“He doesn’t dry properly after a shower, and he refuses to admit it,” Clark said as he threw a crumpled paper napkin onto the table.
“And that’s why you’re breaking up with him?” Sandy Dawson said, looking at Clark as only she could: eye perched just for the right moment to roll.
Sandy rolled her eyes.
“After two dates this week and one night together?” she asked.
“Yes. Has it been that long?” Clark said exasperated.
“Yeah, about five days. Four more than your average. But what do you mean he doesn’t dry properly?”
“Excuse me. Would you like another drink?” a tall Greek waiter with piercing brown eyes asked.
“How long are we going to be here, Clark? You good for another?”
“How long are we going to be here?! My heart is crushed and you ask that.”
“I can come back if you need a few minutes,” the waiter interjected as he placed a notepad in his shirt pocket, revealing the edge of a black tattoo creeping out from under his right shirt sleeve.
“His heart gets crushed every other week, but I’ll have a gin and tonic. Light on the tonic. I might be here a while.”
“I’ll have another dirty martini. Thank you.”
The waiter jotted the order down and turned toward the bar.
“So you were saying,” Sandy continued. “Something about a crushed heart . . . .”
“Who? The waiter?”
“Yes. He’s godlike. Reminds me of my year in Greece.”
“I didn’t know Greece had trailer parks. That barb wire.”
“Shush! I bet his name is Damien. Or Magnus. But not Gus. That’s too common. Do you think he’s gay? He sort of swooshed.”
“Looks like your heart has healed.”
“No. It hasn’t!” Clark protested. “I’m still devastated.”
“About the drying.”
“About everything with Mark.”
“So his wet body gives you cold feet?”
“He dries by toweling off his legs first. Ridiculous. You start, like a normal person, by toweling off your hair and working your way down. He’s not normal.”
“Uh huh. Did you talk with Mark about this? Or just observe it and he’s out?”
“He didn’t see anything – anything – wrong with it. He looked at me as if I were crazy.”
“Well . . . .”
“I’m not crazy!!”
“One gin with a splash of tonic,” the waiter said as he sat Sandy’s drink down in front of her. “And one dirty martini. Anything else for you at the moment, or are you okay?”
“Rough day. Tell me your name, and I’ll be better,” Clark chirped.
“Oh, God,” Sandy said as she gulped her gin and tonic.
“Stephen?” Paul asked, surprised. “Is that short for Stéphanos?”
“No, it’s long for Steve.”
Sandy snorted her gin and tonic through her nose as Stephen walked away.
“That was embarrassing,” Clark blushed.
“But it was funny. Are you sure you should be dating at all, though?”
“What does that mean?”
“You know what I mean,” Sandy said as she sipped her drink cautiously. Her eyes closed as she coughed at its strength. “I think he forgot the tonic.”
“It’s not 2006 anymore!” Clark exclaimed.
“And 2005 was that great for you?”
“It’s a new year, and I have to move on. You said so yourself.”
“Yes,” Sandy admitted. “I said you needed to distract yourself. I know it hasn’t been easy, but I don’t know if a rotating dating door is the right distraction.”
Clark stared at Sandy. She’d seen that look before. The first time was when Clark started working for the Santa Monica Press. He was paid for his first feature story by the word. When she explained the paper had cut the length of his story, reducing his check, he’d given her that look.
“You’re not saying anything that I haven’t heard before, but I don’t want to hear it from you,” Clark huffed.
“Fine,” Sandy sighed throwing her hands up in defeat.
“You said it,” Clark defended himself angrily. “I need something to keep me distracted from the past few years. It’s been more than just a rough patch. It’s like I’ve fallen into a canyon with work, Chris . . ..”
Clark paused to swish his martini with an olive-stacked toothpick because he couldn’t repeat the list of events that had overtaken his life. He felt a vibration in his pocket, rustling his keys.
“Should you get that?”
“It’s an e-mail,” Clark said. “An e-mail is three blips on my Blackberry. A phone call keeps going.”
The vibrating persisted, laying waste to Clark’s claim. Sandy raised an eyebrow as the vibrating stopped briefly before continuing again.
“Whatever it is. It can wait. I haven’t seen you in ages,” Clark said speaking over the noise of the vibration.
“A month, Clark. It’s been a month.”
“But that was last year. It’s 2007. A new Sandy!”
“Don’t make this about me,” Sandy sighed putting her hand on Clark’s. “We both know it’s about you.”
“Yes. About how,” Clark stopped.
“Yes. How Mark broke my heart!” Clark shouted. “Stephen, another!”