Of all places, Sharon thought as she sat unnaturally straight in her seat, trying to pay attention to her date. They were sitting in the lobby of a trendy hotel on Park Avenue that she and Joe used to frequent when she wanted to dress up and feel posh. All the furniture was white but the floors and window frames and inner walls were jet-black, with tall glass windows showing off their happenings to the pedestrians on the sidewalk. There was upbeat music playing at a volume just short of loud, and with the conversations of the other patrons, she used the noise as an excuse for not being all there.
“Do you want another drink?” her date asked her as he hailed a passing waiter. “You’re still nursing your first rum and Coke.”
“I’m fine,” she told him, taking a slow sip from the thin straw.
He ordered a second Vodka tonic for himself, which she hoped would be the last. He was cute enough, with no obvious turn-offs like acute baldness or facial asymmetry, but she wasn’t gathering enough in terms of compatibility.
“I normally don’t drink this much,” he explained when the waiter left. “I just figured that in a place like this—”
She put up her hand. “No need to explain. You told me you were an accountant,” she then asked. “What else do you do, like, outside of work?”
“If I even get a chance!” he exclaimed. He was trying to be funny, but Sharon only granted him a thin smile. “I’m just kidding. Seriously, though, because I’m still starting out I stay at the office pretty late. I try to get to a gym but, you know, it just doesn’t happen. I’m an early riser, so I get to sleep early.” He crossed his eyes. “I guess I’m kind of boring.”
She coughed. “It’s good to get enough sleep.”
“Certainly. It’s a necessary foundation to a healthy lifestyle.”
That sounded like a magazine advertisement, she thought. Moreover, such a rigid schedule didn’t mesh with her nocturnal lifestyle. She tested this theory of hers: “Would you call yourself ‘health-conscious,’ or you just try to keep in-shape?”
“Well, I definitely try to be healthy,” he replied. “I don’t eat fried food or drink coffee.”
Doesn’t drink coffee! While she didn’t live off it, she couldn’t understand how anyone could pull a nine-hour day without a bit of a boost. Sharon glanced around, unable to find a clock. “If you get to sleep so early,” she asked him, “when do you get a chance to socialize? To enjoy life?”
He was taken aback. “Who says I’m not enjoying life?”
“I just figured that such dedication to your job leaves you without much free time.”
His drink arrived and they silently watched the waiter remove the old glass and place the new one in front of them on a fresh black napkin. Her date thanked the waiter and took a big gulp.
“Like I said, I’m just starting and have to put in additional hours to find my niche. But I do other things. I’m very particular with davening, I learn daf yomi…”
“Really?” she asked, raising her eyes to fight off a yawn. “Like, you go to a shiur?”
“Every morning before Shacharit.”
“That must be at like 5:30!” she said, astonished. He nodded silently, as if he had been waiting for her to understand. “I see why you get to bed so early. Coming out to meet me must be taking you out of your schedule.”
He looked away and smiled shyly. “Well, I figured that meeting up with you was worth a coffee in the morning…”
It was a line and it was too much. She knew she was being harsh, but then she walked into the date on bad terms. As soon as she realized where her date was taking her, Joe popped into her mind and she couldn’t get him out. Why was he so grumpy on the phone? And why didn’t she know that he was going to his parents for Shavuot? Two years ago, when they had both been at NYU, she had known everything about him. Once he moved to Brooklyn last year, he started acting differently, almost not like himself. Unfortunately for this guy, she didn’t have the energy to focus on what he had to offer, and so she let the date continue on autopilot until he would make the gesture to leave or 10 PM, whichever came first.
As hoped, at around 9:30 they shared a taxi to her building on West End Avenue, where he told the driver to wait as he walked her to the door. She thanked him for the evening and complimented him by calling him “a gentleman from beginning to end.” He smiled and waved and disappeared into the cab and from her life.
Upstairs she went straight to her room and fell into her bed. It was her grandmother’s bed—in fact, the whole apartment had been her grandmother’s before she had a stroke and went to a home in Lakewood, New Jersey. For the last eighteen months or so, Sharon was “occupying” the space, living it up on the Upper West Side rent-free. Besides for a few additions to the décor, Sharon’s presence was only detectable by her piles of clothing on the bedroom floor and her computer on her grandmother’s vanity. She stared at the ceiling for a moment before reaching into her purse to call her mother from her cell phone. She had made the mistake of mentioning her date and no matter how late she would return home she knew her mother was waiting for her call.
“Hi honey,” her mother said quickly after two rings. “You’re home?”
“Yes,” replied Sharon.
“Short date?” She sounded disappointed.
“All first dates are meant to be short, Ima.”
“Hmm,” was all she heard. It was enough. “How was he?”
“A gentleman from beginning to end,” Sharon said sardonically as she rolled over onto her stomach to kick off her shoes.
“That sounds good.”
Sharon sighed. “He had three drinks.”
A pause. “Well, with tax season and everything—”
Sharon sat up and started folding shirts from the laundry. “Tax season ended in April, and that’s no excuse.”
“I don’t know why you are so picky, Sharon.”
She picked up a cardigan and noticed that its loose button had finally fallen off. “Would you want me dating someone who drinks that much?”
“Was he incoherent?”
“No, just…I didn’t like it. I kind of let it dive-bomb after the second.”
“How did you get set up?”
“Set up?” she repeated incredulously. “Please, Ima.”
“What? What’s wrong with getting set up?”
She clicked her tongue. “I can take care of myself, and would you like me spending $2,000 for someone to make a few phone calls?”
“OK, honey,” her mother said quickly. “Sorry for mentioning it. I’m actually waiting up for your brother. He didn’t tell us where he went and he doesn’t answer his cell phone.”
Sharon gave up on the laundry and rolled off the bed to find her pajamas. “It’s senioritis. He’s basically graduated.”
“But still, he didn’t tell me where he was going.”
She lifted all the clothing off the back of her computer chair and was surprised that her pajamas weren’t there.
“So I’m planning your brother’s Shabbat next week,” her mother then added. “You’re coming, right?”
Sharon knew that it was less a question than an affirmation “Right.”
“Maybe you’ll come to the graduation Thursday night? Your father wasn’t sure if he could make it…”
Whatever. She opened up the dresser and found no pajamas there either. “OK, but the week after I’ve got to be here.”
“Friend from college’s getting married. He’s having a whole thing.” She finally found them under the laundry basket. With a huff, she said, “Look, I’m pretty tired. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“OK, honey. Don’t worry. There are other men out there.”
Nathan Wolff is a writer/editor living in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife and children. In his debut novel, Outdated, he created a realistic fictional story in which he explains the Torah outlook on marriage and relationships.To promote awareness of the Torah’s and to curtail the spiritual attack on the Jewish home, Nathan presents his book and its message to whoever will listen. Check out more at nathanwolff.com.
For more on Outdated, Nathan Wolff, or to have a hard copy delivered to the address of your choice, visit www.nathanwolff.com/