I always knew things would be difficult, but never understood the extent to which family and friends would go to ruin something they didn’t understand, or even try to understand.
Five years ago, Valentine’s Day as per usual I had no date and neither did Janine so we decided we’d go out together and ignore all the hype of the day for lovers. Janine had even suggested we become lesbian lovers, which I know was a joke as she likes the attributes of men as much as I do.
Anyway, we caught the bus into town and on arriving at our favourite bar took a table near the window and ordered drinks. The waiter asked if we were waiting on our dates, and just to throw him off and be a bit naughty we told him we were there with each other, and not for anyone else. He looked back and forth between us clearly wondering if we were winding him up or not, then went off to the bar to bring back our drinks.
Sitting there watching the happy couples arrive for their night of loving togetherness I guess I may have been a bit cynical, but all that was soon to change.
We had booked ourselves a table in an Indian restaurant that had recently opened and once we had finished our drinks we threw our coats back on and sauntered down the street arm in arm looking forward to a good curry, and with a bit of luck some tasty bhajis.
On the way we had to run the gauntlet through a group of lads who suggested they could be our dates for the night, but Janine told they where to go in no uncertain terms eliciting an explosion of insults and questions about our sexuality. Janine simply told them to go home as their mummies were calling. She gave them the two fingers and amid more insults and catcalls we went on our way.
When we arrived at the restaurant it was pretty empty as we’d booked an early table planning to go out to a club or two afterwards. The maître d’ / host showed us to a table and told us our waiter would be with us shortly to take our order and look after us. He set menus down on the table and told us he hoped we would have a good night.
Soon after we had settled and picked up the menus the waiter appeared at our table. We were both engrossed in the menu, which was quite extensive, and neither of us looked up until he asked what we would like to drink. When I did look up I looked directly into the most beautiful of faces that almost took my breath away. And yes, I know what a cliché that is, but that is what I felt at the time. He had the deepest soulful brown eyes, which were framed with long lashes, always a killer for me. He had a stubbly half beard and when he smiled at me his teeth shone white. I stuttered and then prompted by Janine ordered a red wine as she had.
Once he had left the table Janine commented. “Well he’s a looker, for sure, and from the way that you looked at each other I’d say you deffo fancied the pants off each other.”
“He sure is good looking,” I replied. “But can you image my family’s reaction if I took him home?” I had already imagined what my father would say.
“Bugger them. If you both fancy each other then I say you should go for it. Shall I get his number for you?” I wasn’t sure if Janine was teasing or not, it was the kind of thing she would do.
“Leave it out, I’m a big girl and if I want his number I’ll ask for it, anyway he’s probably gay or in an arranged marriage already:” I told her.
“Wow, who is being a racist?” Janine asked.
“Shit, I didn’t mean, but, oh…” I spluttered as I internally appraised my thinking. “Ok, sorry. I guess that was a bit of a stereotype.”
“Just a bit,” Janine raised her glass to mine, “But one we can forgive and forget,” she added, as the waiter brought our drinks back to the table.
Setting our drinks down he asked if we were ready and, when we said we were, he took our order, making a note on his little techno-pad as we told him what we wanted. Each time I caught his eyes I felt a shiver.
“Not married; no ring on any of his fingers,” Janine commented once he’d gone off to the kitchen.
“Can’t say I was looking,” I lied.
“Too busy making gooey eyes at each other,” Janine laughed.
When the waiter returned with some poppadums and dips Janine brazenly asked his name. “Ismael” was his shy reply. Janine simply nodded.
“Ismael,” she said after he’d gone. “Easy enough, but are you going to be?” she asked. “And don’t be coy I know you’ve been getting a good look at the rear view each time he’s walked away.
“You are incorrigible,” I told her cracking a poppadum in half, dipping it into the hot spice. “But yes, of course I have.”
Ismael was extra attentive during the meal, but after leaving the bill returned to the kitchen without further comment.
“Well that’s that then,” I said, our non-existent relationship was already over.
“Not quite,” Janine said handing me the card for the restaurant that Ismael had left with the bill. “Turn it over,” she told me.
Turning the card over I saw Ismael had written his name and telephone number on it, with just two words. “Call me.”