The night was early but he was late. I chose a kidney-shaped table in a shadowy corner. His lateness was no surprise. He wanted the meeting but not enough to arrive on time. Typical. Wasn’t that just one of the many reason we weren’t together any longer?
I dressed as though on a date and regretted my choices of jewelry, dress, and shoes as I walked in the lounge. Men sitting alone at the bar and a few occupying tables with other men or even a few with a woman turned their heads or swept their eyes in my direction. Damn, I thought, wrong impression to give to strangers and to give him.
I declined ordering a drink, wanting to assess his intentions first, unsure if alcohol was the best option. The waitress retreated with a look of annoyance, wondering if she’d make any money off me and whoever I was meeting.
My hands rested, one on top of the other, on the table’s wooden surface. The impressively large rings on the middle finger of each hand were inheritances from my great-aunt, new additions since the last time we saw each other. The yellow sapphires sparkled in the dim light. He would notice them and comment while mentally calculating their worth. Expensive jewelry always caught his eye. Anything of value triggered his interest. He’d wonder if the rings were gifts from a man, perhaps a current boyfriend. But, would he care? The answer depended on why he asked for the meeting.
I remembered our last conversation — or quarrel — also in a public place. A restaurant — a small cafe in the West Village. We were still technically a couple — a couple on a break. He moved out and was living in Chelsea, back when Chelsea was less posh and more affordable. I remained in our tiny, funky apartment in the East Village.
We ate pasta and drank too much wine. We talked about our jobs and avoided anything personal until he asked me for money. Not a reimbursement for some joint cost while we were still cohabiting. Not even a loan because his commissions were off that month. But a you-owe-me request for money. I owed him because he moved to New York City so I could work for a publisher. I owed him because he hated New York City and particularly the East Village. I owed him because he sold his car to avoid the high cost of parking and the annoyance of driving in the city. I owed him because he gave up whatever the hell he thought he gave up to be with me.
That meeting did not end well. The explanation of my debts to him and two empty bottles of wine led to a shouting match which also led to us being asked to leave the premises while more civilized diners glared at us for ruining their perfect Manhattan evenings.
What would tonight bring? I thought as the lounge door opened and he entered.