2011-02-02 / Sandy Days, Salty Nights

Lobbing stones from my glass house

His name was Gunter, and he said he’d always dreamed of working outdoors. He had a two-week beard and a plaid shirt rolled at the cuffs like a lumberjack. He invited me for coffee, and we met at a local café with outdoor seating. While the wind whipped my hair, I could feel my blow dry slip away with the breeze. Still, even without the coiffure, I was creamed and perfumed so that when we sat at our table on the terrace, I thought I looked like a lady.

Gunter ordered us espressos, and I dumped a cupful of sugar in mine, trying to ease the bitter taste. He talked about his job and asked about my life, and we made the sort of chitchat that fills a first date. As he spoke, I listened and weighed his features for future romantic potential.

With outdoorsy ruggedness comes a certain style. Besides the beard, Gunter had hair that had not been cut in weeks. Longish, just this side of greasy. The skin on his face and hands was tanned, and his eyes crinkled at the corners in the way of camping enthusiasts and cowboys, men who spend their lives beneath the sun. The effect was pleasant, natural, easy. It suited him. But did it suit me?

I’d shown up in a pink dress and highheeled sandals. Earrings hanging to my shoulders. Pedicured. Manicured. Waxed in all the right places.

As we sipped the last of our coffee, we talked about my traveling and his camping.

“Want to see photos from my latest trip?” he asked. “I have them right here.”

Gunter moved to the seat next to me to scroll through the images stored on his phone. A damp cloud of body odor rolled with him. I looked at the pictures of green coastlines and forested hills, breathing through my mouth as his verdant aroma washed over both of us.

And I judged him. In my pretty dress, with silver rings on my fingers and fancy perfume spritzed behind my neck, I judged his messy hair, his unshaven face — and his overpowering B.O.

When the date ended, I thanked him for the coffee and we headed to the exit together. I stopped beside him in front of the café doors, facing the mirror that hung beside the entryway. I glanced over his shoulder — a quick, reassuring peek at my state of put-togetherness. In that brief moment, my eyes roamed over my reflected face: the lined eyes, the mascaraed eyelashes — and the nose with a booger hanging from the left nostril.

I started to raise my hand to my face, but I knew I’d need privacy for that particular operation. So I left it hanging, the nose intruder that cancelled my best efforts. All I could do was stand there as Gunter kissed me on both cheeks, French-style, and then slipped out of the café. I made my own way up the street, imaging what he must think of my classy broad act, and reevaluated my too-quick assessment of him.

After all, it’s tough to throw stones when you’ve got a bat in the cave. ¦

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