Written from the prompt:
“I’ve just watched Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Night of the Iguana,’ starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton.”
Friday night, 10:30 p.m. I’ve just watched Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana” starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton. The credits roll past my fogged eyes. I point and click my remote and the TV fades to dull gray. It’s the 1173rd time I’ve watched Burton, the defrocked priest, totally lose it in a debauched ninety minute black and white ranting and raving tirade.
No one watches “Iguana” with me.
Why do I do this to myself?
The last time someone watched it with me, she walked out at mid-point – the 83rd time I’d watched the movie and a night that ranks as one of the ten worst dates in my career.
I’m in my forties, and crappy date nights continue as part of my bachelorhood. Just last weekend, two short weeks after I swore I’d never date again, I fell off the wagon and asked a meter maid to meet me for dinner. Yeah, she still gave me the ticket. I made it clear to her that I wasn’t trying to “beat the rap.” My battered Lime Green Neon was overwhelming evidence resting under the “No Parking” sign. I didn’t tell her, that I honest-to-god hadn’t seen the sign because it was posted above the average man’s line of vision.
We agreed to meet at a neutral site. I knew she wouldn’t let me pick her up at her place. She’s a cop. You know – suspicious – first date – doesn’t know if I’m a serial killer. By date night, I’m sure she ran my name through her computer systems checking to see if I had a record or scoff law parking tickets.
We agreed to meet at Every Night’s a Rib Night, one of my favorite spots. In my opinion they offer the best barbecue ribs in town. It’s casual, family oriented, well-lit, safe. So, what does she order? Frickin’ chicken – in a rib joint. Plus a tossed green salad – dressing on the side, a small bowl of lima beans and unsweetened iced tea. For crap’s sake – it’s a rib joint.
I know this place and they know me. When it’s my turn to order, I tell our waitress, Monica, “I’ll have my usual,” meaning a pitcher of beer, fries and very thin flash-fried crispy onion rings. I hate those thick-crusted previously frozen piles of onion glop. As for ribs, my usual includes a full rack of meaty loin ribs. Not those all bone, no meat, baby back ribs. “If you’re gonna eat ribs, chow down on a meaty f’ing rib.”
That’s what I say.
Our food arrives and she asks me for a napkin. I point to the roll of paper towels on the table. She smiles at me, one of those meaningless empty smiles, makes no move to rip towels off the roll. I signal Monica, and get some paper napkins.
Monica ties my personalized cloth rib-bib around my neck. They made it especially for me, my name stitched in red block letters across the front – Daryl. I douse my ribs in my own special sauce, a sploosh of Heinz 57’s finest and French’s yellow mustard, laced with Vlasic sweet pickle relish mixed in a dip dish. Just another of my gastric innovations.
I start in on my lip smackin’ finger lickin’ dinner. She unfolds her paper napkin and places it in her lap. Then she picks up her fork in her left hand a knife in her right, and with surgical precision separates a piece of crispy glistening chicken skin from the meat. She then places the crunchy skin to the side of her plate and carefully carves the meat away from the breast bone. She smiles at me as she thoroughly chews a bite sized piece of chicken.
In the meantime, I’ve stripped the meat off of two ribs, stabbed a couple of forks of rings and fries, dredged them in my special sauce mix and look up at her with a touch of beer foam on my upper lip. She’s staring at me with a funny expression on her face. Not funny “ha-ha,” but funny “odd.”
I pause and wipe my mouth with my rib bib. No tooth picks are on the table, so I suck a piece of dangling rib fat from between my front tooth and the incisor next to it. She’s now watching me as if I’m a science project. I throw her my best killer smile. She stares back, her face a complete blank.
“Daryl,” she says dabbing at her lips, “I think I’ve lost my appetite. Good night.”
I give her a sardonic look. A cop grossed out by a little special sauce? But then I remember she’s not a real cop, just a meter maid.
A little burp blips through my lips. Hey, I can tell the signs. I’ve been blown off before. “Whatever,” I say reaching for my third shiny rib slab. “Sorry it didn’t work out for ya. I’ll cover your tab.”
I cast a lust-filled peek at the uneaten food left on her plate. Lima beans aren’t my favorite. Maybe I should ask for a doggie bag. Monica walks up and, with a bit of an edge to her voice, says, “Can’t believe she comes in here and orders chicken. Wanna take it home for your pooch?”
I look up and for the first time I notice Monica. As in, I really notice her. Trying to mask my hesitancy, I ask, “Monica, have you ever watched ‘The Night of the Iguana’?”
“With Burton and Gardner?” she replies, a coy smile emphasizes her high cheek bones and blue-green eyes. “Only 167 times.”
“What time do you get off tonight?”
She places both hands flat on the booth table, looks down at me flashing her own killer smile, “About nine-thirty.”