Originally posted April 2, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge. This scene is where “Love Poetry” opens. Here, Jessica and Bruce meet for the first time on a date that keeps getting interrupted by something . . . or someone . . .
Jessica wanted to give Bruce her undivided attention, but she could hear it. The buzzing. That incessant buzzing. It vibrated inside of her skull in the way that a fly with all the space in the world would hover over one’s ear, buzzing.
She was having lunch on the patio at the popular, gourmet burger restaurant, Newk’s. Bruce sat across from her, eating a cheese burger with lettuce, tomato, pancetta, mayonnaise, and a quail egg. Jessica, on the other hand, had ordered a chicken wrap, which lay on her plate untouched, getting cold. She watched the other patrons at the surrounding tables bite into different variations of the classic hamburger and could only guess that a Southwestern chicken wrap was ordered once or twice a day.
Jessica dipped a steak fry into a glob of ketchup and took a small bite. She dropped the fry onto her plate and looked down at her purse on the floor next to her feet where, inside the front pocket, her cellphone continued to vibrate as it had been doing for the past ten minutes. She didn’t need to remove the phone from the pocket to know who was calling. She could already picture Whitmore’s face displayed on the screen. When she had taken that photo of him at the botanical gardens in Uptown, she laughed at how silly his crooked smile and uneven eyebrows made him look. He was self-conscious of his flaws, but Jessica had simply kissed his lips and massaged his eyebrows, saying, “I love a man who can make me laugh.” Two years later, and she can’t remember the last time the corners of her lips curled upward into a wide grin at his corny jokes and his involuntarily awkward facial expressions.
Bruce looked up from his plate and smiled. Mayonnaise clung to the corner of his mouth. Jessica kept quiet about it. She liked how it made him appear as a little boy, and she didn’t want him to wipe it away, erase the youth, and remind her that she was on a date with another man. She couldn’t deny that Bruce was attractive, and when her buzzing phone wasn’t distracting her, she struggled to resist the urge to reach over the table and play in his soft, brown hair. She was curious about how he made it swoop over his forehead. Did it swoop naturally, or did he use a mousse to achieve the style? So adorable, she thought. She needed that. Something adorable to remind her that life could be carefree, without demands, restrictions.
“You must not be hungry. Or your mind is somewhere else.” Bruce licked the mayo from the corner of his mouth.
“I’m sorry, I—” The fly was flapping its tiny wings next to her eardrum again. She quickly scooped her vibrating purse up off the floor. “I have to go to the little girls’ room. I’ll be right back.”