It was one of those diners where someone obviously spent a lot of time and money, and paid attention to detail, to make sure it felt like one of those diners. You know?
Replica license plates from all over the country adorned the walls.
Waitresses attired as if they had been trained to say “Kiss my grits!” — even if they weren’t nearly old enough to get the reference.
He slid another quarter into the slot of the little mini jukebox thing at their booth.
“Tell me what you’re picking,” she almost demanded.
He laughed. He punched buttons with his right hand, while using his left to obscure her view.
“It better not be more Pearl Jam,” she said, while delivering a stink eye for the ages.
He sat back. He smiled.
This was a first date.
They’d been talking about it for ages.
Planning where they’d go. What they’d do.
They’d both been looking forward to it.
Probably too much.
“So far, has this date been everything you dreamed of?” she asked.
“Well… I figured there would have been more swooning by this point” he replied.
“And why did you expect that?”
“I’m very swoon-worthy,” he replied, a little annoyed at having to sit through that Nickleback song.
“And who told you that?”
“My mom. The guy with the porn mustache and van outside of the liquor store. Dr. Phil.”
“Dr. Phil told you that you are swoon-worthy?”
“I think it was Dr. Phil. Though he DID catch a ride home one day with porn ‘stache van guy, so…”
She shook her head and began re-reading the menu.
It was a quiet moment. But not awkward. At all.
He scanned the room, trying to find the Nickleback fan. No luck.
Then he looked at her.
She busted him.
She went back to her menu.
He wasn’t sure if it was the lighting, or if the pictures just hadn’t done her anything near justice, but she was just so… She made him nervous. He wasn’t going to show it. Of course. Dude had the swagger of six men, but…
She was something.
The opening guitar chords elicited a “Yes!” from him, as “Streets of Bakersfield” started playing.
“Really?” she asked.
“I would have preferred the old school Buck Owens version, but Dwight Yoakam will do.”
“Old school? That’s one room school house. My grandfather loved this song. Not my dad…”
“You don’t know me but you don’t like me / You say you care less how I feel / But how many of you that sit and judge me / Have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?” he sang. Quietly.
“On a first date?”
“I’d have gone another way.”
“Don’t try to change me, baby.”
She pretended to hide behind the menu. But she watched him.
She loved — fucking LOVED — how excited that song made him.
It was a lot of the little things about him that she couldn’t enough of.
And she was quickly realizing they were much easier to ignore in an e-mail. Well, not really “ignore,” but…
“What do you want?” he asked.
“Sorry… what?” she stammered a little, unsure of the question.
“To order. To eat?”
“Ohhh. Yeah. I don’t know. Burger and fries?”
“I adore a woman who’ll straight up order a burger.”
“You’d love me if I was eating tofu.”
“Busting out ‘love’ already?”
Her eyes got big. For a half second, she thought she had ruined it. Then she saw his face.
“Please. How could you not love me?,” she asked, as rhetorically as anything had ever been asked.
“You make a good point.”
“I always do.”
Their feet accidentally bumped together under the table. Neck hair stood up on end on both sides of the booth.
They left their feet touching.
He smiled at her. Warm. Honest.
“Baby…?” he slightlyabovewhispered.
“Tofu would be pushing it.”
He smiled at her. Warm. Smitten.