Like all places on a Friday night, the one you choose is crowded. You can’t avoid it in a city like this. You are at the bar getting another round you can’t afford; you tip the bartender a dollar for both drinks. You make your way back to the booth with your elbows out in front so you don’t spill anything.
She watches you with a worried smile. You place her drink down and slide in across from her, also smiling. She thanks you and insists, as she has for the last four rounds, on buying the next. You shrug at the suggestion, because you are a man, and one of your duties is buying drinks.
Soon, you’re back on the conversation you started earlier. About dating. After she tells you about her last boyfriend, she looks at you meaningfully and says, “I can’t ever be with someone who thinks it’s okay to lie to women.”
You hold her gaze and say, “I can’t believe there are guys out there who still do that.”
Her eyes continue to hold some kind of meaning, and water maybe, and they grow more meaningful and strange by the second. You know better than to look away—at the bar, at the perspiration on your glass, into the lamp over your heads.
Even when she bends forward to sip, you exert great mental force to keep your eyes on her, because while her lips are parting over the straw—pop—there are those meaningful eyes on you again.
You ask her, sensing something important passing between you, if she would like to step outside for a smoke.
You unfold two cocktail napkins and drape them over your drinks, like little ghosts protecting the booth and walk out into a warm night. Lights, voices, and horns throb through the streets, familiar as blood through veins.
“I have a confession,” you say, taking her hand.
Your eyes are meaningful, and just before kissing her for the first time, you say, “I don’t smoke.”