The Recent Past Café had only two tables in its small, elegant dining room. A handsome man sat at one of the tables, drinking water from a tiny glass. The other table was empty. “I’m here for a blind date,” Yellow told the maitre’d. “That must be him there.”
“Of course,” said the maitre’d. He led her over to the handsome man’s table, bowed, and returned to his post at the door. The handsome man stood up and extended his hand to Yellow, smiling and saying, “You must be Magenta.”
“No,” said Yellow, blushing at the man’s error as she shook his hand. “I’m Yellow.”
“I’m sorry,” said the man, “I’m here for a blind date with a woman who I thought was named Magenta.”
“Is your name Gray?” asked Yellow.
The man laughed, “Ah, no, there’s been a mistake. I’m Maroon.”
“How strange!” said Yellow. “Two blind dates scheduled at the same time at the same restaurant!”
“It is strange,” said Maroon. “As soon as I saw you come in, I was hoping you were Magenta. Too bad.”
“What a nice compliment,” said Yellow, her heart skipping along. “Maybe you and I should just have dinner?”
Maroon laughed. “Wouldn’t that be nice?” He sat back down in his chair.
“Well?” said Yellow. “Why shouldn’t we?”
“You’re serious?” asked Maroon. “We can’t do that. What about Magenta? What about Gray? We can’t do that to them.”
Maroon’s thoughtfulness made Yellow’s disappointment that much more deflating. She found thoughtfulness very attractive in men. She informed the maitre’d of the mix-up and he installed her at the other table with a tiny glass of water of her own. Yellow’s table wobbled when she leaned her elbows on it. She sipped the water in silence, watching Maroon out of the corner of her eye. He was less than six feet away from her, reading a thick hardcover book. Minutes passed. A waiter appeared and asked Yellow if she wanted an appetizer. “OK,” she said. “How about some garlic bread?”
“You like garlic bread?” asked Maroon.
“I love it,” said Yellow, surprised. She hadn’t realized Maroon was paying attention.
“Me too,” said Maroon. “I love it too. I’m not just saying that. I have my own special recipe. I got it from my great-uncle.”
“I like men who can cook,” said Yellow. “And close-knit families.”
Maroon nodded. “My family is very close-knit. But I don’t think I should get into that with you. No offense, but that’s kind of date talk, and you and I aren’t on a date.”
Yellow was offended, but she tried to hide it. “Where do you think our dates are?” she asked, running her finger around the rim of her glass, listening to the low squeak.
“I’m sure they’ll be here any second,” said Maroon, and he went back to his book. More minutes passed. Yellow’s garlic bread arrived. “Do you want some?” she asked Maroon. “I noticed you didn’t order any.”
Maroon shook his head. “I don’t think it’s polite to eat before one’s date arrives.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s polite to be twenty minutes late to a date,” said Yellow.
Maroon laughed. “You have a point,” he said. “‘I know, I know the one for me/ is hot for punctuality.’”
“That’s a Turquoise lyric!” said Yellow. “He’s my favorite singer!”
“Mine too,” said Maroon. “I’ve shaken his hand three times!”
“What’s that book you’re reading?” asked Yellow.
Maroon held it up for her to see. “It’s the new Navy Blue,” he said. “The Pepper Plague.”
“I love Navy Blue,” said Yellow. “I got to interview her for my college newspaper. It was incredible. She’s so intense!” Yellow stood up, the plate of garlic bread in hand. “Come on, Maroon,” she said. “We have so much in common. Including the fact that we both got stood up tonight. Let’s try to make something good out of it.”
Maroon sighed and stared at his empty water glass. “I’m sorry, Yellow,” he said. “We can’t”
Yellow stomped her foot and a piece of garlic bread fell on the floor. “For all we know Gray and Magenta met on the way here and fell in love! They might be on a carriage ride in the park right now!”
“We can’t, Yellow,” said Maroon. “That’s not how blind dates work.”
“Who cares?” said Yellow. “What’s so special about a blind date? They’re ridiculous!”
Maroon signaled the maitre’d who came over and bent down as Maroon whispered in his ear. The maitre’d walked around Maroon’s table and took Yellow by the elbow with his soft, wrinkled hands. “Miss,” he said. “There’s been a request for you to keep the volume down a bit. You’re disturbing the other customer.”
Yellow tossed the plate of garlic bread onto Maroon’s table. “Well, for her sake, I hope Magenta has the proper respect for the sacred institution of blind dates,” said Yellow. “If she ever shows her face.” She stormed out of The Recent Past Café without paying for the garlic bread and walked home. The streets swarmed with eligible bachelors, every one a dud, every one a loser.
“Oh my,” said
The man without the scar shrugged and spoke in a gravelly voice that
The man with the scar rubbed his neck and spoke in a high, sensitive voice that served as a charming contrast to the angry scar. “It should be easy enough to figure out,” he said. “What’s the name of the man you’re supposed to be on a blind date with tonight?”
“Uh! Uh!” No-scar held up his hands and said, “Not until she tells us who she’s here for.”
The man with the scar rolled his eyes but said, “OK, Orange, for the sake of fairness, who are you supposed to be on a blind date with?”
“Maybe,” said Tan.
“Now hold on,” said
“But my name’s Green,” he said. “You’re supposed to be on a blind date with someone named Tan.”
“Whoa, whoa,” said Tan, scowling. “If you don’t want to go on a blind date with me, just tell me.”
“No, it’s not that,” said
Green thought for a moment and then tapped her left hand. She opened it up. It was empty. “Aha!” said Tan. “Fair and square!” He started to sit down at the table.
“I knew it!” shouted Tan. He thrust his index finger into Green’s face and said “If you go through with this date, you deserve everything you’re going to get.” Then he turned and stormed out of The Recent Past Café.
“Whatever that meant,” said
“Are you ready to order?” asked the waiter.
“I’ll have the club sandwich,” said
The Recent Past Café was dark. Red looked in through the big front window and saw no signs of life. No movement at all. But she was sure she had the right place, sure she had the right time. There wasn’t a sign indicating that the restaurant was open, but there wasn’t one indicating that it was closed either. No one passed her on the sidewalk. The street was empty. All the neighboring businesses were closed. Not knowing what else to do, Red tried the front door. It was open. She stepped into the dark restaurant and the door swung closed behind her. “Hello?” she said. “Is anyone here?” There was no answer. Light from the streetlights came in through the front window. The two tables were set with silverware and tiny glasses of water. Since there was no maitre’d, she decided to seat herself. The first table she chose wobbled too much, so she moved to the other table. She sat in the dark and sipped her water, waiting for her date to arrive. His name was Darrell and according to her friend Purple he was really into outdoorsy stuff and volunteerism, just like Red. He sounded wonderful. Red was nervous and excited. Once Darrell arrived, maybe they could go someplace else. Someplace with a waiter and food and with the lights on. Or not. Red wasn’t really that hungry and without the lights on she wouldn’t be so self-conscious about the blemish she’d noticed on her left cheek that morning. But on the other hand, she wouldn’t be able to see Darrell that well either. Well, whatever, whatever, they’d figure it out, whatever.
Red finished her water. She didn’t have anything else to do with her hands, so she kept turning the glass around and around. She was amazed at how quiet it was in the restaurant. There were no ticking clocks, no whirring appliances, no creaks or clicks or hums of any kind. She ventured to sing a few lines of a song that had been stuck in her head all week. Quietly at first, but she was impressed with how nice her voice sounded in the empty restaurant, and soon she was really projecting. She sang the song all the way through three times and then took a breather. She decided Darrell wouldn’t mind if she drank his water, especially since he was running so late. She gulped it down. It was delicious. “Gosh, this chair is comfortable,” she said out loud. “I need to get one of these for my apartment.” She rocked back and forth on the chair and almost fell off, which cracked her up. Red’s laughter filled up the dining room of The Recent Past Café and no one else heard it. Not a single dud. Not a single loser.