“It’s been an interesting day.”
She laughs. His eyes sparkle. He’s smiling but his mouth hasn’t fully hit it’s lopsided curve. She doesn’t know anything about his curve, he’s a stranger. But she can recognize the glisten in his eyes. That’s familiar.
“Interesting is one way to put it. You definitely tried to take a baseball bat to my head this morning.”
“I did. I did.” She throws her head back laughing, eyes momentarily fluttering closed with the force of it. “I did — didn’t I? And now we’re here eating Chinese at 3am.”
“To obeying the natural vibrations”
They clink their water glasses. She stares at him, he’s looking right back. She’s nearly daring him to make a comment about her salutation. It’s like she said it to get something out of him. More than a reaction — some understanding of who he was.
How did he react to the spiritual? What faith based systems did he follow? Did he believe in faith? Was he grounded in logic and agnostic? Why did this matter? Why had she already pictured him here — figuratively? A presence in her cosmos several months from now. Why did she expect more than this night — this morning? Was she deluded? Doing that thing people do when they have a good moment with a stranger and think of it as the beginnings of forever. They’d had a moment. It had led to another moment. And now they were having a moment over cheap Chinese food and, tomorrow? She didn’t even know his name yet. Not for sure.
He echoed her — “To obeying the natural vibrations”.
He took a sip of his water. Put his glass down and didn’t take the bait. That was telling her a lot. She decided this was going to be a moment. No extended leases on fate.
“Okay then, Mr. Your-head-is-still-intact, can I get a last name? Or a coherent first name?”
“Oh, I thought we had agreed to carpe this diem”.
“Placidly. I still would like to be able to refer to you pointedly, from across a room, if need be”.
This felt like witty banter. It wasn’t un-witty… but it was a 2/10 on the scale of smart things she could be pulling out her repertoire. Yet, it still felt like it was supposed to be flirtatious. Flirtatious, witty banter?
“Okay then — as a ‘break in case of across the room emergency’, you can call me Tobi.”
“I won’t insult you by asking if it’s an ‘-ey’ at the end like McGuire, or just a ‘-y’.”
“L-O-L”. He enunciated the letters out loud, spelling out the acronym to bolster the cynicism in his humor. He mellowed it out with a smile.
“Omo naija here please. My parents didn’t play any of that. This Tobi has an ‘Oluwa’ in front of it.”
She smiled. Wide. It was nearly a laugh. He was funny. Not super, belly achingly funny. At least, not just yet. But, she was amused and she was interested in continuing the conversation.
“Okay then, Mr Tobi with an ‘I’ and an Oluwa somewhere by his side”, her eyes twinkled, “you already know my first name, the kind of car I drive, the kind of weapons I keep — at least in the car, the kinds of cuss words I pick, the kinds of asses I kick… tell me something about you that doesn’t have to do with why you were on the back of an okada, edging the driver on between several tightly packed cars till he knocked off a side mirror.”
“Ohhhh! But that’s the best part!” His face contorted into a dramatic look of anguish, overdone so someone who might not recognize the subtleties of his emotional cues would not be confused by his word choice. She understood.
“Well, if you insist, I’ll start somewhere else. I also have a car — my weapons of choice are the dumbbells I use in the gym, or my office, or on the go, that I choose to keep in my car for ever present fitness. They give a hell of a headache in the right setting. Or would that be the wrong setting?”
“That would depend — how heavy are these dumbbells?”. She was teasing him. He understood.
“20 pounds each ma’am. They do the work.”
“Oohhhh I bet they do.”
He looked up at her from the patterns he’d been tracing on the white table cloth, head cocked a little to the side. He was appraising, fully, for the first time. She could tell he was beginning to understand this little dance they were doing — how slow men were to jump in.
“Yeaaaa,” he dragged it out, “do you work out?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know? Question’s still on you, Tobi with an ‘I’.” This was definitely a flirtatious exchange, right? Time to kick it up a notch — “So you drive and you gym — on the go, apparently. What’s your favorite color? Better yet, what’s your star sign?”
“I know I’m a Cancer and that’s supposed to make me secretly sensitive/weepy? I have several girl-friends and cousins that are into that mess, but I’ve never really been interested.” Unsurprising. Still. Cancer — what was she going to do with this information? Moment, not fate. Moment.
“Not interested, huh? Well, I’m a Libra sun, Cap rising, Cap moon, but that Scorpio’s a real bitch as a Venus.”
She looked at him and laughed. She’d only said that to watch his eyes glaze over. That, too, she was familiar with — no nuance needed.
The waiter came back with the appetizers they’d ordered. She took a bite of an egg roll and let her mind wander just a little bit — to the car she was going to get back into with a quarter tank and the drive she was going to be taking back to the one bedroom flat she shared with four other girls on the other side of town. By now, she was just biding time so she didn’t get home before 6am, which is when Patience would wake up and start getting ready for her early job. That would free up a spot on the mattress so she could get a few hours of sleep before heading back out herself…
“You still with me?”
She looked up at him and centered this moment — the egg rolls, which really weren’t bad for a 24-hr establishment; and this really handsome stranger who had broken her side mirror this morning, eating out 47 percent of her savings if she decided to fix the damn thing, and setting her back exponentially in her fight against mind-numbing poverty. Yea, she was with him. For the next two hours, she was golden.
“Yep, Tobi with an ‘I’, I’m carpe-ing the hell out of this diem”.
He tossed his head back and laughed, easily. This, too, was familiar.