by Alex R. Encomienda
I met a sweet woman during my stay in Bordeaux where I crawled out of my skin and pretended to be someone I am not. I don’t know what this woman sees in me most of the time. Other times, I feel like I know exactly what she sees in me because I can see the same potential to an extent. She thinks she knows me well which makes me laugh because I don’t know myself.
We had our first date on Saturday and then on Tuesday I was supposed to meet her here at The Hyatt, but then I lost my nerve. Today’s date however will be the determining factor of whether or not she would want to continue pursuing me.
I walk through the narrow corridor in which I shed pieces of myself to adapt to the restaurant. The lights flicker as I walk forward, and I feel cinematic but quite the contrary to my favorite characters in film. I feel like an outsider who is idealizing every move I make in order to feel like it is the norm. My date waits for me on the other side of the doors at the end.
As I head through the dim lights and dismal wallpaper, I am drawn to the people. I have planned to meet someone else here today; an old acquaintance whom I used to pursue but we’ve since lost our romantic chemistry and I hope she doesn’t take our departure to heart. She is a warm, tender person whom I imagine would change my life for the better and she would show her deep rooted affection for me but I cannot help this disconnect I feel around her. I’m not attracted to her in the ways I’d like to be in order to strive for a future with her. As terrible as it sounds, she is only good enough for sex.
I see my date sitting at a small round table by the window, gazing at the people ahead. I walk up to her and smile.
“Hello! It’s good to see you again. How have you been?” I ask.
She smiles. “Aaron! I’ve been quite well. You?”
“I’ve been great, so what are you having?”
She takes a moment to look at the menu and says, “I think I’ll have the filet mignon.”
“Good choice. I think I’ll have chicken soup.”
The waitress comes to us, and we order our meals. I sit in silence and observe the scene: two dark haired women are talking quietly behind my date. It looks as if they’re professionals having a rather boring talk during their dinner date. Towards the left of them is an older, blond-haired man with a grey blazer speaking to a large old woman. Their table looks as if they finished and are waiting for dessert. Behind them is a younger couple. I cannot see the woman’s face because she is turned against me but the man is attractive and thin. I hesitate to turn behind me out of awkwardness, but I do anyway. The table behind me is empty with a Reserved sign on it. Behind that table are more old people and behind them are more boring old rich-looking people with multicolored shirts and khakis. The restaurant is full tonight.
I turn towards my date and ask her, “So how was work today?”
She tilts her head and then motions with her hand. “So-so. Yours?”
“Mine has been good to an extent. So have you told your folks about me yet?”
“I actually told my mother about you which is weird because I hardly ever talk about my dates to my parents. I showed her your picture too!”
I smile but my mind wanders. I think about what I’m getting myself into. I frighten myself when I think too much.
To an extent, I’m afraid that she’ll want a relationship with me, which is silly, I know. I just can’t see myself being a leader, as pathetic as it may sound, and being a leader is inherently what being the man in a relationship is. I suppose I want to try.
I glance over at the table four tables behind my date. The woman I am currently seeing is there. She’s sitting at the table facing the opposite direction, but I can tell it’s her. She must have been waiting quite a while for me.
“Hey, I’m going to the men’s room. I’ll be right back.”
I get up and walk across the dining floor. I go the long way because the restrooms are behind me. I make a loop and then come up from my current girlfriend’s front side.
“Hey, sorry I’m late. Have you ordered yet?”
“Hi, Aaron. I haven’t ordered anything because I already know what this is about.”
“What do you mean?”
She sighs. “You don’t call me for days and then suddenly you want to meet me so we can talk. It sounds like you’re planning on breaking up with me.”
I scrunch up my face. “Well, that’s a bit harsh to say. I just don’t want to lead you on, Hilda. I mean, we have so much in common and we have this brother-sister bond. I think it’s fair to say that even if we don’t connect on a romantic level anymore, I’d love to be friends with you still. I don’t have many friends and you’re the only one who understands me. I think, if anything, this can make us closer.”
She grimaces and a few tears fall from her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry, Hilda. I care about you and I do love you in a different way, but I can’t go on pretending anymore. It’ll only hurt you further down the road. I have to do this now before it gets any deeper. I have the tendency to do things without having a plan; I act on impulse. It’s a flaw of mine. I just hope you understand.”
She wipes the tears from her eyes. I feel empathetic for her, and I lean forward to caress her hand.
“Please know that none of this is personal.”
She leans her head down in shame.
“I’m going to the restroom and then I’m going to order us some wine. It’ll help us both deal with this hard decision.”
I get up and walk around the dining room towards the restroom and then I make my way towards my date. I sit down and notice that the food is already here. Upon seeing her though, I get anxious.
“I apologize; there was actually a line to use the restroom.”
“Oh, it’s fine. So, tell me more about yourself. I feel like I hardly know the real Aaron.”
I give a timid laugh. “Well, I’m a simple man for the most part. I do what I can. I love traveling, I love sports and I’m something of a genius when I put my mind to it.”
She smiles. “I figured you were the sentimental, artistic type.”
“Well, I can be like that too. What gives you that impression though?”
“Well, the way you talk, the way you carry yourself; I feel like you’re an introvert. As a matter of fact, I can’t imagine you’d be into sports.”
I give an awkward chuckle and then take a sip of water. “Well, you’d be surprised.”
“What makes you happy, Aaron?”
I think for a moment. “I don’t really know.”
I suddenly remember Hilda. “I need to get a few more napkins, I’ll be right back.”
My date looks as if she’s going to say something but then bites her tongue.
I walk around the dining room and then approach Hilda again.
“Sorry, there was a line for the men’s restroom. Do you want red or white wine?”
I notice that she is still somber. She shrugs so I make the decision for her.
As the waitress walks by, I beckon for her to come over. “Let me get two glasses of chardonnay.”
Hilda gives me eye contact. “Did you ever want me at any point in our relationship?”
“Of course, Hilda. I still want you but it’s difficult . . . I cannot make long term plans as I don’t know what I want to do in life. I just don’t see myself married to you in the future and I don’t see the point in continuing this if it doesn’t lead to marriage. As a matter of fact—” I stop myself from telling her anything else because the truth hurts, and I don’t want her breaking down in this restaurant. I was going to tell her that I’m afraid to live with her because she has personal health issues and I simply don’t want to deal with them. I feel like there could be something better for me.
I glare at her and I see that her eyes are watering up again.
The waitress arrives with our wine.
We both take a drink, but I smell the wine before drinking it. Hilda tilts her head back as she swallows the wine.
“I just can’t believe that you shared so much of yourself with me already even though you knew you wouldn’t want to keep me. What’s the purpose of that?”
I knew the purpose. I knew all along that I just wanted sex, but I cannot bring myself to say it because it would hurt her. If I admit to that, I might as well open myself up for everyone in my life to see. I might as well show them the real me.
“Like I said, I do things on impulse. Sometimes, I wish I knew what I was doing but I’m not good at it. I’m sorry.”
Right when I say the word impulse, a strange violent urge comes to me. I suddenly feel like inflicting pain on Hilda, which makes me antsy. I feel like using my strength to do something violent like punch her in the face or flip the table over. Perhaps, it’s the confrontation of breaking up with her and not her as a person that has me like this. That is what I suppose this urge has come from.
Hilda shakes her head in disappointment, and I feel ashamed for letting her go.
I finish my glass and then place it on the tablecloth. “I’m sorry.”
I get up and walk towards the restroom on the opposite side of the dining room. I circle the area and then I begin to sit down at my date’s table.
“Aaron!” I hear abruptly as I sit down.
I look across from me and I see my mother instead of my date.
“Mom? What are you doing here?”
“I decided to have dinner here. I didn’t know you’d be here as well. Are you here with that girl you’re seeing?”
I look over my mother’s shoulder and notice that my date is at the table behind her. I am now seated at the formerly reserved table.
“Yeah but she hasn’t shown up yet,” I whisper.
“Well I want to meet her!” she exclaimed.
I scrub the bridge of my nose. “Mom, what are you doing here? Who are you with?”
“I came with Peter. You know we have dinner every Friday.”
I begin to panic and hurry to find an escape from this restaurant, but I can’t reschedule our date. She would lose her patience with me if I push it back even farther. And what do I say? The food is taking too long? Bad stomach issues? This situation has escalated quickly.
“I’m going to wait another five minutes and if she doesn’t show up, I’m leaving. Enjoy your meal with Peter though,” I say.
She leans into the table. “I can’t hear you, Aaron.”
“Enjoy your meal, Mom. I’m leaving.”
“You’re not waiting for your date? Ask her when she’s coming. I want to meet her!”
“She’s not coming, Mom.”
“What happened? And why are you whispering?” she asks aloud.
I lean closer to the table. “I’m leaving. She isn’t showing up so I’m rescheduling our date. Enjoy your meal.”
Just then the waitress from earlier comes and gives my mom a glass of water. She gives me a slightly awkward look and then asks me what I want to drink.
“I’m sorry, I need to use the restroom,” I say as I quickly stand up.
“Well hurry back! I’d love to at least have a glass of water with my son!”
I head towards the restroom and then circle the area before arriving at my date’s table.
“I am so sorry. I asked for napkins and some guy started talking to me about my shirt and then he just wouldn’t stop talking. Also, they were out of napkins.”
“It’s fine. If I wasn’t so fond of you, I’d have left by now. I’m intrigued by you, Aaron.”
I was startled by her response. Intrigued? Fondness? I’ve never heard such words coming from a woman.
“Well I’m flattered. What would you really like to know about me?”
“Well, what are some of your goals in life?”
“To be a professional writer someday. I’d also like to be a playwright but that’s quite an ambition.”
“What was your childhood like?” she asks.
I pause before answering.
In the short moment of silence, I start to wonder where my date is going with these questions. They’re odd and whenever I answer, she doesn’t say much about them. Instead, she asks another question. It’s as if she’s trying to psychoanalyze me. Upon suspecting this, I start to make my answers vague.
“Quite nice to an extent.”
“Did you have any issues growing up?”
I begin to panic internally. “No, of course not.”
“What were you afraid of as a child?” she asks.
I hesitate to answer as all of the things I feared as a child are the things I still fear today. I’m not like most, who hate spiders and clowns. The things I fear are irrational and hard to grasp.
“I’m not sure.”
“Excuse me, I have to go to the restroom.” she replies, disregarding my attempt to be mysterious.
My date leaves the table.
As I glare into the restaurant, my former lover sits down in my date’s spot. I panic and begin to look around anxiously, hoping that my date doesn’t see us.
“What are you doing? I already told you we’re finished. Our relationship has expired!”
“Why can’t you just love me? Why is it so hard for you to actually want me?” she asks.
In a flustered state, I admit that I am simply unable to love, as far as I know.
“What do you mean you can’t love?” she asks.
“What I mean is that I don’t have any point of reference when it comes to love. I have to know things solely from my intuition, but since I’m me and my mind is warped and flawed by the music and films I indulge in, I believe that love to me is created between scenes I watch and the quotes from books I read. It doesn’t come naturally to me as with others. Also, it is hard for me to separate sexuality and the mundane state of just being with a woman. I’m afraid that after the sex, there’d be no point in having a relationship at all! Loving is hard…”
She gives me a confused expression and then abruptly leaves the table.
Moments later, my date arrives and sits down in front of me. I have an unfathomable urge beyond my control to continue rambling about my problems with love, however.
“ . . . Loving is hard because I sometimes feel like I’m too selfish to love or that I’m too human and I get scared easily. Loving someone means to take a bullet for them and I don’t think I’m brave enough to die for anyone. Sometimes I feel as if God has given me too much free will to the point where I created a reality in which I’m completely alone. I’m afraid. I’m too afraid to love because love comes with sacrifice, and I can’t do that. I read in Dante’s Comedy that love is inherently evil so now I think I might be a sociopath to an extent. I hope that’s not the case because I am too afraid of Judgment Day. I pray every night for peace because I fear that if I keep living with malice in my heart then I will suffer in hell. I am not empathetic by nature, but I try to be.”
“Aaron, what are you talking about?” she asks.
I shake my head and run my hands across my face. Everything I just said is utterly and completely ridiculous. However, it was true. I feel as if I should call someone because I might be having a panic attack. I am embarrassed for what I just confessed to her, so I stand up and exclaim that I’m going to the restroom. I need to rinse my face off with cold water. That is the only thing I desire at this moment.
I pace towards the restroom and pull the door open. I hurry to the sink and splash my face with cold water which feels nice against my warm skin. I contemplate leaving the restaurant, but I hurry to get rid of that idea as I head back to the table.
As I get closer, my anxiety gets more intense. I hesitate to go forward but I ultimately find my composure and sit at the table.
I look up and see my mother across from me instead of my date. I sat at the wrong table again.
“I’m sorry Mom, but I can’t stay and talk. I have to go.”
With that, I leave the table. I think about how I should address the nonsensical things I said to my date as I circle the floor and sit down. However, I see Hilda in front of me instead. She looks just as baffled as I am. I must have gotten confused and thought I was leaving my date’s table to go to her table, but I was mistaken. I forgot that I came from the restroom and was supposed to be at my date’s table. My mind is all messed up right now. I circled the tables too many times.
I look for something clever to say but I cannot think of anything so out of manic hysteria and, to an extent, an unfathomable urge to apologize for what I said to my date, I utter, “I don’t know what came over me. I can love but it has to be pure, honest love without doubt or obligation. If I feel even slightly obligated to do something with a woman, I’d get scared that she’s not who I’m supposed to be with. I panic! That’s the truth about love. In my mind, it can never be obligatory and to me, everything is obligatory.”
She looks at me with a baffled expression on her face.
“Excuse me,” I say softly as I leave the table.
I tug at my hair as I walk across the floor towards my date. I manage to sit down, and she looks quite annoyed.
“Is there something you’d like to tell me, Aaron?”
I open my mouth as I decipher what she is saying but somehow, I forget which woman I said certain things to earlier. My mind goes blank as my date stares at me. I have to come up with something, anything quickly.
“I am not like other men. I know you’d like me to support you and be your other half but that scares me. I am not a good adult. If you suffer, should I suffer too? If you are sick, must I be sick too? My life is small, and I would like to keep it that way. That’s why I broke up with you just now. I’m seeing someone else here and if it makes you feel any better, I’ll most likely use her for sex for as long as I can and then I will leave her too!”
“Aaron, you’re not making any sense.”
I whimper at my lack of control in this situation. It feels like God has taken away my free will or purposely juxtaposed my conversations as a way for me to conjoin all aspects of my life as opposed to having my life separated.
I try to explain myself, but I forget the things I said to her before. I cannot use them as reference now. I try to hide my ex, but I’m afraid of bringing her up by accident.
As I get up in an attempt to ditch my date, I see Hilda walking towards the aisle. She sees me too. I walk the other way, but I bump into an elderly lady and drop her food.
“Aaron?” asks Hilda, approaching my table.
“Do you know this man?” asks my date.
“Yes, he’s my ex who just broke up with me for you.”
The nearby tables caw and laugh.
I turn around and see my mother approaching us.
“Mom, we were just leaving.”
“Who is this young lady?” she asks, approaching my date.
“That’s my date, Mom.”
“Oh, how beautiful! Aaron tells me all about you!” she exclaims.
My date gives me an awkward smile as Hilda stands by her side behaving just as awkwardly. I look at my mother for help in getting me out of this situation, but she starts conversing with my date instead.
I hear my mother telling my date that I have Emetophobia, Katsaridaphobia and Agoraphobia. I also hear her mention that I used to wear women’s foundation to conceal my acne.
Hilda interrupts, explaining in detail what I had previously told her at her table. She mentions that I have difficulties with women, I have occasional impotence and that I am not the son my mother thinks I am.
I hear my date say that I seem misanthropic, I hear my mother mention that I have privacy issues and that I am too much like my father whereas Hilda continues to recount all the things I said before. My mother tells both women that she apologizes for my behavior and that I am having trouble being an adult with responsibilities. Their words spill off their mouths so smoothly that it makes me question my social skills.
The talking gets louder. The tables get quieter.
I can only explain this scenario as an act of God, who has deemed me unworthy of love and companionship. With each woman revealing the things that I told them in private, I am now lost with no sense of personal freedom. Whatever I do, someone in my life will remember this day and will perceive me in a certain light. I have no image now as my personal image is what they perceive. At best, I will have to go up to each individual and explain to them that I am an extremely flawed human being and then I will have to make an excuse for all of my thoughts and actions, which were unknown until this ordeal.
I stand here in a manic shame, completely baffled by what is going on around me. I cannot even contemplate this chaotic delirium that has turned my personal, organized and separated life into a jumbled mess of nakedness. I am acutely embarrassed. I will never recover from this incident. It feels as though my world can spontaneously combust due to a sudden crash between the people in my life and I have no idea what to do.
I can sincerely say that I am now in the midst of having a psychopathic, sociopathic, manic-depressive meltdown . . . to an extent.
© 2022 Alex R. Encomienda All rights reserved.