With its antique wooden window frames cranked open for the season and its mix of young professionals sipping martinis, journalists and sources talking more than imbibing, lawyers not-so-subtley looking for wife number two and super-tanned, in-for-just-the-day Miami businessmen, Spezie on a mid-May day is about as lovely a happy hour setting as you'll find in Northwest DC.
And the perfect backdrop for a promising first date.
From the second I walked in the wine bar's familiar set of double-doors and was greeted on my left side - my good side - by the large bevelled mirror that not once in all the times I've had lunch, drinks and dinner there has been spoiled by a single fingerprint or failed to elicit from me a tilt-of-the-head and a wistfully sighed, "I so wish I had that in my bedroom," I knew my decision to spend the evening out on the town instead of in on the couch would be well worth the wrath I'd incur from my used-to-having-Mommy-home-all-night-every-night 13lb dollop of wonderful.
Before I'd even finished my quick eyeliner touch up in another large mirror - this one through a second set of doors by the hostess' podium - I was approached rather aggressively by a very nervous, very sweaty man in his mid-30s.
"Are you Christine? Excuse me, miss, are you Christine?"
"Wha...what? Am I Christine?" I asked the man, startled at the urgency in his voice.
"You're Christine? Oh god, good. Hi, I'm..."
"No, I'm not Christine," I said, finally grasping the situation, "I'm Johanna, but it's nice to..."
After he plodded off, I stood stunned for a minute until the devilishly handsome, looks-like-he-should-be-a-bit-character-on-The-Sopranos owner approached me, nodded as hosts do when they recognize a regular customer, and said, "Your companion, he is on his way, no?" in a way that implied he knew the answer before he'd even asked the question.
"No, actually he's not...we're not...I have different company tonight."
"Oh. Well, you such a pretty girl, no wonder you have different company. Keep it spicy, yes?"
Not wanting to enter into a conversation that would require more than the length of the walk from where I was to where I needed to be, I offered him my best it-was-his-decision-not-mine smile, a dull attempt at coyness with, "Well, spicy is better than bland, isn't it?" and began to navigate my way through the dining room to where I now saw E sitting perched on a stool at the bar.
E: hair down, Riesling, black shirtdress, black stiletto slingbacks, fabulous pearl cocktail ring.
J: hair pulled tightly back, Bellini, red and black wrapdress, black stiletto peeptoes, fabulous Indonesian spinel cocktail ring.
Before we even started in on the get-to-know-yous, it was clear our subtle differences aroused curiosity while our similarities put us both at ease. In short, we were a perfect girl-girl complement.
"Did that guy ask you if you were Christine?" E asked as I looped my daybag's double-shoulder-straps around the jut of the barstool.
"He did, why, did he ask you, too?"
"Mmmhmm, I think it's an Internet date. An Internet date that's not starting off so well."
"That's so sad."
And in perfect Olsen-twin unison, the two of us turned and tilted our heads toward the gentleman's table and conjured up our most sympathetic "it happens to all of us" look, not thinking ahead of time how the extra attention might exacerbate his already apparent hyper-anxiety.
"So..." I started off, "tell me what it is you do over there at that consulting firm of yours."
And thus the girl-date began, just like a regular date, with back-and-forth questions about that day's happenings, recent bad dates (she'd had a dinner date with a guy who decided to eat before he picked her up; I'd had a date with a guy who ordered apple martinis with Diet Coke chasers), siblings, parents, did-she-know-this-person-at-her-college?, did-I-know-that-person-at-my-university? and so on and so on.
About three sips into our second round, we had our first pause, and it was clear that subject was no longer avoidable.
So we dove in, head-first, each reciprocating after the other had her turn, not in an obligatory you-went-now-it's-my-turn kind of way but in a completely genuine, completely equal, give-and-take fashion.
Not one to bring specific personal woes into the public fold, I shant divulge much of what was discussed during our intense, nearly two-hour, why-does-that-Rachael-Yamagata-lyric-resonate-so-strongly-with-you? conversation, but I will say that like our jobs, our shoe preferences and our seats in our colleges' Varsity eights, E and I are that rare match where we're vastly different in some ways but extraordinarily similar in the more important ones, a fact I knew right away when I discovered we both, at 27, still send our parents Valentines.
A second date? For sure. And this one might even involve that riding crop I didn't get to use tonight.