Wearing Many Hats by Jennifer Anthony

Corner Booth Episode # 46

15 November 2008

Wearing Many Hats
by Jennifer Anthony

Allison had arranged to meet Henry in Greenwich at Abraço on her lunch break. Despite the stress of the morning at the publishing house, she still felt sexy in her new fall outfit – a velour fur felt “Moxi” hat, turned up on one side for a playfully sexy look, paired with the Victoria’s Secret Buckle-front coat in plaid she had bought over the weekend. She thought her outfit was both fashionable and fitting for the blustery fall afternoon.
 No sooner had she sat outside on the wooden bench just outside the front door of the café than she saw Henry walking down the street with his basset hound Wilbur, who padded along beside him, ears nearly dragging on the ground. As they approached, she felt a jealous little twinge as women on either side of him stopped to coo at the dog.
 “Well, hello there,” Allison said, as he plopped down on the bench beside her. Wilbur immediately collapsed onto the cement, and his eyelids eased shut.
 “Hello, beautiful,” Henry said.
 “I see you’ve brought your girl magnet,” Allison said, smiling mischievously. 
 Henry pulled one hand through his blond hair and laughed. “And I see you’ve got a new hat. Eric Javits?”
 “Why yes!” Allison said, impressed. “How on earth did you know?”
 “Two sisters and a mother who love hats,” he said. He held Wilbur’s leash out to her. “Mind holding the girl magnet while I go order something to eat from Jaime? Don’t know if you’ve been here, but I’d recommend either the grilled cheese or the frittatas.”
 “How about one of each, and we can share?” Allison suggested. She liked that he was an old-fashioned, take-charge kind of guy.
 Henry nodded and walked toward the door. He held the door open for a guy walking outside with a to-go coffee. “Nice dog,” the man said. Allison noticed that he was looking Henry – not the dog – up and down.
 She shrugged and leaned down to scratch Wilbur behind the ears. The dog made a small woofing sound, too exhausted to do much more.
 Two footsteps appeared before her and she looked up to find another man looming above her, hands on hips. “Um, isn’t that Wilbur?” he asked her.
 “Why, how did you know?” she asked. Even though the guy she was potentially dating wasn’t far away, she couldn’t help staring at the guy’s chiseled biceps.
 He bent down to give Wilbur a pat on the head. The dog’s eyes snapped open and he stood up, staring at the man with adoring eyes.
 “Oh, we go way back,” the guy said. “I’m guessing Henry is inside?”
 “He is,” Allison said. “Why don’t you go say hello?”
 “Oh no,” the man said. “I think that wouldn’t be a good idea. I see he’s switched sides again. Gotta run, but tell him Devon says hi.”
 And with that, the man stood and walked briskly down the street. Wilbur watched him go, and Allison could have sworn the dog was pouting.
 Allison waited. And waited some more. Finally, Henry returned with their food. They took turns sampling the two dishes.
 “I guess it’s the Fontina cheese that makes it so good?” Henry said, after taking a bite of the sandwich. “The poblanos don’t hurt, either.”
 “The frittatas are delicious, too,” Allison said. “They taste almost like custard.”
 They ate for several long moments in silence, and Allison relished the fact that they didn’t have to fill the space in with nervous conversation. But something was troubling her, and she wasn’t quite sure how to bring it up.
 “I’m sure you have to get back to work soon,” Henry said. “But I hope I can see you again later this week. Maybe a movie? Or dinner?”
 “Sure,” Allison said. She looked down at Wilbur, who had fallen back asleep just beside Henry’s feet. The dog barely seemed to notice her presence, but had been overwrought with emotion at the sight of the mysterious Devon.
 “While I was waiting for you, a friend of yours came by and asked me to tell you hello. I believe his name was Devon?”
 Henry laughed. “Oh, I’m sure that was interesting. What did he have to say?”
 “Not much. But Wilbur sure looked lovelorn,” Allison said.
 “Oh, he’s never gotten over our breakup,” Henry said.
 Before Allison could think of what to say, a woman appeared before them. Her red hair peeped out from the bottom of a Fedora hat. An Eric Javits hat, Allison noticed.
 “Hello Henry,” she said. She crouched down to pat the dog. “And hi, Wilbur!”
 “Hi Frances,” Henry said. “Good to see you again.”
 “You, too,” Frances said. She stood back up and blew him a kiss. “Love to chat, but I’m late for an appointment. Email me!”
 “Another ex,” Henry said, when she had disappeared from sight. “Sorry. I mean, what are the chances?”
 Allison sat cradling her empty plate on her lap. She wished she hadn’t eaten so fast.
 “Allison,” Henry said, softly. “Do you have a problem with me being bi?”
 Allison thought back to college, when she had had a few brief relationships with females between the endless string of males. When that had happened, she had never had a problem with the thought she might be bisexual. But dating a bisexual was a completely different matter. Not because she had an issue with his lifestyle. Because she couldn’t stand competition from both sides.
 Henry took the plate from her lap and stacked it atop his own. “I like someone for who they are, Allison. Not what they are. I like you for the person you are.”
 No one, but no one, had ever said something that touching to her before.


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