5.10.2005

Me and the Mafioso

It started off innocently enough--four women, two bottles of wine, and one fine-looking Italian waiter who kept touching my back as he spoke to our group.

"Can I get you anything else?" he asked with a glean in his eye.

I tried not to read too much into his behavior during the course of our dinner. But when I went to pay the bill, Pete the waiter asked for my number. I decided to fork it over. Why not? More often than not, the call never comes anyway. But two days later, this particular call did.

We agreed to meet for drinks at a swanky little lounge downtown. Maybe it had been that second bottle of wine, but Pete looked somewhat different outside of the restaurant. Dressed in a baby blue jacket, heavy cologne, and a little too much bling bling bling, he met me at the door.

"Diane," he started in a heavy Italian accent, "I want to thank you for agreeing to meet me today."

How sweet! The thoughts of appreciation almost made me decide to forgive him for wearing the baby blue jacket. He opened doors, held my chair out for me, and ordered my drink --a take charge sort of guy." I liked it.

"Is the drink to your liking?" he asked. "If not, I will send it back."
"Pete, the drink is fine." I said.
"Are you sure? Would you like something else? A martini, perhaps?" he asked again.
"No, I am fine, really." I insisted. Then, I decided to try to move this date forward and start the conversation.

"So, tell me a little bit about yourself, Pete. You seem like such a nice man."

He winced. I wasn't sure what to make of Pete's body language. Then, he opened his mouth,

"Diane, I'm going to be honest with you because you are a nice girl. I don't want to lie to you," he said. "I am not a nice man."
"Uh oh." I thought.

"I've lived a very hard life. Both my parents died suddenly in Italy, and at fourteen years old I went to live with my uncle in New York. We didn't get along. By sixteen, I was out on my own."

I felt sorry that Pete had endured such a rough start in life. Maybe being out on his own at such a tender age had forced Pete to grow up a little too soon. What was so bad about that? But, I decided to lighten the conversation by asking about his work as a waiter. Again, Pete winced.

"Honestly, Diane, I am not a waiter. My friend, Johnny, owns the restaurant and he thinks there is a problem with the some staff. I did a job for Johnny one time in Miami. So he called me in to find out what's what. "
"So, you're an undercover waiter?" I probed.
"Well, yeah. I go in when I feel like it, a few hours here and there. It's just until we take care of the situation," he replied.

All this time I noticed that Pete kept looking around the restaurant. I tried to follow his glances to see what was taking so much of Pete's attention away from me. He noticed my confusion.

"When you grow up the way I did, you learn to watch your back," Pete offered by way of an explanation.
"Even here in small town USA?" I asked.
"Everywhere and all the time," he said with a steely look that stopped me cold. Then, his tone changed. "Now, we go for dinner."

Dinner?!? Before I could get words out to end the evening, Pete had whipped out his cell phone to make arrangements. "Lou, it's Pete. I'm bringing a young lady over for dinner. Have my table waiting for me," he ordered.

There was no disagreeing with Pete; saying no was not an option. Before I knew it I was in Pete's red sports car (that could not have been paid for on a waiters salary) speeding down the interstate to a neighboring town 20 minutes away. "Great going, Diane," I'm thinking to myself. "Here you are alone with a stranger, headed out of town. No one knows where you are, who you are with, or how to get in touch with you." .

I tried to lighten my mood by conversing a little more with Pete. When he winced again, I knew this was not going to be a mood-enhancing chat.

"I hope you like this restaurant. Back in the city, I did a job for Lou, the owner. I took care of Lou, Lou takes care of me. Nobody wants to get on Pete's bad side."

Note to self: don't get on Pete's bad side. And, it hadn't escaped my notice that we were now referring to Pete in the third person. Pete was referring to Pete in the third person. I was referring to Pete in the third person.

"So," I said, "Pete has lived in Miami and New York." Which was his favorite place?" I asked desperate to avoid another wince.
"New York," he answered (wince). "But I can never go back there." I opened an establishment at one time. And, well you know with surprise visits and all, it was shut down. No, I can't go back."

By this time, we arrived at this posh, but dark little restaurant that reminded me of something out of The Godfather, As soon as Pete walked in the door, owner Lou made a bee line for him. Our table was ready, garnished with a $100 bottle of wine. I was ready for a drink.

"Do you like this wine? If not I'll send it back? Would you like a martini instead?" Pete offered.
"Oh, oh, oh" I thought, but said nothing. I could really use a shot of tequila right now.

With every question I posed and every honest answer that Pete offered, his winces became more pronounced. From the view of casual observers at adjacent tables I am sure that it looked as if Pete was in some serious pain or suffering from Turret's syndrome. He didn't want to reveal himself to me, but felt compelled to tell me the truth because I was "a nice girl." I learned through the course of our night that my fine, Italian, undercover waiter with all of his bling bling bling and baby blue jacket, had serious gambling problems which caused the end of relationships and financial woes. Nevertheless, he liked living the hard fast life and taking risks. And although Pete really wanted to meet a nice girl and settle down, he knew quite well that nice girls wouldn't be attracted to Pete's lifestyle.

Through the entire conversation, I smiled and made pleasantries. But at the end of the evening when Pete asked for a second date, I got my chance to finally say no.

"Pete, I appreciate your candor this evening. I want to be honest in return. I lead a very simple, uncomplicated life. I am afraid your lifestyle would be too stressful for me."
"I understand," Pete said with a smile. "So, I'll pick you up for the movie tomorrow at 7pm."

3 comments:

aka senior advisor said...

Too bad Pete wasn't Pedro -- part of the Cuban Mafia -- you'd at least have gotten some tequila! Glad you were able to stay on his good side chica. :-)

queenofsass said...

Very funny!

'Mazing Amy said...

OH MY. And I thought I had some weird dates! this one...referring to himself in the third person? PRICELESS. lol

BTW, here from Grins, a past single of the week myself.