It was early on.  So early, in fact, that a bad sign would have had to whack me in the face to get my attention.  We were newly dating, so glitter and rainbows sprang from and around us, as they do. I was so sure that everything was wonderful, so I never even turned my head to get a nice close look at everything.
Mmm mm, hindsight whispered later. Dummy.

We went to dinner near his apartment, at a restaurant close enough to walk in the warm summer air.  I chatted happily beside him, hoping his one-word answers meant he was listening closely and didn’t want to interrupt.
Hoping is not the same has happening Hindsight mocked later,  like an unhelpful jerk.

Before I could open the over-sized menu he looked at me, panic in his eyes.
“We have to leave” he stated, “right now.”
“We….what?” I gurgled in mid-water sip. He was out of his seat before I placed the glass back onto  the tablecloth.
“We just have to….can we?” He spun towards the exit. I jumped up and followed him, weaving between tables until we were out the door and moving quickly down the street.

“My ex was in there,” he sputtered with a little nervous laugh, out of breath from speed walking. “I just couldn’t,” he blurted, a half explanation, shaking his head and staring down at his moving feet.
“You mean that girl from college? Didn’t you guys break up like six years ago?” I asked, mentally tallying up all my ex’s. I could eat a chicken leg off of just about any of them if I had to.

“What happened with you guys?” I asked when we were finally seated in another place with a   sports bar vibe I pretended not to hate.  I was sure he would spill a salacious tale filled with name-calling and dramatic exit lines that would compliment the chips and salsa I was shoving into my mouth in anticipation.

He shrugged.

“Nothing,” he said, staring back at me like we hadn’t just bolted like jumpy horses.  He read the menu with great, intent interest, lingering on the description of the Jalapeño Popper appetizer like he was swimming in the verses of a Pablo Neruda poem as I stared at him in the silence.
“But then, what’s the story?” I pursued, determined. I’m on good terms with almost everyone I’ve ever dated but if I’m not, there’s a dinner conversation story about it.

His eyes stayed glued to the menu. “I’m gonna get the steak sandwich.”
“What does that have to do with my question?” I said, irritated.  I wasn’t sure if it was the evasion around his past relationship that was giving me a rash under my tongue or the sidestepping of his current one, but the feeling was the opposite of hunger. I dropped the chip I was holding back into the basket.maxresdefault

“I’m just saying, I’m getting the steak sandwich” he repeated, closing his menu and gazing emptily at me.

Losing your appetite mid-chip is a red flag hindsight chastised later, always a Monday morning quarterback. Mad is bad. That should be your mantra.

“Why did we have to run from that place like we robbed it if nothing happened?” I continued, one last pass at salvaging adult conversation in this mess of off-the-point small-talk. “
“What are you gonna have?” he asked, vacantly.

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