The bar was crowded for a Tuesday night, full of people that had nowhere better to be. She saw him sitting at a table in the corner, right where she was told he’d be.
Whatever she had been expecting, he wasn’t it. Clean-shaven, short hair, plain shirt… He looked as out of place here as she felt. That he sat in a dim corner alone was the only hint that he was something other than he seemed.
He watched her walk over to his table, which only served to unsettle her more. The broad smile he gave her was clearly an attempt to put her at ease, but she didn’t trust it.
Without standing up, he pushed out a chair next to him and gestured at it. “Please, have a seat.” She did so as he continued. “It’s not often I am graced with such pleasant company. What could you be doing in a place like this?”
She was confused. “I… I was told that you…”
He waved her silent. “No, no. Forget that I asked. I should never question whatever fortune decides to send my way.”
“But you are…”
Again he cut her off. This time, however, his voice was quiet and icy. “Yes. I am. Even in this place, though, it is better not to be too open about such things. Thus, please keep your voice down. Bring your head close to mine; it will help preserve the illusion that this is a date. What do you drink?”
The question caught her off guard. She had started off nervous, and now she felt completely lost. “I don’t know…”
“It’s a bar. You have to drink.” He studied her. “You probably drink white wine.” The mild disappointment in his voice did not escape her. Somehow he caught the eye of one of the waitresses, and she came over. “Jack and Coke for my friend.” The woman nodded and walked away.
“They don’t have white wine here,” he answered her question before she could ask it. “At least none that is fit for drinking. Don’t worry; you just need a drink in front of you. You don’t have to touch it.”
She nodded, and, taking her cue from him, stayed silent until her drink arrived.
After the waitress put the glass in front of her and left again, she leaned in towards him. “So I suppose I should tell you who…”
But he shook his head. “I already know who. I even know where, when, and how. What I want to know is why.”
“What do you mean? How do you know who?”
“I would be very bad at this if I didn’t learn everything I could before walking into a situation. Or, more likely, I wouldn’t be doing this at all anymore. But I need to hear the why from you.”
“Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters. Without the why, you wouldn’t be here, talking to someone like me. Without the why, I never would have known about you or this… Martin. Why is what set all of this in motion.”
He stared at her, studying her reaction. She chewed on the inside of her lip.
“It’s… It’s personal.”
He sat back and looked at the table. “Fine. It’s personal. I’m out. You will have to find someone else.”
There was no mistaking the finality in his voice. He expected her to leave.
Panic began to rise in her chest. “Okay, I’ll tell you. I just…”
His look stopped her short. “I wanted to know why so I could see whether you really wanted to do this. You don’t. Not now. Not yet. You are uncertain. Go. Put this man out of your life, your head. Forget me. Forget this. You don’t want it. Not really.”
Again he turned away from her. And again she felt the dismissal. This time she didn’t try to argue. Instead, she stood, pushed her way through the crowd, and went back into the night.