Let it be known: the man I met in Marshalls is not bald beneath his Phillies baseball cap— quite the opposite. I know this because a few minutes into our date at Black-n-Brew, he took off his cap and ran his hands through his rather luscious thick brown hair before replacing it (and I by “it,” I mean his cap, not some nonexistent toupee; crisis averted).
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning. Once upon a time, there was a rather lonely and navigationally-challenged girl living in Philadelphia. She tried to go to the mall in Cherry Hill but ended up at the Marshalls in South Philly instead. Unbeknownst to her, a rather dashing young man, also from South Philadelphia, was just finishing his shopping for the week and when the girl caught his eye, he smiled. She smiled back and they spent the next ten minutes—oh, wait a sec. I’ve already told you that part, haven’t I? Sorry.
To continue: a few hours after escorting her to Target, he sent her a text message asking her to join him for lunch on Sunday. The quaint little coffeehouse to which he invited her was just a few blocks from her house, and just around the corner from his. And although it was one of his favorite cafes, he scoured the internet for reviews to make sure that she would like it (he later confessed that he had considered taking her to Sabrina’s but settled on Black-n-Brew instead. Our protagonist, having developed a slight obsession with Sabrina’s apple cheddar omelets, was slightly disappointed to learn that lunch at the Italian Market’s hipster hangout had been within her grasp but her spirits were greatly revived when her companion proclaimed himself to be a champion omelet maker).
In the end, she wore her flat boots and her gray plaid sweater dress. He wore jeans and a dress shirt, and being a proper, modern-day gentleman, he kissed her on the cheek when she arrived.
She was, once again, immediately captivated by his presence. Although she meant to note the color of his eyes and breadth of his shoulders and other important things for the sake of her so-called public, she failed miserably at this task. (Blue perhaps? Brown? And to think—there was a time when she considered herself an anthropologist, when she prided herself on her keen observation skills, when she thought that maybe, just maybe, she would make it as a writer.)
Given that theirs was a real-world match, without the benefit of online dossiers, compatibility assessments and other “necessities” of the virtual dating world, she tried to pace herself. She didn’t want to come off as pretentious or overly-sophisticated, especially since his baseball cap would suggest that he was—to borrow a phrase from one of her old college professors— “a beer and pretzels” kind of guy. Being a wine and cheese girl herself, she decided to keep quiet about her European adventures. She had, of course, nothing against beer and pretzels (at least not in principle) but suspected that her companion wouldn’t want to hear about her education or her thoughts on Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky.
But then he asked. And since he asked…
They spoke of foreign cities, literature and jazz. They feasted upon vegetarian chili (her) and a BLT (him) and she noted, with great approval, that he ordered his with whole wheat bread instead of white, thereby blowing her South Philly Philistine, beer and pretzels theory out of the water.
Eventually, he invited her back to his apartment (“Do you want to listen to that Miles Davis piece I was telling you about? It’s short— only ten minutes.”)
She paused, every fiber of her being wanted to say yes to the blue-eyed (or possibly brown-eyed?) non Philistine standing before her on the sidewalk (especially seeing as he’d paid for their meal, left a generous tip and behaved beyond politely with the wait staff) but she suspected that listening to Miles Davis might lead to something else. And that this particular something else ought to be savored and therefore most unfortunately (but most judiciously) postponed until a later date.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to pass,” she said. Accepting a ride from a stranger in the Marshalls parking lot had been reckless enough (even if it was only a 90 second ride at approximately 5 MPH); she didn’t want to end up on the evening news.
“That’s okay,” he said, his hands resting for just a moment on her forearms. “Maybe we can go out again sometime?”
“I’d love to,” she said, smiling and then falling silent as she thought “Oh my God! He’s going to kiss me!” But he didn’t, at least not on the lips, not standing there on the sidewalk in the middle of the day. Instead, he held her gaze for just a moment and smiled.
Upon returning home, twenty minutes later, full of butterflies and still smiling, our protagonist realized that she’d left her keys at the café but she considered the return to Black-n-Brew a small price to pay in exchange for what had been her best Sunday afternoon date ever.