Part One: First Impressions
Phoebe squinted to examine the man across from her, hoping that this would somehow enlighten her on how exactly this drink came to pass. She put her hands on the edge of table and rose to mercifully bring this drink to an end. Her seat made a loud noise as it scraped against the polished, grey cement.
“Well, I’d better get going.” Darrin pushed his chair back from the table and the metal legs screeched against the concrete floor. “Nice to meet you.”
Why don’t I remember how I got here?
She still couldn’t answer this question as she shook her head, but did know that she was ready to close this odd chapter in her dating history. The two empty wine glasses perched on top of the table filled the space between her and the man that she had met less than an hour ago.
Now that they were standing, she remembered that he was exceptionally tall— maybe 6’6’’. But once someone was a few inches more than her average frame, she was a poor judge of just how tall was tall. 6’3’’, 6’4’’— the specifics had never interested her, but she knew men that loved drawing attention to their measurements. At some point he had of course referenced the numbers, but this bit of trivia had been buried in small talk during a below average first date. For most of the conversation, her mind frequently wandered as she attempted to remember the details as to how she arrived at the bar. For her, the lack of information was not frightening but instead posed more of a challenge. She had a keen intellect for puzzles and she had the type of brain that focused on finding solutions to problems.
Her mind continued to examine the blind spots in her memory today while the man with broad shoulders who loved talking about his own physique and athletic prowess offered a tanned hand. Forcing a smile, she reached out and mechanically shook it. Although he was muscle bound, his handshake registered as limp, which was a pet peeve of hers. In response, her fingers tightened their hold before letting go of his palm. “Yes, nice to meet you.”
They released their grip and the two stared at each other.
“So, maybe we can do this again.” He was already staring through the window at whoever was passing by on the street in the background behind her.
“Yeah,” she nodded half-heartedly while rocking back and forth on her heels. “That sounds good,” she added although they both knew better. This lie to end the date was the only common thread the two seemed to share during the awkward forty-five minutes rife with moments of silence. Part of which she could certainly blame on his ego, but the questions that had festered in her mind had also clearly played a role in the poor quality of conversation.
“Okay, yeah, thanks again.” He stepped away and gave a strange wave of extending four fingers in the air with the thumb purposely tucked as he turned to go. She watched as the blue t-shirt and ripped jeans made their way to the exit. After he passed through the door, she watched him through the window to her right as he walked down the sidewalk. She kept watch, waiting until he veered to the left down the block and was out of sight.
Once he vanished, she grabbed her brown purse slung over the back of her chair and opened it. She snatched her keys and tossed them onto the table next to the twenty that Darrin left to cover the drinks. Then, she pulled out her cell phone and confirmed that the battery was indeed dead. As she dug inside the bag after dropping her device on the table top, she saw only her wallet and a few other loose items that remained but nothing that explained how exactly she arrived here for a drink or how this date came to pass. She returned the keys and cell phone and closed the purse that held no clues.
Looking up, she surveyed the perfectly manicured rows of tables with linen napkins cradling silverware and accompanying unused wine classes. Déjà vu filled her as she studied the framed vintage subway maps adorning the walls of The Hub. She had been here before, she was sure of it. Closing her eyes, she attempted to conjure up memories of a previous visit here but none came to mind.
She opened her eyes and drew a deep breath. Although she couldn’t recall the events leading up to what had clearly been a first date, her mind worked to assure her that there was no need to be paranoid.
There is always a logical explanation.
Perhaps she had hit her head this morning in the shower or had more to drink than she realized or the bartender had slipped something in her drink. Whatever the case, her mind worked overtime to assure her that she was in control right now and things would be fine in time as long as she kept her wits about her. For her, curiosity was now a stronger force than worry.
She glanced towards the bar. The barkeep’s fingers pecked at the machine while placing an order. Beyond the bar, an elderly couple sat at a table along the grey paneling in the back of the room immersed in conversation.
I just need to go home.
She exhaled deeply. Although it pained her to give up, she knew that she wouldn’t discover anything more here and had no desire to share about her condition with strangers. Once outside, she would get her bearings and from there make her way to her apartment. She was sure that she was not impaired and could arrive home safely. Once there, she could determine what was wrong. She pushed on the glass pane of the door and stepped into the sunlight.
Just as her black, studded sandal hit the cement incline leading to the sidewalk, her world went dark.