Jared didn’t like to think that he had a type. That, to him, seemed too dehumanizing. He was looking for a person, not a car.
But that didn’t stop him from being attracted to women who all looked very similar. He liked tan women with black hair. Since that applied to women everywhere from India and the Middle East to Southeast Asians and the black neighborhood he was from, this left him feeling very open minded. He wasn’t shallow like those men who only wanted leggy brunettes.
Jared’s tastes would be hard to satisfy in many parts of town, but he lived not far from two separate college campuses. This kept diversity flowing through the neighborhood. He had his pick of students working on their master’s degree. Occasionally he would encounter an undergraduate who didn’t become a freshman immediately after high school.
Once he even entertained a particularly young professor. She had gone straight from high school to her undergrad to grad to her doctorate. Having never known anything other than academia, she stuck with what felt familiar.
Jared looked down at his drink. This would be another night he went to bed alone. No one had entered the bar that appealed to him. Most of the women, which made him feel old to admit, came off as girls.
He pulled out his smartphone and flicked through Reddit as he worked through his mimosa. On nights when he couldn’t meet the kind of woman he liked in person, he knew he could find them online. Pictures, at least.
“Hi there,” she said.
Jared looked up, surprised, but liking what he saw. The woman who had appeared beside him was as golden and curvy as he could dream. He couldn’t peg her ethnicity, which made him even happier. “Hello,” he said, putting down his phone. “How can I help you.”
“Looking at your glass, I think you can help me order something to drink.”
Jared smiled. “Have a seat, and we’ll see.”
She sat down. “So?”
Jared didn’t know the first thing about ordering drinks. Every time he stopped by, he had the bartender surprise him. Since he was a regular, the student behind the bar knew what to pick. Jared looked up at the various alcohols on the wall thinking he could order for the lady, then decided this was not the kind of role he could play. Instead, he waved at the bartender.
“Two more of these,” he said, lifting up his glass. The bartender nodded.
The lady laughed. It worked.
“Can’t say that I’ve seen you before,” Jared said. “First time?”
“That must make you a regular.”
“I can walk to my office from here. Actually I do, everyday. The parking deck is on the other side.”
“You a professor?” she asked.
“You have the look.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Jared liked where this was going.
“Yes,” she finally admitted. “I’m new here.”
“Also a professor?”
“No, actually. But I know a few. I’m here to work at the career center across the street.”
“Here you go,” the bartender said as he dropped two mimosas down by their fingers. “Anything else?”
“You hungry?” Jared asked.
“I should eat,” she said.
“Could we have a menu?”
“Sure thing,” the bartender said, grabbing two from underneath the counter. “I’ll give you a moment.” And then he was gone.
Jared was grateful for the pause. He didn’t think too highly of the career center. The building, only six years old, was already getting a renovation while his department stuck buckets under decade-old leaks. And for what? The kids that went through there didn’t come out ready for a job. If he had seen anything from his time as an adviser, it’s that the kids with connections who got the jobs they wanted—which, until recently, meant pretty much anything that paid. He used to jokingly advise his students to visit the career center to see if they were hiring.
“What do you usually get?” she asked.
“I’m a fan of the Caprese salad.”
“Do I look like I’m into salads?”
“I’m into salads.”
She looked him up and down. “You look like it,” she said, putting down the menu and making eye contact with the bartender. “I’ll have the Caprese salad and the salmon sandwich.”
“Got it,” he said as he reached for the menu. “I’ll take that.”
“So what do you teach?” she asked.
“Don’t tell me, Shakespeare?”
“No, never been a fan.”
“I like you, then.”
Jared took a sip of his mimosa. It had been a while since he had had this much luck.
“Tell me more,” she said.
“I teach a course called The Great American Novel.”
“Ah, so you’re a Whitman, Poe kind of guy.”
“Yes, but I reserve them for my poetry class. I’m fond of Sue Monk Kidd, Joyce Carol Oates, Arthur Golden, so on.”
“I won’t pretend to be that well read. I like Scandal.”
“Is that judgment?”
“Yes, actually. You could at least watch The Good Wife.”
“Okay, there’s hope.”
Her food arrived.
“Anything more for you?” the bartender asked Jared.
“I’m good, thanks,” Jared took another sip of his mimosa.
He had to be careful with what he said next. This woman worked on campus too, however far away their two buildings may be. She wouldn’t graduate in a year or two and move on like several of the other women he had pursued. If he were going to start a relationship with her, he ran the risk of having to avoid someone who wasn’t going away.
Then again, it was a decently large campus.
“So what are you doing after dinner?” Jared asked as she started to slow down.
“Preparing for work tomorrow,” she said, getting the bartender’s attention. “Can I have a box for this?”
“That new?” Jared asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “Tomorrow will be my first day.”
“I hope I’m not the first person you’ve met here.”
“That I won’t be working for, yeah.”
“I’m so sorry.”
She laughed. “You were okay.”
The bartender brought out the check.
“Actually, we’re not together.”
“Not a problem. Everything but the two mimosas, right?”
“Allow me to treat you,” Jared said. “It’s your first night.”
“No, no. I wouldn’t want you to mistake this for a date,” she said as she handed over her credit card. When the bartender returned with her card, she signed her name and stood up. “Maybe I’ll see you around,” she said.
With that, she was gone almost as quickly as she had arrived. Jared continued to sit there, alone, sipping his mimosa. He never did catch her name.