Online dating

          I sat on my king size bed to check my email and suddenly a pop-up on my laptop caught my attention. The face was that of a beautiful brunette. I moved the cursor to X it out like I usually did, but the seductive smile and huge bust caught my attention. I clicked on the pop-up and a chat box appeared.

          ‘Do you want to date me tonight?’ It was a live chat and I couldn’t believe that she was actually out there talking to me. I quickly sat up and began typing fervently.

          ‘Yes I do.’

          ‘Where do you want to meet?’

          ‘Somewhere public where I won’t get abducted.’

          ‘lol,’ she typed. ‘How about Banigans?’

          I knew the place and liked it. ‘That sounds great. What time?’

          ‘10pm tonight. I will be driving a yellow Volkswagen beetle.’

          ‘That’s a sexy car. See you then.’

          ‘Looking forward to it.’

 

          I jumped out of bed and into the shower. The time was 8pm and I was excited that my night had finally found purpose. An hour later, I was ready.

          White shirt. Check. Wallet. Check. Keys. Check. Rolex watch. Check. I got into my Jaguar and headed for Banigans.

          I pulled into a dark corner in the parking lot and staked out the incoming cars. The yellow beetle drove in a little before ten and I craned my neck anxiously to catch a glimpse of the driver. But when I saw the bad hairstyle and thick reading glasses, I sunk deeper into the seat. She did not look anything close to the girl that I had chatted with on the computer!

          She stepped out of the car a few minutes later and searched the parking lot and when she didn’t see anybody, walked into the bar, her preposterous polka dress leaving a burning image in my mind. It was time for me to go home.

          I started the engine then turned it off. What are you doing? Voices in my head. Go home Antonio. No. Just be a gentleman. At least go and say hi then find an excuse to leave. It was the humane thing to do. I felt cheated by the big busted brunette I had seen on my computer.

          Our eyes met as soon as I walked into the bar. I nodded at her and a big smile lit her face. She stood up and we shook hands.

          “Sandra,” she said as she refused to let go off my hand. Her eyes devoured my face and then my white tailored suit.

          “Call me Antonio,” I said as I pulled a seat next to her.

          We ordered two glasses of matinee and I looked around to make sure that no familiar faces were present to witness my fall from grace. I stole a quick glance at my Rolex watch.

          “You are very handsome,” Sandra complimented.

          “Thank you. What do you do?” I asked as I took a sip at my drink.

          “I’m doing my masters at the Barkley University.”

          “The one on 4th street?”

          “Yes. What do you do?”

          “I play professional soccer,” I replied not wanting to divulge too much about myself. Her presence stifled me and I wasn’t planning to stay for long.

          She suddenly reached across and touched my biceps. “I can tell by your physique. You have a very athletic body.”

          Okay, that was it! Time for me to go. It was the way that she had touched me… suggestively. I excused myself to go to the restroom and she told me to hurry back. I diverted to the exit door and asked a waiter to tell Mrs. Sandra that Mr. Antonio had left due to an emergency.

          The night air hit my face and I took a deep breath. Feeling relieved, I half ran to my car and drove away as fast as the speed limit would allow me. I had heard bad stories about online dating but experiencing it at first hand was mind shuttering.

          My phone suddenly rung and I answered it without thinking.

          “Halo?”  It was her, Sandra, the girl at the bar. How had she found my number?

          “Why does this always happen to meeee…?” she said and I realized that she was crying. Something told me to look into the rearview mirror and when I did, I was shocked to see the yellow beetle behind me. Sandra was following me. What a psycho?

          I quickly disconnected the phone and sped over the speed limit. This was turning into a nightmare.

          I pulled into my driveway a few minutes later and drove into the garage. I parked the car, turned off the engine and sat there for a long time. I was in a minor state of shock and my body still hadn’t digested what had happened. I finally exhaled and walked into the house.

          I placed the keys on the kitchen counter and glanced at the living room TV. Usually I would jump on the couch and grab a remote but tonight, my eyes roamed the room like I was in someone else’s home. There was only one thing that could make me feel better and it wasn’t red wine.

          I ran upstairs into my bedroom and changed into my gym gear: shorts, running shoes and a t-shirt. I took off my Rolex watch and placed it carefully on my dressing table. I avoided looking into the mirror.

          Moving fast, I ran all the way to the basement and jumped on the treadmill. I knew exactly what was happening to me… to my body…I knew this feeling very well. I was coming apart. I started jogging at a slow pace.

          And then I looked up and saw her. The picture hanging on the wall: blonde hair, sexy smile and teasing eyes. She stared back at me and I ran faster and harder. She always had that effect on me. It was why the picture was there in the first place, to push me to work hard. I ran for half an hour strong and it helped to hold me together. The harder I ran, the better I felt.

          Towel over my shoulder, I walked into the bathroom a few minutes later and let the shower water run. I avoided looking into the mirror as I took off my clothes and stepped into the shower. The hot water felt good and my body responded well as the water massaged my muscles. But slowly the outer body got used to the water and I became conscious of the unraveling threads inside me. I finally fell apart and slowly sunk to the bathroom floor. The tears came and I cuddled in the corner and cried.

          I saw her face…Sandy, the girl at the bar. I felt sorry for her and ashamed at my failed courage. I had treated her badly and broken one of my big virtues in life: to treat people with dignity and respect; especially those prejudiced by the society. I should never have left her alone at the bar. I should have talked to her like a human being… and then told her that I had to go. What was so hard about that? I had treated her like filth… made her feel like trash. An avalanche of emotions engulfed me and I cried until the shower water got cold. I stood up shivering, grabbed a towel and walked into the bedroom. I collapsed on top of the bed and lay very still. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else and so, towel around my waist; I fell asleep on top of my bed.

 

Do we hate ourselves enough to change? My coach’s voice.

   

Monday came and I tried to bury myself in the monotony of a new week. We practiced soccer for long hours and it made me feel better. Running was the best therapy in my life because for that duration, I get lost in the moment… the pounding of the heart, the rhythmic hand movements, the effort to control my breathing and lungs. By the time I got home, I was always ready to pass out.

          On Saturday we beat Deportivo Coruno in a tough match in Barcelona and while my teammates went to celebrate with their wives and families, I came home to an empty house. The lonely walls stared back at me and I decided to go out for a drink and hopefully meet somebody nice.

          Pink shirt. Check. Wallet. Check. Keys. Check. Rolex watch. Check. I was ready.

          The iridescent lights of Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain welcomed me as I drove through the skyscrapers. The summers in Barcelona were warm, the winters mild.

          The Launch Club, located in the heart of the city was moderately full at around 11pm when I arrived. I casually strolled around and checked out the selection. I saw a few familiar faces of women that I had been with before and stopped to flirt. The women clung to me and complimented my expensive attire in the hope that I would choose them for companionship. They were all pretty but I decided to hold out till the last minute just in case someone else caught my attention. I hadn’t had a generic girlfriend in a while and my master plan was to satisfy my tremendous appetite for women before the age of forty.

          At 1am, someone else did show up and her name was Sandra. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Sandra!

          Sandra looked the same way I had seen her at the Banigans Bar: same ridiculous polka dress, thick reading glasses and a bad hairstyle. She looked like she was drunk and I hid behind my girls to avoid detection. She was headed in my direction! Oh gosh, this wasn’t happening again.

          “Hey, watch where you are going!” an indignant voice yelled at Sandra and I craned my neck in time to see the man shove her away. Sandra flew across the room and landed on the floor against the wall. I instinctively jumped to my feet and headed in her direction.

          “That was totally unnecessary!” I yelled at the guy. “You could get someone hurt like that.” You pompous bastard! The man looked me up and down then vanished into the crowd.

          Sandra was lying on the floor by the time I got to her and people were walking around and over her. I picked her up and sat her on one of the couches. She saw me and recognition flooded into her drunken eyes.

          “Hey, its you, Antonio… you left me hanging at the bar.” She closed her eyes and passed out. I stared at her for a minute, frantic with indecision. A look of reticence crossed my eyes and I picked her up and placed her in the back seat of my car. What are you doing Antonio?

          I drove her to my house and placed her in the guest room bed. I covered her with a beige blanket and watched her sleep. Her moans drifted to my ears and I wondered who she was… what her story was. How had she fallen so far from grace?

          I walked into the bathroom and looked into the mirror for the first time in a long time. I liked what I saw there: victory, a small victory but a victory none the less. That night, I slept really good.

          The following morning, I woke up to the smell of fried eggs and it took me a while to remember that there was someone else in the house. Sandra. Jeans and a t-shirt on, I walked into the kitchen and found her cooking and listening to loud music. She wore my white t-shirt, which covered her down to her knees and looked more like a mini-dress. She turned at the sound of my footsteps and quickly turned off the music. The thick reading glasses searched my face for a reaction and I managed a tiny reassuring smile.

          “Morning Sandra,” I said. She looked different: more human than she had at the bar.

          “Morning Antonio, I made breakfast!” she replied with excitement as she slid me a plate of fried eggs, bacon and toasted bread.

          “Sit with me,” I requested and she joined me.

          “Sorry about last night Antonio. I hope you don’t mind my making myself at home.” She looked embarrassed.

          “No Sandra, you are my guest. Feel free to do anything that will make you comfortable.”

          “Thank you.” She carefully sipped her hot coffee.

          “This is really good,” I said as I bit into the bacon. It had been a while since someone had cooked for me. I glanced at the clock on the fridge and suddenly jumped to my feet.

          “Oh no, I have to run!” I said. “We have soccer practice in half an hour.” I ran upstairs and grabbed my training gear then headed down again towards the garage. Sandra met me at the door and I turned to her not sure what to say. “You can stay as long as you want Sandra,” I said not wanting to be rude. I knew that I was tempting fate but I also didn’t believe in serendipity. A part of me felt surprisingly responsible for her.

          I dove into the car and sped towards our training field.

          I came home that evening tired and was welcomed home by the aroma of stewed beef. “Hi Antonio,” Sandra greeted as I walked through the front door. She wore one of my soccer shorts and a t-shirt. “I cooked dinner if that’s okay with you.”

          “Oh, thanks Sandra. But you didn’t have to.”

          “I wanted to Antonio. It’s my way of saying thank you.”

          What was this strange woman doing in my house? Was I using her to nurse my guilt?

          We ate dinner in the living room and the fire crackled in the corner. The time was 7pm and Sandra looked happy. It had been a while since I had done this: shared a home cooked meal with someone else. Soccer games and nightclubs defined my solitude life. I barely visited my parents unless I had to: on Christmas or family occasions.

          “Come Sandra, I will walk you around the house,” I invited. “This is the living room in case you were confused,” I said playfully and she laughed. I liked the way she laughed and the fact that I made her laugh.

          We went to my bedroom and I showed her my meticulously organized walk-in closet and here I saw her eyes sparkle behind the glasses.

          “Wow Antonio, you have so many clothes!” I had seven pairs of black leather shoes; a new shirt of every color, suits, ties and … she walked over and opened a small box. “All these?” she asked me. “Why?” She was referring to the box full of Rolex watches.

          I shrugged. “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth Sandra. My family was poor and I vowed to break away from that.” I picked up one of the watches. “This was the first watch I ever bought. It symbolized a new beginning for me. After that, I couldn’t stop buying them.” I sighed. “My Rolex is like the rearview mirror of a car. It reminds me to look back and see how far I have come.”

          Sandra nodded. “That’s deep Antonio.”

          We walked back down the stairs. “I have to go to school tomorrow,” she said and I remembered that she was a student. “Thanks for hosting me.”

          I called a cab and Sandra left at 9pm. She called me after work two days later and asked me if she can cook for me. I said yes and told her where to find the house key. I really didn’t know what I was doing but I realized that it was the first time in a long time that I had been with a girl without thinking about sex. It felt different and I wondered whether it had something to do with the fact that Sandra wasn’t sexy.

          I came home after soccer practice and found Sandra studying on the dining table. I could smell the aroma of her cooking and the ambience made me reminisce about my parents’ house.

          “What are you reading?” I asked as I sat next to her.

          I picked up one of her books and the title made my eyes widen with shock. 21 ways to F* with your protagonist. “What?” I was shocked. “They use that kind of language for a book title?”

          Sandra laughed at my appalled expression. “It’s a catch title. And now you will never forget.” She began to explain. “When you write a book, you take your main character and you tear him to pieces. You kill his dog, his parents, his hopes and dreams… and then towards the end of the book, you bring him back.”

          I closed the book. “Let’s talk about something else,” I said. “The academic life can be addictive at times. You obviously need some distraction.”

          She looked at me with playful eyes. “What do you want to talk about Antonio?”

          I thought for a minute. “How about…mmm… your worst kiss. What was his name?”

          “Ben,” she replied. “I don’t remember the second name.”

          “What was wrong with the kiss?” I asked as I looked at her with curiosity.

          “He had a running nose,” she replied. I froze at the answer and then burst out laughing.

          “You are a sick woman.” I grabbed her hand and led her downstairs. “I have a better idea,” I said. She laughed and followed me to the gym where I turned on the music system and slotted in a hip pop CD.

          “Hip pop?” she asked in surprise.

          “I went to college in New York.” I replied nonchalantly. “Don’t ask.”

          “What are we doing?’ She looked worried when I took her hand and led her to the center of the room.

          “We are going to build an appetite for dinner by dancing. Dancing is a good cardio workout. Can you dance?” I asked as an afterthought. She took a step back and I grabbed her hand. “It’s not that hard Sandra. Come and stand next to me.”

          Sandra looked scared and tense. “I can’t Antonio…I can’t dance to hip hop. I grew up in Valencia.”

          “You can and you will.” I reached out and took off her glasses. She looked away from me. “Can you see?” I asked and she nodded; her eyes glued to the ground.

          The music started playing. Notorious B.I.G …wave your hands in the air as if you don’t care. 

          “Just wave your hands Sandra. Good job!” She smiled.

          “Two steps to the left, two steps to the right!” Sandra followed my steps and before she knew it, we were dancing and breaking sweat. “And bounce… and bounce.” I danced and she followed my every move.

         

Later on and after a nice hot shower, we sat around the kitchen table and shared the rice and fried chicken that she had made. The food was really good and I licked my lips in joy. My legs shook happily under the table. Sandra made miracles happen in the kitchen.

          “Your parents taught you how to cook?”

          “Yes. Since I was a kid.”

          We ate and chatted aimlessly for a while and then she asked. “Who’s the girl in the gym?”

          I almost chocked on the food but quickly recovered. “The picture on the wall? My ex girlfriend,” I replied.

          “You still angry at her?” Sandra asked and I narrowed my eyes at her.

          “How do you know that am angry?”

          She hesitated. “It’s in your voice Antonio. I’m sorry to intrude.”

          The air was thick with tension. We ate in silence. And then I sighed and dropped the fork on the plate with a clunk that made Sandra jump.

          “Sorry,” I said. “We had a fight and she left me. Her name is Natalie.”

          “Its okay Antonio you don’t have to talk about it.”

          I wiped my mouth with a napkin. “She was always texting my soccer teammates and when I ask her to stop, she said that I was jealous because she was more popular than I.” I stared into the near horizon as the memories flooded back. I wondered why I was telling Sandra something that I had never shared with anybody else. I couldn’t stop talking though.

          “One day, I caught her texting my friends at mid night and I lost it and hit the phone from her hands. In the process, her hand was bruised and she called the cops. I spend the night in jail and when I came out, it was over. She was gone and so were her things. And that was four years ago. I have never seen Natalie since.”

          “I’m sorry Antonio,” Sandra said.

          “Don’t be. We were fighting more everyday over petty things and in the end I was forced to watch from a distance as the ship sunk. I couldn’t rescue it… even in the shallow waters.”

          Sandra decided not to pursue the topic and we let it slide. She left at 10pm and said that she had a long day at school the following day.

          It was hard to describe the kind of relationship that Sandra and I had. Every other day, she would come over and cook for me and we would enjoy a quiet conversation like two old friends and then she would leave. Sandra wasn’t sexy, but she wasn’t bad looking either. I noticed that she never made an effort to promote her looks and always wore baggy clothes that needed much improving. But her cooking was great and I enjoyed our conversations.

          Our soccer season was going on well and we were number two on the table below Barcelona. Our bonus had already been bumped up and Nike had offered me an advertisement deal. The question on the table though was whether we were going to beat Barcelona in the upcoming derby. There was talk that Lionel Messi was the best soccer player to ever exist and while most fans would come to watch Messi, I wanted them to notice me.

          “Do you want to come to our party this Friday night?” I asked Sandra one evening. “I mean since you are now an awesome dancer and all.” I tried to lighten the request.

          “Are you sure Antonio? Will your teammates be there? I don’t want to embarrass you.” She looked scared.

          “The whole soccer team will be there Sandra. I would love for you to come.” I had no idea what I was doing but it felt right. Sandra and I had never been out together and I wanted to do something nice for her. Celebrating my success with her seemed to be a perfect opportunity. “Trust me Sandra, it will be fun.”

          “Okay Antonio, I trust you.” She sounded uncertain.

          Friday night came and I stood in the club nervously glancing at my teammates and wondering how they were going to react to my date. I could only imagine the smart remarks that I would get in the locker room. I glanced at my Rolex watch, 9.15pm. We had reserved the lounge from 9 to 10.30pm for the party, and then the doors would open to the public.

          “Hey Antonio, meet my wife Jill.” One of the players introduced me.

          “How do you do Jill?”

          “Oh hi!” the lady said. “I hear you are in line for MVP this year?”

          “That’s just rumors,” I replied modestly. It was true. All my hard work was finally paying off: the MVP rumor, a contract with Nike… this was my year of glory. I was swinging for the fence.

          All the players had brought a date or a wife… no kids allowed. At 9.30pm, an elegant lady walked through the front door and everybody turned to stare. It took me a while to recognize Sandra and I stared mouth agape as she glided towards me. Sandra? I couldn’t believe it. The short white dress hugged her body and outlined every contour of her small waist, medium hips and bust. She wore silver high heels and I noticed the long legs for the first time. How had I never noticed those legs before? The thick reading glasses were gone and so was the polka dress.

          “Sandra?” I said when she reached over and pecked my cheek. Her self-confidence blew me away and suddenly the tables were turned and I was the nervous one.

          “Hi Antonio,” she greeted as she pushed her straightened black hair away from her face. I opened my mouth but no words came out. It was the first time I had seen her with makeup and she looked… hot.

          “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends?” she asked and her question startled me back to life. She was in control, composed and … and beautiful! How was it possible?

          “Hi, this is Sandra. Sandra, meet Vinny.” I watched as she shook hands and noticed her poise and practiced smile. She was good with people.

          We walked around and Sandra grabbed two glasses of champagne from a waiter who was walking by. She handed me one and we clanked glasses.

          “To the best soccer season ever,” she said. “May you guys beat Barcelona in the upcoming game.” Sandra exuded nothing but charm.

          I wanted to say ‘Amen’ to her toast but I ended up saying, “Sandra, how? How did you manage to change so much?”

          She smiled and suddenly a familiar tune drifted into our ears. It was Notorious B.I.G, wave your hands in the air like you don’t care. We smiled at each other knowingly and placed the glasses on the table. Then hand in hand we waltzed into the dance floor.

          We playfully waved in the air and then fell into the routine we had practiced in the gym. Two steps to the left, two steps to the right. And bounce, and bounce. And before we knew it, we had forgotten where we were. The whole world ceased to exist and it was just Sandra and I. Our eyes were unblinking with concentration; sweat dripped down my face. I crossed my legs and did a 360 spin then moved back towards her, my right hand smoothly sliding around her waist. She laughed seductively and I was aroused for the first time. I had never seen her look so happy.

          Then the music stopped and a burst of thunderous applause made us turn. The other soccer players had formed a circle around us and they were clapping. “You the man Antonio!’ they yelled. Champaign cocks flew over our heads and giddy laughter filled the air.

          I grabbed Sandra’s hand and we ran away from the dance floor laughing. Shortly after, the party resumed to normal.

          “That was awesome!” I said as I tried to wipe the sweat from my face.

          “I had fun too!” Sandra said as she pulled out a handkerchief from her purse.

          The music played to a more serene tune and we groaned at the DJ. Someone tapped my shoulder and I turned with a smile expecting another compliment. The face that I saw was one that made me stand very still. It was my ex, Natalie and she was smiling.

          “Halo Antonio, long time.” She pulled me into a warm embrace and hugged me very tight. “I missed you.” She pulled back and looked me in the eye. “I missed you Antonio. Do you want to dance?” I nodded and followed her like a sheep. I was too numb to react. The sight of her was the last thing I had expected.

          We joined other couples on the dance floor. “I haven’t seen you in four years Natalie,” I said as I finally found my voice.

          “I know,” she replied. “I watched all your games you know? Congratulations Mr. MVP.”

          She had been following my life but all I had was the picture in the gym. She felt good in my arms, smelled great and suddenly it felt like we had never parted. I saw her at our first date and remembered how innocent she had been, how happy we had been together. I sniffed at her neck and the familiar smell drifted into my brain and triggered back all the emotions that I had buried there. I had always loved her.

          “Oh Natalie!” I said as I sunk deeper into her embrace. There were tears in my eyes. She knew that she had me then and so she made her move.

          “Let’s get out of here Antonio. Let’s go home,” she whispered into my ears and before I could reply, she led me out through the door and into the car.

          The clothes fell off as soon as we walked through the front door of my house. We kissed like it was our last kiss and barely made it to bed before making passionate love. Our coupling was an act of pure joy and afterwards we fell asleep in each other’s arms. I knew that I was finally home, in the arms of the one whom I loved. Love had finally found a way.

          I woke up the following morning and casually walked downstairs to the kitchen. Natalie was still asleep. I opened the fridge and saw a box marked ‘open me’. I opened it without thinking and saw a small cake designed in the shape of a Rolex watch and I smiled. Sandra had left me a gift…made me a gift to be more precise.

          Sandra! And suddenly I remembered her. Had I said goodbye to her at the club? I couldn’t remember. I quickly grabbed my cell phone and dialed her number. I got an automated reply: the number you are calling is no longer available. I panicked and subconciously picked up a piece of paper that was lying on the kitchen floor. It was a note. Had something happened to her? I shuddered at the thought. The note was in Sandra’s handwriting.

          Life is poetry in motion. Humans are like poems open to multiple interpretations. Our perception of each other varies. We love each other in different ways.

          The note had nothing to do with the cake, I realized; it was probably a part of her school assignment.

Natalie drifted into the kitchen yawning. “Hi honey? What’s for breakfast?” She sat at the table and I quickly grabbed a kettle, made her coffee and toast. She declined the toast and talked about maintaining her figure.

          After breakfast, Natalie excused herself and told me that she would be back later. As soon as she left, I jumped into my Jaguar and drove to Barkley University in the hope that I would find someone in the office on a Saturday morning. All I had was Sandra’s cell phone number and I realized that I knew very little about her.

          I was lucky because the admission office was open for half a day on Saturday.

          “Sandra,” I said to the lady at the reception. “Sandra Onette.”

          “I’m sorry Mr. Antonio but we can’t divulge students’ personal information.”

          I explained that something may have happened to Sandra and the lady grudgingly gave in to my crying pleas.

          “Sandra Onette…” she mumbled as she scrolled down the page. “And you say that she’s doing her masters?”

          “Yes,” I replied.

          She pursed her lips and then looked up. “Mr. Antonio?”

          “Yes?” My insides were tight.

          “Sandra Onette graduated two years ago with her masters. She does not go to this school any more.”

          “What? No no no, there must be some kind of mistake.” I leaned over the counter and the lady showed me Sandra’s graduation date. “She was one of our brightest students too.”

          I staggered out of the students’ office dazed. The traffic on the street was loud and I stood there and listened. The morning sun warmed my body, but it did not give me the answers that I needed.  I had no moves left to make. Who was Sandra and why had she lied to me?

I got into my car and the jaguar purred down the street. The guilt crept into my body and I was back in the bar again. It didn’t matter who Sandra was. I had betrayed her. I had betrayed her trust in me.

 

 

         

Yesterday, my dad used to say. Yesterday. We take the people in our lives for granted and before we know it, we wake up one day and they are gone… into yesterday.

 

 To be continued…

News

Off to AFRICA

 

My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen

 

Contact

 

mrobertto@yahoo.com

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