He wasn’t dressed well for the occasion. She had totally outdressed him. John still wasn’t used to the dressing habits in central Europe. In Belgium no girl would show up dressed like this for a coffee date.

John was wearing blue jeans, a plain red T-shirt and his leather jacket. At least the color of his T-shirt matched the color of her skirt. She was wearing a short jacket, a nice green blouse, a tight red skirt stopping just above the knee, and black boots. She also had on make-up and was wearing some tasteful jewellery. A golden necklace, pearly earrings. He was all too aware of the first look she threw him, carefully going from his head all the way to his shoes and back up again. He felt x-rayed, but tried to hide his discomfort.

She was also only a little bit shorter than he was. Her boots had high heels, and the street where they met wasn’t flat. John was standing on a lower part, so now it looked like she was a centimeter or two taller. John knew what a big deal women tended to make out of this, so he felt himself trying to rack his body into longer shape as they started walking to the cafe.

He had picked Mondieu Laboratoire, a sort of posh – or trying to be – place at Laurinska, right smack dab in the center of town. It was crowded for a week day, but they found a small table for two in a corner. The waitresses were running around, stressed, and had no energy left to make someone feel welcome.

It was also noisy. Some Spanish tourists were showing each other pictures on their phones and yelling and gesturing a lot.

On Tinder she had written in Czech and he had written in Slovak, without any communication troubles, but reading Czech was different from hearing it. So she starts talking, John doesn’t immediately understand and he tells her to slow down.

Of course, this insecurity lowers his attraction. For no good reason because he just needed to warm up, he understands everything she’s saying.

She’s an only child, so she has the only child vibe about her. She’s close with her parents. They live in Prague but she often travels back. She works for a Czech company, but they transferred her to Bratislava.

She has an apartment next to the Danube, close to the shopping mall Eurovea. John concludes she’s swimming in cash.

Before she got a cosy spot in the corporate world, she was a professional dancer.

Fascinating, but John has two wooden legs and can’t dance. No feeling for rhythm whatsoever. Except in bed maybe.

They talk for about two hours. He likes the relaxed tone of her voice. She has calm movements. She’s simply a truly sweet girl who’s very used to spending time on her own. She’s not overly enthusiastic, but she’s not uninterested either. She asks many questions about John’s experiences as a therapist. John tries to explain as best as he can. He’s also lied. He says he will need to go home to have a therapy session with someone. The truth is that he wants to be home at a reasonable hour and be with Z. As he repeats this lie, he realizes that lying gives off a bad vibe. Petra may believe him, but even so, the act of lying injects the interaction with something fishy. His body language is off, the tiniest bit, but still. Petra won’t know how to pinpoint it, but she’ll go home with a feeling that this guy is untrustworthy or insecure or scared about something. And John IS scared. He doesn’t want to cause any trouble at home. This mindset creeps into the entire date. It’s a miracle this lady is willing to talk to him for two hours.

She tells him about her dancing career, about living in London, about her Russian boyfriend there, and their love that didn’t survive extreme distances. She comes across as soft, calm, well-organised, easy-going. Next week she’s flying to Paris on business. John can’t remember what they talked about on Tinder. He asked her out, and she immediately said yes after a short conversation. John’s impression is that the intelligent ones are the easiest to ask out. This isn’t a girl who’s hardly ever left her village. She’s lived in London, she has a well-paying corporate job, although she doesn’t know any psychological concepts she asks good questions on psychology, but it’s also clear that’s not really her cup of tea. The expression on her face seems to read: if you can make money working for a company like I do, why on earth would you make a career out of listening to someone’s misery?

‘Well, it wouldn’t be for me’, she says.

It also obvious she enjoys shopping and that she likes clothes. O was the same. She had a huge wardrobe, but perhaps more sexually suggestive than Petra’s.

What he likes about Z and Andrea is that they dress elegantly, like educated, attractive, young women, but they both hate shopping. They both rush in and out of shops, know immediately what they want, and don’t want to spend one second longer in any mall than they need to.

Yes, Petra likes ‘hezky’ things. ‘Hezky’ being Czech for ‘nice’ or ‘cool’. It has a bit more spunk to it than the Slovak equivalent ‘pekny’.

John concludes he’s not ready to ‘succesfully’ meet up with women. He’s so messed up inside, and so nervous around them, even though he covers it up, that they can’t be attracted to him. The deceitfulness of the situation. His belly he had vowed, almost exactly ten years ago, never to acquire. The stress over Z’s possible reaction. The tons of pick-up artist material flashing through his head and making him uncomfortable, as he’s just trying to be ‘normal’, but in his head an internalized seduction coach is screaming: ‘Show more value. You’re not touching her, that’s bad. Stop trying to qualify yourself. You should be doing else than just talking.

At the same time he’s calculating. What if she does want to see a movie together or cook together? She seems more open and accessible than the Slovak women he’s met the last couple of months. When could he be gone for an entire night?

He needs to work on himself first, and John suspects it’s going to take a lot of time to get comfortable in his own skin again, and therefore comfortable around women.

John pays the bill when Petra is at the toilet. He watches her walk to the toilet and decides she’s graceful. She’s not thin, but certainly not fat. Perhaps she gained a bit of weight after her dancing career ended.

When Petra and John part ways outside of the coffee bar, he gives her a peck on the sheet. As she’s walking away it’s very clear her eyes linger and that she’s checking him out once more, from top to bottom. John assumes it’s a critical evaluation. At the same time he takes it as a sign that she must at least be considering whether or not she should invest more time in him.

John would normally not pursue her, but he’s kind of desperate after O’s – and Andrea’s in a way – rejections and wants to ‘score’. And she’s pretty enough, educated enough and respectful enough. She wouldn’t make a bad girlfriend, but it would get boring fast. Petra is the kind of girl you keep happy doing normal things.

When he comes home he covers Z in kisses, and they have the best sex in a long while.

Z ask: ‘You didn’t go on some date with that O woman, did you? You seem way too cheerful, what’s going on?’

The truth is that John went on a date with a nice, attractive woman, who loses in every aspect to Z, so tonight he does realize what an exceptional wife he has.

At a moment like that John considers his womanising as something close to a mental disorder.

What is it about women that he wants to run the risk of ruining everything he has with Z, for, in the end, very little pay-off.

His therapist, the lovely Laura, with the long golden curls and legs like the hottest MILF, will say: ‘This is classic behavior of someone who’s deeply depressed.’

But what about the time he rolled from one girl’s bed to the next and WAS NOT depressed at all?

Or has John always been trying to compensate for something, even in the best of times?

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