When her text message came in at 6 in the evening, his heart sank. It was extremely unusual, but words of encouragement filled his mind.
“She’s just one. There are many more out there.”
“It’s okay. One door closes and another one opens.”
“It’s her loss.”
For the first time in a long while, his defence mechanism worked. But lying on the bed, he stared blankly at the ceiling. Something sinister took over. It made him feel as though he didn’t deserve the packet of fried rice he bought for dinner.
He was there early, as he made it a point to try to get there before her. He didn’t quite consider it as giving the woman (or women) the chance to gauge the extent of which he was suffering from obesity and then, allow them almost all the time in this world to write him off immediately.
She appeared ten minutes later and he knew she was the intended one when the waitress gestured at the table where his overly rotund body was occupying. One could consider it as her giving him a second chance or perhaps he didn’t pick up the disappointment written all over her face as she settled in front of him.
“Sorry I was late. Was trying to find my way to the café.”
They spent the next few moments examining the menu. To the agency’s credit, their choice has been fairly inspiring. Yet, the last thing on his mind was how good the food was at this café.
Salads would always be the safest option, he thought to himself. You don’t have to worry about the piece of chicken flying off your plate and finding its rest on her chest. You don’t have to worry about bits of the choicest leaf of rocket lettuce stuck in between your teeth.
Then, he remembered someone’s complaint about how the greens were not fresh at this café.
Spaghetti was the next section, but there was the element of having to keep the slurping sound down or that the loose strands would flay the bright red sauce around and land on the date’s crisp white blouse.
Then, there was the steak. But he was worried about how he would have to be extremely careful while cutting it without making the accidental screeching sound the knife would make when it hits the ceramic plate.
In the end, he settled for penne. He could pick them off, one at a time, safely without the risk that it would accidentally stain the date’s clothes, him being a klutz. She settled for chicken.
So, they spent the time waiting for the food getting to know each other. He tried his best to bring up topics for conversation that centred on her interests deftly. By the time he started the third topic, he dismissed a growing, nagging suspicion of how he was feeling as though he was lugging two huge, kick-ass tyres up the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
The food came in the middle of their fourth topic. He was underwhelmed by his penne. She didn’t say anything about her plate of chicken. Food was secondary to everything else for him. He wanted to make it work.
“I notice that you’ve been eating the pasta instead of the meat,” she remarked.
“Some times I compartmentalise my food,” he responded with a sheepish smile. It made him feel like some eccentric bloke.
“Ah, some people have OCD,” she blurted, before explaining a second or two later that it didn’t mean she thought he was being OCD.
They ordered their drinks as the waiter came round to collect their food. He watched as his plate with a pile of meat (sans the penne) was removed from the table. She then excused herself and made her way to the washroom.
“Do you carry this around with you?” she asked as he checked the movie listings on his iPad.
He felt as though he had upgraded from some eccentric bloke to an eccentric geek / nerd.
“Yes,” he answered sheepishly again, half kicking himself for bringing the gadget with him.
“Ah, [name of movie] is showing later. Wanna catch it later, since…”
“Oh, I have something on later.”
As the afternoon wore on, he realised that he was asking more questions about her than she did about him. Still he dismissed the thought.
With her text message, his suspicions, thoughts and intuition were correct. He should have listened to them more…
Still, he tried, and failed.
He would be given a post-mortem later this week, bracing himself for the slew of criticisms that could be flying his way.