A BETTER KIND OF SPEED DATE
“Would you like another cup?” Celeste asked, raising a carafe.
“Please,” Norman replied.
He lifted his mug and she smiled and poured. Norman took a sip then closed his eyes in appreciation as the rich, roasted notes danced on his tongue. Celeste sure knew how to brew coffee, he thought. And those brownies she’d baked were delicious. He took another piece as he surreptitiously studied the woman seated across from him. She was almost thirty, plain but not unattractive, and quiet, but that was okay. After all, he was quiet too as well as sporting a receding hairline and a slight paunch.
He felt like maybe he’d hit the jackpot.
As Norman chewed, he asked, “Tell me, how come no one’s snatched you up yet?”
In a coy whisper, she replied, “I guess I haven’t found the right guy. Yet.”
Norman felt his blood stir. He could be that guy.
A gavel was struck; over the loudspeaker, a disembodied voice announced, “One year in.”
Norman dipped a hand into his inside jacket pocket and carefully extracted a single red rose. Handing it to Celeste, he looked deeply into her eyes and said, “For you.”
“Oh.” Celeste took the flower, not even sniffing the bloom, and replied in a lackluster voice, “Thanks.”
“What’s wrong?” Norman asked.
“No, come on,” he urged. “Tell me.”
“Well,” she said, “it’s not very original, is it? One red rose. I’d have preferred some daisies or tulips. Something to show you’d taken mytaste into consideration, not just any woman’s.”
“But I barely know you,” he argued.
“This is why I didn’t want to say anything. I knew you’d be defensive.” Celeste muttered.
Before Norman could respond, the gavel was banged again, making him jump. The stentorian voice intoned, “Five years in.”
Celeste said, “We should talk about where we’re headed in this relationship.”
Norman felt warm and he loosened his collar. “Can’t we keep things as is?”
“I’m not getting any younger. My most fertile years are racing by. I thought you wanted to settle down, have a family.”
“One day, but I have a lot of living to do. We both do.” He took Celeste’s hands in his. “I want us to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, explore the jungles of the Amazon, tango in Argentina.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Do you even know how to tango?”
Norman ignored her comment. “I want us to have adventures, make memories. You only want to vegetate at home.”
“You knew I led a quiet life when we first met.”
“But it wasn’t that long ago,” he said, looking at the wall clock. “I hadn’t even considered what it all meant.”
“So, I’ll lose the best years of my life because now you want ‘adventures.’”
“No. I’m saying let’s wait a little longer,” he attempted to explain as the gavel was banged once again. Perspiring, he looked around the room, trying to locate the irritating voice that now declared, “Ten years in.”
“What are you doing?” Celeste shrieked.
“I saw you looking at her,” she said, pointing to the table located to his left.
Confused, Norman turned and observed an attractive red-head sitting at the next table.
“You’re doing it again!” she spat.
“I didn’t notice her before, Celeste. Not until you mentioned her.”
“But you’re noticing her now, aren’t you? I know she’s more beautiful than me and younger, but I thought we had something and you were committed to us.”
“You’re jumping to conclusions—”
“About her or our relationship?” Celeste stood. “I’ve had enough. We’re through. You’re not who I thought you were,” she announced before she snatched the brownie out of his hand and stormed out the exit under which a large banner read “Speed Relationship Night.”
Dejected, confused, and relieved all at the same time, Norman pressed his index finger down on the table to pick up a few brownie crumbs as the disembodied voice decreed, “This marks the end of tonight’s session. We hope you’ve been enlightened,” and the gavel was brought down once more.