by Trooper Thorn
With the weekend coming, you might want to check out my review of G.I. Joe:
Thank you to all the readers who commented on my post "What if You Knew It Was the Last Time?" It was very cathartic to write it and see the events laid out chronologically. You have all been very supportive.
On a more positive note, this weekend marks the First Anniversary of the night I met the woman who has turned everything around for me. The circumstances of our "First Date" were unusual, so I have turned it into a short story. Enjoy.
Double Blind Date Coercion
“Want to meet tomorrow for a beer?” Stanford asked. “We can bitch about our Ex’s.” To this point, the phone call had given Trooper no reason to be suspicious. Stanford’s wife had moved out a few months before, which was no surprise. The two had never been well suited and Stanford had called him before to blow of some “Separation Steam”.
“Sounds good. I’ll call you after work,” Trooper replied before hanging up. A night out would be good. Trooper’s kids were in back East, so he had no commitments, plus he had long ago given up hope of reconciling with his ex-wife. Far from it in fact. He was at that moment, unbeknownst to her, working with a lawyer to get divorced as quickly as possible. Trooper had plenty of reasons and was more than willing to share them with Stanford over a pint or two, or three.
The next evening, Trooper called Stanford on his cell as he left the office.
“I just finished a work out and figured you must be about ready,” he said slowing down for a red light.
“Sure, why don’t you come here for a beer first,” answered Stanford. “Then we’ll go to The Goose.”
“Great.” The Goose and Gun had been their pub of choice during school. It occurred to Trooper that starting over often meant reliving some of the good things from youth. Not a second childhood exactly, but a picking and choosing of some adolescent irresponsibility. “I’m about 15 minutes from you now.”
“It’s a double date and the girls won’t be there until 8 anyway.”
The light changed and Trooper hit the gas.
“Oh, fuck. Stanford I don’t want to do that.”
“C’mon Thorn. You need to do this. I need to get laid.”
He was driving faster now. This was not pressure he was at all prepared for.
“No I mean I don’t want to do this. I have not done any dating and have no intention of doing any.” He paused. “How do you know these women anyway?”
“Craigslist!” Stanford boasted.
“Oh, now I really don’t want to do this. Craigslist?” The engine whined reminding him to shift gears. “They are either hookers or psychos. Or both.”
“No, no,” Stanford said somewhat unrealistically. “They are a couple nice ladies who are just looking to meet a couple of nice guys and have a drink and get out of the house.”
“And you know this how?”
“That’s what the ad said.”
Every instinct told him to bail on this now. No idea Stanford ever had had benefited Trooper in anyway, and most had gotten him in trouble. But he knew he could never withstand Stanford’s particular brand of shamed-based peer pressure. Plus his own curiosity about the impending train wreck was quickly getting the better of him.
“Okay. It’d be rude to cancel now.”
Stanford was delighted. “That’s the spirit. See you in a few minutes.”
Trooper hung up the phone and could feel the unfamiliar jolt of excitement. It had been a very long time since he went anywhere to meet a woman for something other than business. And there was nothing wrong with that.
His Ex-wife was in Vancouver doing God-knows-what with God-knows-who. In fact only God knew how many times she had done God-knows-what with any number of God-knows-whos.
The front door was open when Trooper arrived at Stanford’s.
“Beer’s in the fridge!” Stanford shouted from upstairs.
Sitting down on the couch, Trooper sipped a beer and watched the highlights from the days baseball games. He told himself it wasn’t really a date and there was nothing to be nervous about. After five election campaigns, he had the game to charm strangers, even internet site ones, and the alcohol would only help.
Stanford appeared with is beer, bathed and wearing what was likely the cleanest of his wrinkled, dirty clothes.
Trooper rose from the couch and swallowed the last three mouthfuls. “Yup”.
“Let’s take your car. But plan for the four of us to take a cab later.”
“Understood, however unlikely that might be.”
Stanford shut his door and buckled his seat belt. “Now don’t start with the negative. You never could pick up girls.”
“I don’t want to pick up girls.” Trooper pulled onto the street and headed downtown. “We’re just going for a few beers.”
Stanford poked him in the shoulder. “But if things go well for me, I don’t want you wrecking it by starting to get all sad about your marriage.”
“I won’t. I’m not sad.”
“Or quoting lines from ‘The Three Amigos’. Man you were the worst closer ever.”
Trooper began looking for a parking space.
“I don’t need your help. True, I was lousy back then, but I’d do okay now – if I wanted to. I’m gainfully employed, no addictions and I have my own hair.”
They parked, and began walking to the bar. Trooper put his hand on Stanford’s shoulder.
“But I will agree to be your wing man tonight. You can count on that.”
Stanford opened the door. “Good enough,” he responded without looking at him.
The two men entered The Goose and began looking around for the two likely women. Trooper realized he didn’t know who he was looking for. “Do you even know what they look like?”
“Um, I’ve seen a picture of one; looks like that chick from Sugarland. The other one is taller and like big guys. And their names are both Kate.”
“You have to be kidding.”
Trooper came around the corner and knew he had found them. At least he had found her. There were two women sitting at a table, but only one caught his eye. She smiled warmly at him, her lips parting almost in a laugh, to reveal white straight teeth, the kind that make dentists swoon. He came around to her side of the table and reached to share her hand.
“Hi, I’m Trooper. You must be one of the Kates.”
“Yes” she giggled. “Wouldn't we be cute if you two were both Marks or Daves?”
He sat down and the small talk began. They offered their basic details: marital status, children, work, relative locations of homes etc. Trooper was enraptured with her. He had finished his first beer and realized he had barely heard anything Stanford and the other Kate had said.
His Kate was delightful.
He could tell she liked him too. She held her gaze just a little longer than necessary, sat just a little closer than strangers would and the occasional touch to his forearm was enough to make a heat rise within him.
It was so easy. He could lose himself in the company of this delightful woman. It had to be stopped.
A gradual downshift of chatter was necessary, or else… well, Trooper didn’t really know what might happen, but he had been stuck in his pattern for too long to find out now. Stanford had opened a Pandora’s Box by setting up this blind date and Trooper was determined to shut it.
Imperceptibly the conversation slowed and the moments of silence between them grew longer. It was difficult though because Trooper wanted more of her. But like heroin, he knew he would want more and more and more if he took a first taste.
Across the table. Stanford and his Kate were exchanging phone numbers. It would too obvious he and his Kate were not; He could not let it go unmentioned. Trooper shifted his chair closer to her and leaned in.
“Look, you’re lovely,” he began. “You’re smart, funny, beautiful... if I was interested in dating, I’d be interested in dating you.”
She blinked. “But you’re not interested in dating?”
A switch inside Kate was thrown to 'Off', and the energy that shone from her every pore dimmed. Trooper felt terrible for what he had done, but he had to be fair to her. How could a woman this terrific waste her time with a guy who’s relationships were so screwed up?
They barely exchanged five words for the next fifteen minutes.
When it was time to leave, they walked the Kates to the car. Trooper’s comments hung over the group like a cloud.
A brief expression of what a good time everyone had, an awkward hug, and the girls were gone. Trooper watched the car pull away, Kate in the passenger seat gazing sadly out the window. As he and Stanford walked to his car, Trooper wondered how he could ever see her again after this.
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