The stars were aligned that fateful night in 2009, but apparently not for her. Joy thought about what she would say when her online “Over Sixty” dating match finally showed up in the sweet little Italian bistro, “Luigi’s Linguine”, she had chosen for their very first meet and greet. Conveniently, Luigi’s was located on Route 23, halfway between Danbury, Connecticut, where her date lived and Georgetown, Connecticut, Joy’s home town. She’d been concerned that neither of them should have to travel more than the other to meet. The bistro fit their needs perfectly.
As she sat alone at their cozy corner table for two, which was not too near Luigi’s busy kitchen, not too near the noisy bar and, thank goodness, not at all close to the rest rooms, Joy stirred her second cup of coffee for the umpteenth time. She grinned wistfully into the circles of cream drifting slowly ’round and ’round in the gently swirling java as she pictured herself with Harvey Chasey, a clean-cut, fairly handsome man with intelligence and a great sense of humor. Joy and Harvey both were a right tad past middle-age, yet were bravely venturing forth into the mine field of internet dating from their settled-in comfort zones as widow and widower, and, luckily, they still had their health. The two lonely hearts had each jumped onto the web dating bandwagon because they decided it was time to reach out for a new beginning in life. And so, after conversing through their computer screens for less than a half hour, Joy felt she had lots in common with Harvey, especially in his wanting to carry on with their lively and interesting chat in person. His willingness to move forward had given her a hopeful sign of some very good times to come.
Coffee swirl daydreams aside, Joy sneakily scanned Luigi’s dining room whilst placing on and taking off her reading glasses from the bridge of her nose in pretending to read the Luigi’s Linguine menu. Waiting for Harvey in her heightened emotional state fueled by happiness-making endorphins, energizing adreneline and re-awakened hormones was becoming wearing. He was way overdue. Looking at her watch was not an option because in her haste to be precisely on time at seven o’clock in the evening for the two potential daters’ first date, Joy had forgotten to strap her timepiece onto her wrist before she’d left her apartment. There was no clock anywhere to be seen in the bistro, but she really didn’t care about the time at that point, she was still enjoying the electrifying anticipation of waiting to see her Prince Charming come walking through Luigi’s front door at any moment.
An hour later, Joy was beginning to feel as though she was appearing conspicuous. After all, she’d pretended to read Luigi’s short menu so many times, she must have looked ridiculous to anyone paying attention. But, on second thought, she was pretty sure no notice was being taken of her by people in the room since she was by herself, clearly no Spring chicken, and the other diners were all mostly young couples only interested in each other. Joy hadn’t given up hope just yet of her date. And surprising even herself, she was still filled to the brim with nervous excitement. She moved her gaze for the hundredth time to the entrance door of Luigi’s, stared hard and crossed her fingers as she wished for her Prince Charming, Harvey Chasey, to appear.
Seconds later, after Joy had squeezed her eyelids tightly shut in order to give her hard wish more strength, the only waiter left on the floor, Carlo, sidled up to Joy’s table to ask if she would like a third cup of coffee. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he’d said, shocking her out of her rapt concentration in Prince wishing, “May I bring you another cup?” Joy was irritated to be broken away from her ardent occupation, though she was still polite and smiled weakly as she replied, “No, thank you, I…um…I’m…” The waiter took his cue and finished her sentence for her, “…waiting for someone. Yes, I understand. Would you like a wine or something else from the bar? Something to eat? We’ll be closing soon.”
That last statement struck Joy like a slap in the face. She realized now that she had been stood up and her crestfallen face confirmed it. She sat dumbfounded over Harvey’s behavior, and then was amazed at her own. She’d been waiting all evening for her Prince to come, and he hadn’t…in fact, he hadn’t even called or sent a message to the place to say he would be late, nevermind not coming.
Carlo, patient as he was, and not having received any answers to his questions, moved on to another table.
Joy, feeling a fool, fussed with her purse, opened it and shuffled its contents around as though looking for something. A tear began to form in her left eye, then her right as she said under her breath sadly, though with an angry edge, “How could he do this to me? I don’t get it, is this his idea of a joke?”
Just then, Carlo reappeared, startling her, and when she looked up at him the tears she’d been trying to hold back rolled down her cheeks. ‘Oh, no,” he said, taken aback by looking into Joy’s beautiful emerald green eyes which were now awash in tears. “No, no, no, this will never do. Nobody cries in Luigi’s! Please, ma’am,” he said as he briskly snapped open a clean, folded napkin and draped it over his forearm for her to take. “Dry your eyes and I will bring you the nicest, biggest, sweetest cannoli you have ever seen or tasted! He grinned and looked left and right as though someone were eavesdropping, then he leaned toward Joy and whispered, “I only do this for my special loves, and I’ll slip some Amaretto into your coffee cup if you like. On the house, of course.” Carlo stood and waited for his sad guest’s answer. “Thank you,” Joy said, while gathering her composure and shakily trying to smile, “That’s very kind of you, but I must be going. I’ll just have my check, please.” Carlo produced Joy’s bill from his waist apron and placed it on her table. He was starting to become distraught himself from seeing Joy in such misery. “Wait,” he said, “Give me a moment, eh? I’ll be right back.” Off he rushed to the kitchen.
When Carlo returned to Joy’s table with a take-out boxed cannoli, a bag of fresh garlic-buttered Italian bread sticks, and a few roses left over from an earlier wedding anniversary celebration, he was disappointed to see that she had gone. In her place, under her cold coffee cup, was the paid check with a generous tip for him.
In her van on the way to her home, Joy was nowhere near joyful. In fact, her sadness had turned into rage against the machine, and she vowed to herself right then and there she would never ever again go into an internet dating site on her computer. She’d had her fill of being up and crashing down, and resented that the perpetrator of her grief had been nowhere to be seen. She felt as though she was the stupidest, most gullible and idiotic woman there could ever be, and that she should have known better, at her age and experience, not to put so much store into someone she’d never personally met.
Upon arriving home, Joy had angrily kicked off her shoes in her house’s foyer, then gone into her bedroom to get undressed, put on her nightgown, bathrobe and snuggly slippers, and grab a blanket. Next, she hit the kitchen and took a half gallon of spumoni ice cream, her favorite, from the fridge. Two small scoops in a bowl were all she needed to soothe her weary soul. She picked up a spoon, stuck it into the spumoni and headed for the living room couch where she made herself comfortable, then turned on the television with its remote.
Joy had savored nearly every spoonful of her spumoni while three commercials aired. She was mellowing out, returning to her normally calm demeanor, and said to herself, “Who cares if my life is lonely and boring, at least it’s better than being jerked around by a no-show womanizer. Good riddance!”
The local news coming on was about to throw Joy for a loop.
A female newscaster sat at a desk in front of an earlier taped video being aired as she reported…”Tonight we begin with a terrible accident on Route 23 in Danbury.” As she spoke, the video became enlarged to full screen showing an unconscious, bloodied and bandaged man with temporary splints on his legs and right arm, his neck encircled with a stiff protective collar, and his head taped into a head and neck stabilizer on a backboard. Several wide straps secured his body to the backboard so that he couldn’t move. An Emergency Medical Technician held high an intravenous drip bottle sending life-saving fluids into the injured man’s veins as he was being placed, backboard and all, onto a gurney and loaded into an ambulance. Once the amulance had left for the hospital, the television station’s on location cameraman had panned the scene and came upon a totally mangled car practically wrapped around a tree. The car looked more like an accordian that had been squeezed shut than an auto.
The off-camera female reporter was heard as she continued to tell the story being aired in the video… “A car crash involving a retired local high school teacher, Harvey Chasey, sent him to the hospital this evening at around seven o’clock. It’s not known whether Mr. Chasey, who’s in critical condition, will survive his injuries, but we can report that he was rushed into emergency surgery when he entered Danbury Hospital and is, at this hour, in Intensive Care.”
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