~This story first appeared in The North American Review (2011).
How he had knocked, Francine could not guess. But here he was. Or at least here was his head. Floating in the hallway outside her apartment, as if it had wafted over on the aroma of Mrs. Singh’s stir-fry. Here was the sun-kissed face from his Match.com profile. The broad forehead and faintly hooked nose. Somehow, though, it had seemed like the head would be attached to an equally rugged, sun-kissed body. Had it been presumptuous to assume, at the very least, a torso?
The two of them blinked at one another. Why hadn’t she thought to use the peephole? Then again, would that have painted the picture? Maybe the best thing to do was to back into her apartment, real easy, pretend she hadn’t noticed anything out here, go back to listening to big band music in the living room and waiting for her date to show up – her whole date.
“You can’t send a guy flirty emails for two weeks and then close the door in his face just because he’s different,” he said. He slurred his words, and he sank as if deflated, hovering over the carpet. Against its Persian pattern, he was like a genie. She caught a glimpse of his bald spot – another thing the photo didn’t reveal. No wishes to be granted today, it seemed. Down at shin-level, he tilted his face to look up at her, eyes bloodshot.
“Are you… drunk?” She felt a flush of shame about their electronic repartee, the quick-fire IM chats about politics and old flames.
“I don’t know why I bother with dating,” he muttered.
It now seemed significant that he’d left blank all of the slots for physical characteristics on his Match.com profile. Francine had assumed that he was simply too busy (i.e.successful) at his job as a trial attorney to bother. Or at worst, that he was unusually short. Which would have been okay – Francine had dated a jockey once, when she lived back in her hometown of Smoky Ordinary, Virginia. But this….