The First Date
The following is third in a series of short stories involving a fictional character named Jerry.
“You showed up.”
He was cool and collected like he’d done this a thousand times before. It gave her a feeling hard to describe — a tingle, perhaps — one she hadn’t felt in a long time.
“I’m not one to flake.” She spoke with conviction, “I’d rather suffer through an awful date and go on my merry way than to stand someone up.”
“Well, let’s hope there’s no suffering tonight.”
They sat down at the table.
“I can already tell you’re not like most women.”
“Well that’s a bold statement. Is that what you say to all the ladies?”
“No, it’s not. It’s just you’d be surprised how many women flake.”
“How many flake?”
“Two out of five. Maybe three, but I’ll be generous.”
“Like I said, you’d be surprised.”
He switched subjects.
“Should we start with a drink?”
“Yeah. I’m thinking wine.” She opened the menu. “Do you like Malbec?”
“I do. But I’m just getting over a bad allergy spell and red wine can aggravate the problem. Could you do white?”
A man with allergies, she thought. The tingle — or whatever it was — returned.
“Sure. The sauv blanc?”
“Done. Now if only our waiter would show up.”
“Himself? What if it’s a woman?”
“I’m willing to bet it’s a guy.”
“Oh really. Well, I’d take you up on a bet, except I agree with you.”
He laughed. The candle in-between them extinguished.
“So we’ll need a bottle of sauv blanc and a match.”
“A match carved from a chardonnay oak barrel, ideally.”
“Is that a wine joke?”
“Yes.” “Do you know a lot about wine?” “Not really, only that it’s sometimes aged in wooden — “
“ — I’m so sorry to keep you waiting. We had a big spill in the kitchen, kind of a mess, and it was all hands on deck.”
Their server had appeared.
“My name is Jerry and I’ll be taking care of you this evening. Have you had a chance to look over the beverage list?”
“We’ll do a bottle of the sauvignon blanc.”
“Perfect. And two glasses, yes? Will anyone else be joining you this evening?”
They paused and pivoted their heads towards both sides the table, which could clearly only accommodate two people.
“No, just the two of us, thanks,”
“Great. I’ll have that right out for you.”
Jerry walked away. Before they could get a word out, he double backed.
“I should have mentioned, the specials tonight are a Mediterranean board with pickled vegetables, garlic hummus, tabbouleh and housemate pita, an oven roasted branzino with pureed parsnips and a balsamic glaze, chickpea fritters with labneh, and…” he paused, “I think there’s one more thing, let me get right back to you.”
“See, he’s a dude.”
“We didn’t even get a chance to ask for that match.”
“You know what, it’s okay. I’m getting enough candlelight from our friends next door.”
She gestured to the affectionate couple sitting next to them. He laughed and their candle extinguished.
“You might want to laugh a little less aggressively.”
“So, how’s it all going down there?” He gestured with his eyes down to her stomach.
“Oh my fucking god, are you serious? We’re about five minutes in and you’re asking how the cleaning out of my asshole went?”
“I figured I’d break the ice by diving in head first. It’s not every day you meet someone at a colonic clinic.”
“Well, if we’re going there, can I be entirely honest?”
“I feel fucking incredible.”
“You enjoy cursing don’t you?”
“I do. Is that a problem?”
“No, just an observation.”
“How’d it go for you?”
“I lost five pounds.”
“No shit! Wait…”
“Let the puns begin!”
“We’re about to eat dinner. Growing up my mom always said bathroom humor should be the topic at the dinner table.”
“How about we figure out what to order and then we can talk about something a little more first-datey.”
“Well that sounds bland. Fine. But wait, one more question. Then we’re moving on.”
“Would you do it again?”
“Get a colonic?”
“Yeah. I would.”
“Great. So if this goes somewhere, maybe they’ll give us a couples-special.”
“I like to think of myself as open minded, so sure, maybe after say, four dates.”
“Four dates? Are you shitting me? How about at least a dozen dates.”
“You made another shit pun.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t help myself. What are you eating?”
You’ve gotta watch the puns. The two buried themselves in their menus.
“I’m thinking the salmon. I like salmon and I like mustard. And this has both. And you?”
“I think I’m going to have the fourth mystery special.”
“But really, I’m getting the mushroom flatbread.”
“Do you eat meat?”
“I do. I’m just feeling mushrooms tonight.”
Jerry returned like a lightning bolt hitting a frying pan.
“Again, apologies for the wait. Our line cook severely burned his hand and they just put me on duty in the back between runs, probably not the best — well, ha, you don’t care, you’re just here to get a great meal, right!”
He clapped his hands enthusiastically.
“So, it turns out we only have three specials tonight, sorry to keep you waiting in anticipation. Do you know what you’d like to eat this evening?”
“I think so, but first we did order some wine.”
“Oh. Yes. It’s on it’s way. Let me go check on it.”
He was gone.
“So what did you mean by first-datey conversation?”
“You know, there are topics you’re not supposed to talk about on a first date. So first-datey implies safe conversation.”
“Like talking about colonics?”
He smirked. You’re a smooth mother fucker, mother fucker.
“What are we not supposed to talk about?” she asked.
“Well, other relationships, hopes, desires, dreams, health problems, parental problems, addictions — “
“So you’ve already broken this rule. You said you had allergies.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t go into details about them.”
“Please, indulge me.”
Jerry returned and placed two wine glasses in front of them. He presented the wine, a bottle of 2012 La Pincoya, and poured them two healthy glasses.
“I’m so sorry, I’ll be right back to take your order. Chef needs me to sear a few rib eyes.”
They looked at each other and exchanged a glance that said what the fuck. He picked up his glass. She picked up hers.
She smiled as their glasses clinked.
“You really don’t want to hear about my allergies right now, I promise. How about we save that for later.”
“How about the next date?”
“Well that’s a big assumption to make. Having said that, despite our unothordox conversations, I’d say this has been going pretty well.”
“Oh yeah? And how would you gauge that it ends up going really well? Like, the ultimate first date.”
“If we end up making out in my car.”
He nearly blushed. She’s got balls.
“That’s a bold statement. What makes you think I’d want to do that?
“I’m not saying it will happen. I’m saying if this goes well, and if I’m comfortable enough around you that I feel the desire to invite you into my space, the night was a success.”
“Fair enough. We’ll see. The night is young.”
“Hey you want to know something really funny?”
“No, I hate laughing.”
“In the colonic clinic when we met — it wasn’t the first time I’d seen you.”
“Yeah. You came up on JSwipe. I swiped left.”
“You saw me on JSwipe?! And you swiped left!”
“You didn’t seem like my type.”
“What is your type?”
“It’s hard to define. I don’t know if I actually have a type. I just know who I go after and who I don’t. And in that moment, I thought you were beautiful, but I never thought you’d go for a guy like me. So I decided to cut all losses and just eliminate the possibility.”
“That makes no sense.”
“It does to me.”
“You know, even if I used the app, I’d probably swipe left on you too.”
“Oh really now?”
“Yeah. I’d have to see your profile — I haven’t used that thing in months — but my guess is at a glance you wouldn’t be my type either.”
“Well at least the feeling is mutual.”
She picked up her glass. “Fuck online dating.”
“Fuck online dating,” he repeated, “and shitty Tinder knock-off apps. Hey, How spontaneous are you?”
“I could be.”
“I have an idea.”
She smirked, “yeah?”
“How about we finish this glass of wine, take the bottle with us, and go to In-N-Out on Venice. Our friend Jerry sucks and if the food is anything like the service, I feel like we should preemptively get out of here and go somewhere we know will be good.”
She gazed at him. The man of my dreams.
“Let’s do it.”
Just as they made their decision, Jerry returned.
“Sorry again, folks. There was a fire in the kitchen and I — “
“We’re heading out. Could we get the check?”
Jerry stared, glanced over his shoulder and lowered his voice, “I don’t blame you. Get out while you can. Those ribeyes I just seared? They’re supposedly aged but in my humble opinion they’re — well you don’t care. Let me get you out of here.”
Jerry got them the bill.
They spent ninety minutes at In-N-Out, twenty minutes walking down the street and an hour making out in her car.
They’d never know what Jerry thought of his aged ribeyes.