I descend to the ground floor of the North Sydney office building. My job interview was successful. I start next month. I will move to Sydney. I will find a new apartment. Morgan, my five-year-old son, will start a new school. “I may even have a new man,” I smile to myself.
I exit the elevator and check my appearance in the lobby mirror. Aaron will meet me outside. We met online last month. We have chatted for two weeks. I have seen two photos of him. Both head shots. He has seen many photos of me. Aaron lives in Sydney and works in sales. I live in Canberra and work in IT, for now. Aaron has a dog. He has a house in wealthy Pymble. He drives a BMW. His profile says he is five feet eleven. He is taller than me. I feel excited.
I brush my hands down my suit and open the top button of my blouse. I feel formally dressed for a date, but Aaron will also be dressed in a suit. He has invited me to lunch. My flight home is three hours away. My throat feels dry. My palms feel clammy.
I exit the grand sky rise building. It is late autumn and still warm. It is just past two o’clock and Miller Street is quiet. I scan the road for a BMW. I don’t see one. I search the sidewalk for a tall man. I don’t see one.
I walk a few metres to the left of the building. A man leans against a car. The man wears an ill-fitting black suit. The baggy trouser legs skim the ground. He wears clunky black shoes. His jacket is open. His large belly protrudes from beneath his blue striped shirt. His belly hangs over his belted waist. His shirt buttons strain to hold his mass. His broad shoulders sit on his short frame. His fat neck peaks above his collar.
The man pushes himself from his dirty beaten car. He leans towards me. He stops. His palms open wide in a welcoming gesture. I look at his face. I recognise the dark curls hiding his receding hairline. I gasp.
“What the fuck?” I mutter. I want to bolt for the office building.
Aaron approaches with a wide gait. He leans in. He plants a wet kiss on my cheek. I pull back. He stands five foot eight inches at most. I am taller by the inch of heels. I feel trapped.
“Your carriage awaits, Madame,” Aaron says. He gestures to the beat up 1980 BMW by the side of the road.
Aaron struts to the vehicle and opens the passenger door. He gestures me inside. I smile politely and edge towards the car.
The car stinks of wet dog. Dog hair puffs into the air as I sit on the worn fabric seat. The door bulges with gum wrappers, coke cans, empty chip packets, a dog leash, and a packet of cigarettes. Aaron’s profile says non-smoker.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get a chance to clean the car today. It was a hectic morning at the office,” he professes. He pulls from the curb and swerves towards the freeway.
A choke leaves my mouth.
“I have a funny story to tell you,” he continues. “I left my wallet at home this morning.”
“Oh,” I reply. I pick dog hairs from my skirt.
We swing around the corner and head towards the harbour.
“Oh it is alright,” he responds. “I went around the office and borrowed some notes from people.”
“Oh,” I respond.
“I want to take you to Woolloomooloo.”
Woolloomooloo hosts an array of fancy restaurants on the pier. Tables jut over the ocean. The harbour bridge perches over the pier. The late afternoon sun sets behind the bridge and casts a welcoming shadow over tables. The setting is perfectly romantic.
“Have you eaten?” He asks.
“I will have a drink,” I respond.
I order a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
Aaron sits close to me. His fat pocked cheeks wobble when he speaks. Dandruff flecks speckle his lapel. Grease gleams on his nose. Dry skin flakes from his ears. I squirm in my seat. I want to vomit. I pour a large glass of wine.
“I always punch above my weight,” Aaron remarks. He puffs his chest and looks at me. “My ex-girlfriend was a beauty. And now you.”
I gulp my wine.
“My house backs onto the bush. I like to run there with my dog on the weekend. I am the outdoor type. I love exercise.”
I pour another glass.
The waitress approaches. Aaron orders fried calamari and fries.
“I enjoy the finer things in life, fine wine and fine food. It is important to look after yourself.”
“Uh hum,” I respond between two swigs of wine.
The waitress arrives with his food. Her eyes assess me. I feel like an escort.
Aaron loads his fork with calamari. He shoves the loaded fork into his mouth. He chews mouth open and grunts as he swallows. I drink another glass.
“You are prettier than your photos,” Aaron mumbles. The words are muffled by his mouthful of fries.
I pour another glass. I look at my watch.
“Are we out of time?” Aaron asks.
“I need to get to the airport now,” I respond. I bumped my flight to the earlier one.
“I will drive you,” Aaron says proudly.
He asks for the bill. He reaches into his jacket. Wads of notes fall onto the table. He smirks at me.
Traffic is slow.
“When you come back to Sydney I will take you to a better restaurant.” Aaron declares from behind the wheel.
My foot taps the rubber car mat. I pick dog hair from my jacket.
“You will meet my dog, Jasper, and we can take him to the beach.”
I look out the window. He rambles for the rest of the journey.
Eventually, we pull into the terminal.
“Don’t park,” I order. “I don’t have time, drop me at the curb.”
I unbuckle my belt. I grab my purse. I scramble from the car and make a break for the terminal.
I have a feeling you weren’t that into me. Reads Aaron’s text later that evening.