By Attila Zønn
How’s it going? I’m a 34 yr old male, born on a Friday, loves his Saturdays, relaxes on Sundays, then is ready to get going on Monday. I’m a decent guy, with a robust nature, but sensitive hands, and respectful heart. I can take no for an answer, but a world full of yeses is much more fun. My name is Fausto. Ciao.
I got a response.
Hi, she wrote. Her online handle was Farfallina. She looked good.
So you’re a little butterfly, I wrote
Pardon? she wrote
Farfallina means little butterfly in Italian, I wrote.
Does it? she wrote.
You’re not Italian?
No, not even close. But my best friend is. She’s called me that since we were kids. I like the sound of it.
Okay. So what was she doing on Italians Seeking Italians?
I had been online dating for a year now. The women I’d met were disasters. I analyzed my choices and came to the conclusion that I was also a disaster and was attracted to earthquakes. Now, I suspected Farfallina would be the latest catastrophe.
Having rummaged through the many sites and failed to find The One, I changed my perspective and sought my solution within ethnic comfort. So here I was on Italians Seeking Italians.
Can I call you? I’m better talking than I am typing, she wrote. I’ve never wanted to talk to my connections so soon but this time…
I typed my number and clicked send.
The phone rang.
“It’s me.” Her voice was gravelly – a smoker, I thought. My profile preferences were for non-smoker. I glanced at her profile and the details — Non-smoker. I winced. It wouldn’t be a first to encounter a fibbing non-smoker. I could be wrong — be positive — but at that moment I pictured her at the computer, shrouded in swirls of smoke, with a heaped ashtray full of butts.
There’s an awkwardness when one moves from words on a screen to a voice on the phone, then from that voice to an actual presence on the first meeting. I didn’t know what to say to her. How are you? How’s it going? I was frozen in the headlights.
“Fausto? Are you there?”
“Oh, good. I thought you’d hung up.” She giggled.
The call waiting on her end interrupted us.
“Hold on,” she said and left me hanging for a few minutes.
She came back on. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I had to comfort a friend. She’s down in the dumps. Man trouble.”
“Oh,” I said.
“Men are such bastards,” she said. “Don’t you think so?”
I didn’t say anything.
“But let’s talk about you and me,” she said. “I’m free Saturday afternoon. Do you want to meet up then?”
She gave me directions to a coffee house on Yonge Street in Thornhill. We’d meet at two.
“Yes?” I said.
“I should let you know,” she said. “Before we go any further…I have to tell you.” She paused. “I’m not petite. Is that a deal-breaker?”
Blinded by my need for female contact, I didn’t grasp what that meant. I should have, but I didn’t. Not petite so…she was an average woman? She was tall? I had no preference on body definition. I was just seeking a “woman”.
“I’ll see you on Saturday,” I said. She giggled.
“Bye,” she said.
I revisited her profile picture: a slender woman, brunette, standing in a hallway, and my heart sank because I realized that this would be another encounter with bullshit, but regardless, I dragged myself into it.
So we met, for coffee and lies.
It was a cozy coffee shop, rustic decor, with a fireplace ablaze in the corner, a plank floor of reclaimed wood and a small stage with a musical trio of young people — a girl on violin, a guy on the flute, another guy on electric keyboard, playing muzak.
Farfallina was right; she wasn’t petite. She was three petites. There wasn’t even a remote resemblance to her profile picture.
She was a blonde, with the truth of dark hair at the roots. She wore black.
I had worked vigorously to get myself into dating shape. I had lost sixteen pounds in two months and felt good in my new duds. She looked like shape was an ideology she’d never valued. After the handshake and before I sat down, I offered to buy her coffee. She smiled at that.
When I grabbed our coffees—maybe I projected my disappointment of Farfallina at the two young ladies behind the counter when I read their expressions—What are you doing with her?
“Call me Pola,” Farfallina said.
“No, Pola. P-o-l-a. It’s short for Apollonia.”
“Like the silent film actress.”
She stared like she didn’t know what I was talking about.
“Pola Negri,” I said.
“How would I know about a silent film actress?”
I felt stupid. I felt silly.
“You have a unique name,” I said. “I thought you might have researched it some time in your life.”
“I never liked research,” she said, looking suddenly smug. “My father named me after a movie character. In The Godfather? The woman who gets blown up in a car?”
“Michael’s first wife.”
“You know a lot about movies,” she said.
“I’m a connoisseur of useless yet interesting information,” I said. She frowned at that. I felt stupid again.
We didn’t click. This realization came quicker than most times on other dates. But dating like this is hit or miss. You take your chances and all that’s wasted is time. I started thinking about what I was going to do when I got home and consoled myself with the prospect of watching the hockey game that night.
An awkward silence ensued.
We sipped our coffees.
I looked at her. She looked away.
Yeah, I was wasting my time, but the coffee was good. I’ll drink it, say goodbye and that’ll be that. At this point, when you realize there’s no going forward, you drop your dating façade and assume the nonchalant because now I didn’t give a shit how she perceived me. It wasn’t going any further than a cup of coffee.
She looked past my shoulder twice. I looked back once and saw I was in direct sight of the musical trio.
I sipped my coffee. She sipped hers and looked past my shoulder again.
She leaned towards me, lowered her voice and said, “Do you think they’re having sex?”
I looked back at the trio. “I suppose. She’s cute. Anything’s possible.”
“No, I mean,” – she whispered – “the boy and the boy.”
Who wonders if anyone is having sex, much less two men?
“Anything’s possible,” I said.
She stared at me and smiled.
“Do you know what I really like?” she said. “Watching people that don’t know they’re being watched. I really like that, and then I try to figure out what they do in their homes. I mean, some people are so crazy. I make up scenes in my head of what people I’ve watched do when they’re alone. Do you think that’s strange?”
“Yes,” I said.
Her eyes glinted.
“Strange isn’t bad, is it?” she said.
“No,” I said. “As long as you’re not being harmful.”
“Oh no,” she said and sat back. “I’m never harmful.” She focused on me with smiling eyes and sipped her coffee.
“What do you do that’s strange?” she said and put the coffee cup to her lips.
I sighed. “I pull the wings off butterflies,” I said.
She froze in mid sip, then laughed—laughed so loud that it brought attention to our table…
Copyright©Attila Zønn 2020