at him.
It was now his turn to dodge the net.
“Huh?” he said. “The wine.”
She now eyed him suspiciously.
From then on I gave them the widest berth possible, which seemed to suit them just fine. After my co-worker collected the check they left but not before engaging in the most awkward first kiss that I have ever witnessed.
As I stood in the strong breeze of the hidden fan two things occurred to me:
• Just because something is hidden, it doesn’t mean that it is not affecting everything that goes on.
• Perhaps it is only true love that can help us overcome our own personal demons; but, sometimes, infatuation is a great way to cover them up for a little while.