May 02, 2008

A blind date

GRACE was, as usual, suspicious of the plan.

Her sister Cynthia was setting her up for the first time on a blind date. According to Cynthia, the guy was 36, single and owned his own construction business. And they – meaning she at 35, who was at the peak of her own advertising career, and the guy with his rather impeccable background (as Cynthia claimed) – would probably hit it off.

Grace knew better than to ask whether the guy was cute, or at least presentable to her friends, the final arbiters in most of her relationships. Besides, she knew well enough that most handsome men are gay, or in love with themselves more than they could ever be with their women. Okay, that’s what her gay friends told her anyway.

The guy, Martin, was apparently a close friend of the husband of Cynthia and Grace’s cousin. Of course, Grace was supposed to accept this connection as some honorable endorsement of the guy’s supposed respectability, and genuine and sincere personality. He could not be some psycho mass murderer recently escaped from the basement of Makati Med.

Then again, as Grace anxiously waited for Martin’s call to set the date, she did recall watching a recent episode of one of those real-life investigative shows on Fox TV where a family just accepted a stranger, supposedly a victim of an airline crash who had lost his entire family, to move in with them. As she pored over the storyboards before her at work, the scenes from the TV program continued replaying in her head. The stranger helped around the house and the farm, and actually appeared to be a decent, well-meaning person. He had gotten along with the family, especially with the kids—until the family patriarch suddenly realized that his wife had fallen in love with the stranger. The husband began to feel uneasy about going home, threatened he was by the stranger’s presence. Eventually, the stranger was discovered to be on the FBI’s watch list because he had killed his own wife in another state just a few years before.

So maybe this guy Martin killed off his own wife as well and was wanted somewhere in the hinterlands of Polomolok. Okay, Grace’s imagination was running wild again. Something like that could only happen in the US.

When Martin finally called, her heart actually skipped a beat. “He sounds okay,” Grace told herself, while listening to him make small chitchat before sealing the date. They finally agree to meet on Friday at her favorite Spanish restaurant. In her mind, she had already picked out a nice flowy dress to wear for the big day.

Later at the bar, Grace met up with her buddies for drinks and eagerly told them about the forthcoming date. While Trixie was positively ecstatic and asked her what she would wear for the event, the rest of the gang—including her majesty’s gayness, Dean—wondered why Martin would still be single at 36? Such supportive friends, Grace thought, although the idea of Martin being gay did cross her mind.

Nevertheless she tried to shake off the negativity of her friends and Dean’s continuing jest of letting him date Martin instead, and asserted that she was actually looking forward to Friday. It would be fun, she said, to try seeing someone alone, at dinner, with some wine, perhaps some good polite conversation for a change, instead of being together with her forever drunk, ridiculous and raving mad friends. Talk about candidates for the psycho ward!

On D-Day, Grace couldn’t believe how nervous she was. Even as she sat through her three meetings with clients, account executives and her copywriters, she found her mind trailing off. Did she look okay today? Maybe she shouldn’t have eaten that last piece of chicharon at last night’s dinner? She felt so fat and hoped the dress she had chosen to wear for the occasion would fit. Ooof! She hoped she remembered to pack some condoms in her purse...just in case. Slut! She should take it slow this time. Just have a good time and enjoy the guy’s company, no expectations. What was his name again?

Sitting in her office, Grace could no longer contain her agitated state. She couldn’t concentrate on the documents she was supposed to read. She texted Trixie for moral support. Trixie texted back that she would be fine. Besides, if the date didn’t go through smoothly, at least Grace would get to enjoy her favorite paella, so it would still be a win-win right? “K, tnx,” Grace texted back, as she hurriedly changed into her dress. She looked in the mirror, slapped on some makeup, and headed out the door, trying to sing “Walkin’ in Rhythm” by the Blackbyrds in her head to calm her.

She instinctively knew who Martin was as she glanced through the restaurant window while parking her car. There were already other diners there, some of them alone as well, also waiting for their dates perhaps, and another table with some family. A birthday dinner maybe. Martin was dressed in a light-blue long-sleeved shirt and a necktie. His shoulders were slightly hunched over. He looked defeated. Grace wondered why.

As she met Martin at the table and handed her hand over for him to shake, she suddenly knew why he looked crushed. He was a gentleman the entire night, and flashed her his whitest Close-up smile...but the gay vibe couldn’t be mistaken. It was positively reeking through every pore in Martin’s body, even as he talked about his activities at his church. He just didn’t want to fess up to his real feelings. Grace was intrigued by the thought of a grown gay man who still didn’t want to come out of the closet. And he belonged to some fundamentalist Christian sect. How could it get any better than that?!

Admittedly, the date wasn’t half-bad. The conversation was all right, except for the religious turn it took at one point. But the rest of the discussion was actually intelligent, not even half-boring as some of her past dates turned out to be. They had even actually dissected a recent ad campaign her company had launched for a new client. But then Grace had always had a great connection with gay men. And the red wine was even better. She would need the buzz to get her through the rest of the night. But as Martin prattled on about the kind of girl he wanted to marry, she did want to scream at him a few times: “Hoy, magpakatotoo ka, sister!”

In the rest room, she checked on her cell-phone messages and found texts from her buddies with words of encouragement, and concern about how the date was going. Even bitchy Dean texted her to “just be your gorgeous self”...the queen could be sweet when he wanted to. She didn’t have time to text back all of them, lest Martin think she had been flushed down the toilet.

But as she stepped out of the rest room and made her way back to the table where a fluffy yummy canonigo and Martin’s pale smile-a-crooked face were waiting, she felt excited again. Grace couldn’t wait to get home to YM the girls and tell them about the date. Ah, yes, another anecdote to get the group rolling down the aisle with laughter. Mental note to self: Save Martin’s number for Dean.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Photo from BM)

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