“They have an excellent house wine here,” he said. He ordered a bottle of white and a bottle of red, and jumbo shrimp cocktail as well as escargot pernod. The way he just simply and confidently ordered, self-assured and knowledgeable, made me feel special… like I was with a special man. I studied him while he ordered and instructed the waiter, who listened to him intently, obviously impressed by James’ knowledge.
“Ask Chef Bartholomew to split the plates for me,” James said. “Tell him it’s for little Jim and he’ll know what to do.”
“Yes sir,” the waiter said, obviously dubious. “It’s for little Jim.”
“Okay,” James continued. “I want a chef salad and a Caesar salad, split. Please ask the chef to split veal Marsala and a sole amandine split. We’ll order dessert later. Thank you,” he said.
“Thank you, sir,” the waiter said, and almost backed away as if James was royalty. James returned his attention to me. I had taken a good, long look at James for the first time. His eye was still swollen, and a bit discoloured, but it was still easy to see that he was a very good-looking man. His face was oval, with a small, straight nose, full lips that revealed bright, straight teeth when he smiled – which was often – and the softest, warmest, puppy-eyes I’d ever seen.
“Tell me about this thing that we’re celebrating,” I said. The wine arrived almost immediately, and he poured a glass of white for me, and red for himself.
“I don’t want to bore you with my work,” he said. “In short, I’ve developed a program that will permit a typical keyboard to be played, like a piano or organ, with a thousand voices available from which to choose.”
“That’s pretty exciting,” I said. “Where do you work?”
“I’ve been working for Hitek-Nolojies on a freelance basis for a few years. I made a deal with them that I’d work for half my usual fee if I could use their equipment and lab to develop my own project.”
“And now?” I said. “By the way, the wine’s great.”
“I’m glad you like it,” he said. “It’s one of my favourites. Now it’s time for payback to the company and payoff for me.”
I lifted my glass and toasted his success. He clicked his glass on mine and looked into my eyes.
“I am very, very happy to be with you, here, now, on this occasion,” he said.
“I am very pleased that you chose me to share this time with you,” I said.
“You’ve been very kind to me,” he said. “And you are hiding well your knowledge of what went on in my apartment with my girlfriend in my absence. I would like to know one thing though… has she been doing a lot of that?”
“I’ve only been in the building about a month,” I said, “but I’ve never seen anyone else there before today.”
“I guess I’m well rid of her,” he said.
“I’ll be honest,” I said, “I can’t see why you’d ever be with her. You’re always so neat, and have such good taste in clothes, and you seem to work long and hard. Frankly,” I said rather hesitantly, “she seemed to be a sloppy person, lazy, and a terrible dresser.”