“You know, you should really do something with that wit of yours. Improv, maybe. Or stand-up,” I tell her.
Lilah goes silent and clears her throat. We wait for a moment, and I wonder what I’ve said wrong; I thought I was paying her a thoughtful compliment. Women like that about me. I give great compliments. But I’ve clearly screwed up this time.
She finally speaks. “Thanks,” she mutters. Her (lovely) voice is noticeably quieter than before. “But I don’t really do stages. Too many people staring at me.”
Easily remedied. “My apologies,” I say. “I didn’t mean to make assumptions.”
To make up for my mistake, I reach down under my chair and grope for the rose that I brought (solely for this purpose; I find that most awkwardness is tempered by the gift of a flower). As I’m fishing around, I feel my phone buzz in my pocket. Damn! I’d forgotten about this, and what a dreadful time to be interrupted. I’d asked my good friend (and, to be fair, my publicist), Daryll, to call me at 9:30 to make sure that the date was proceeding smoothly; if it weren’t, I would pretend that he had an emergency and I had to leave. Even though the date is wonderful, I can’t ignore him or else he’ll burst into the restaurant himself. So I present the rose to Lilah and say in a tone loaded with melodrama, “Please forgive my grievous infraction and take this as a token of my regret.”
It works and she laughs and accepts the flower. “Apology accepted.”
“But in the meantime, if you don’t mind, I need to take a call—it’s from my publicist, and he’s a nervous guy,” I continue.
She doesn’t say anything, and for a moment I’m unsure if I offended her doubly. Then she lets out a chuckle and explains, “I was nodding. I forgot that you couldn’t see me.”
I chuckle as well. “I’m used to it. Don’t worry.”
Carefully removing myself from my chair, I walk a few paces away from our table—far enough that she can’t hear me but close enough that I can get back without assistance. I take the phone out of my pocket and start to use the phrase that I planned to say if nothing was wrong. “Daryll? I already took care—“
He cuts me off. “I’m in the restaurant.”
“In the restaurant. Had to evaluate your date. Make sure that she’s suitable.”
“Daryll, what in hell are you talking about?”
“Must I use two-syllable words? You’re running for a spot in Congress. Your appearance is the single most important way to get voters, so you need to associate only with similarly clean-cut people. I needed to ensure that you were doing so.”
“I don’t appreciate this—“
“It doesn’t matter. You have to leave. She can’t be seen with you.”
“No, Daryll. I like her. Not everything is related to the campaign, you know.”
“This is too drastic. She’s absolutely hideous.”
“That’s ridiculous. She’s a pleasure to be around, and it isn’t a big enough deal to voters.”
“You’re naïve. You like her. Soon she’ll be your girlfriend, and the voters who see her with you will think that your blindness is a flaw. They’ll say that if you can’t judge beauty while blind, then you can’t be a good representative while blind, either.”
“Bull, Daryll. Now leave me to my date.”
I jab at my phone angrily. How I present isn’t a priority for me; I know that the world of politics is like Hollywood but with fewer bikinis—namely, appearance-based—but I’ve always thought that I could overcome that. That’s why I wanted to run. I wanted to make politics less slimy. I wanted to make some impact on the writhing pit of vipers that we call Congress by implementing my values on it. I wanted to be moral and to uphold my morality throughout my candidacy.
There’s no way I’m leaving. If this is a test of whether I can hold my values strong, I am acing it. So I stride back to our table and sit down with a grand sweep of my arms. “I’m so sorry we were interrupted, Lilah. Please, continue.”
She doesn’t say anything. “Lilah?”
Still nothing. I feel around on the table, hoping to grasp one of her hands. My movements become more frantic. She’s gone. She’s left. She’s stood me up. Suddenly, my wrist brushes a piece of paper. I grasp it and am stuffing it in my pocket when I hear Daryll behind me. “Let me read that,” he booms, snatching the piece of paper with a cruel sort of panache that I can detect even without sight.
“‘I heard what you and your publicist were saying. He was sitting behind me,’” Daryll reads aloud. “‘I don’t want to be a hindrance to your campaign. Thank you for defending me, but I can’t have this on my conscience. Even so, I had a lovely time tonight. Lilah.”
Daryll laughs as I seethe. I know that there’s only one choice left for me tonight. I stand abruptly and face Daryll. “I’m dropping out of the race.”