His phone buzzed in his coat pocket against his chest. There’s always an uncomfortable feeling when you can feel your phone going off without being able to see what it is. At some dinners, a client will set the tone by setting his phone on face-up on the white table cloth the second he or she sits down. Others, you’ll go hours without having an opportune moment to take your phone out anywhere but while standing at the urinal.
Earlier that day, Todd had taken measures to ensure that the dinner would go well by confirming the reservation and picking up a fresh shirt from the cleaners during his lunch break. A client dinner is only as good as the conversation, so he poured himself a drink at 6 o’clock while reviewing their file. When he received a text from Luca, the company’s CEO who had arrived on an international flight that morning, he locked his office door and ordered an UberBLACK. It wasn’t a long distance to the restaurant, but he didn’t want to show up with only a cold handshake to offer.
His phone buzzed halfway through their bacon-wrapped scallop appetizer course, a staple in the dining room. Todd made a mental note to check his phone under the table while he laughed emptily at the CEO’s story that he could barely understand through his thick European accent.
When Luca stood up from the table to use the bathroom, Todd slid his phone out and transferred it from his coat to his pants pocket. He flicked the side button with his thumb revealing a text message from who he had anticipated. He knew where she was, she knew where he was; “I’ll come back to it,” he told himself.
Getting drunk on a weeknight is a unique feeling. The window is shorter than on an open Saturday which almost makes you feel as though you’re doing something worse than you actually are. When you can justify what you’re doing with a company credit card and clearance to take the next morning off, well, ordering another bottle of wine from the bottom part of the Bordeaux section on the menu becomes easier and easier.
As time wore on, it became clearer and clearer how the night was going to pan out. Jetlag was something this client clearly wasn’t going to fall victim to, nor was the influx of alcohol that the waiter wasn’t averse to pouring every time he came by the table. Todd knew it was an opportunity to impress with his boss out of town. It was the first time he’d been entrusted with the sole responsibility of entertaining an international colleague and he was determined not to botch it.
“Say,” Todd began as he signed the check with a pen he’d brought from his office, “I know this bar down the street that has the best martinis in town.”
Luca leaned back in his seat and brought his hands together while a smile overtook his otherwise emotionless face. “You read my mind.”
Two-and-a-half hours had passed since Todd ordered his initial appetizer at the restaurant, though it felt like no time considering the amount of schmoozing that had taken place between then and finishing his first martini at their new location.
“A man after my own heart,” Luca told him while peering down at Todd’s empty lowball glass filled only with an olive-less toothpick and melted ice. “Come on, Toddy boy,” he remarked as the waiter hovered over them. “One more?”
“One more, Luca,” he affirmed, “But just this one – we’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Luca smiled slyly while holding up one finger. “Just one.”
As goes with most “final” drinks at the end of a long night of drinking, there’s often a final “final” drink (and even one more after that). Luca had yet to take his phone out when Todd departed for the bathroom for only the second time that night. As he stood at the urinal trying to make sure he wasn’t swaying, he opened his phone and read his single text – “Soooooo when are you getting home tonight?” – and responded, “Soon, I think we’re on our last drink.”
He noticed the timestamp on his text was nearly three hours after her text had come through. “Sorry, we stopped for one more drink after dinner,” he followed up before heading back to their table where Luca sat talking to the waiter.
With midnight looming, Todd finished the last of his drink. “Todd, it’s been fun,” Luca told him, “But I still need to check in to my hotel and call my wife back home. By my calculations, she should just be waking up.”
“Luca, that’s fine by me.”
Todd reached toward the check the waiter was bringing out of his pocket only to have his arm pushed away. Luca handed over his American Express and assured Todd, “I’ve got this one.”
“Can I at least call you an Uber?” Todd asked.
“I think I’m going to walk from here,” Luca responded while pulling up a map on his phone. “I’ve been sitting down all day.”
Todd opened his phone and noticed he had no notifications outside of some work emails from overseas and ESPN score updates from west coast games. After calling an Uber and heading for the door, he shook Luca’s hand and pointed him in the right direction.
It was a quiet ride home given that not much happens in the city after midnight on a Wednesday. His return home went as it normally goes: quiet conversation with his driver, a head nod to the doorman, and an elevator ride up to his apartment where he’d fumble his keys before finally getting in.
The apartment smelled like burnt candle, a smell that reminded Todd of when his parents had dinner parties as a child, and he used his phone as a flashlight to find his way to his bedroom where he saw her lying in their bed with the television on. Her eyes were closed and he heard snores which could’ve been from either her or Sperry, but he was too drunk to tell. He reached over his side of the bed and grabbed her shoulder to let her know that he was home.
She rolled over in her silk robe and simply asked, “Where’ve you been?” but he could tell she wouldn’t remember asking in the morning given the sleepy tone of her voice.
He kicked off his shoes and got into bed with her. “Dinner went later than I thought – how was Caroline’s?” he whispered, only to not receive an answer because she’d already fallen back asleep.
He grabbed the remote off the comforter and turned off the television before closing his eyes and thinking, “I wonder if Luca made it home alright.” .