Blind Date [Flash Fiction]

His incisors gleamed in the cold fluorescent light and for a moment I imagined he was a vampire. Maybe he would sweep me off my feet, violently take me in his bed, sink his teeth into my flesh and suck the life out of me one tortuously sweet moment at a time.

Then again, maybe he would just bore me to death right at the dirty McDonald’s table. I stared at the splotch of ketchup that was dangerously close to his pristine white sleeve. I knew it was going to happen – I’d been spending the last hour and a half just waiting for the moment to happen. I thought it would at least bring some variety and interest to this dullest of all possible blind dates in the history of the world. Finally, as he wiped his mouth of the grease that had adorned his too-red lips, it happened. His elbow moved just half an inch sideways, apparently slipping, and a red dot adorned his sleeve. But even that didn’t help – he didn’t notice it had happened and just kept smiling at me weirdly.

It wasn’t that he was a bad guy. He was probably very sweet. But come on – McDonald’s? On a date? This guy had no class. Even though he was dressed in a white shirt with a starched collar, complete with delicate cuff-links.

“Tell me,” I finally broke into his monotonous monologue about his absolutely fascinating job – I still wasn’t sure what it was that he did, but I was convinced that he found it absolutely wonderful, which was, I guess, really nice for him. But he hadn’t managed to get across the simple idea of what on earth his job actually was. “Tell me, do you bring all your first dates to McDonald’s?”

He looked at me blankly for a moment and then picked up the empty carton where his fries had rested in greasy strings a few minutes ago. “We’re at McDonald’s?”

“Uh, yeah? Didn’t you notice?”

“Not really, no. You see, I don’t really pay attention to what I eat. I’m sorry. Was this inappropriate?”

I had no idea what to say. We’d been sitting in a brightly lit food-court munching on bad fast-food and he hadn’t noticed? “Wait. Wait a second. So you’re saying you didn’t actually mean to bring me here?”

“I didn’t bring you here, did I? Didn’t you choose the venue for this meal?”

“Um. No. I didn’t.”

“Interesting.”

What was with this guy? Had he been in a coma during the last couple hours? “Don’t you remember picking me up?”

“I did?”

“You did. Are you even aware we’re on a date?”

“Of course. Your friend, Judith, set us up.”

“Okay. So how do you think we ended up here?”

“I gather that we used some form of transport to reach this – where are we again? Some fast food restaurant, is that correct?”

This was getting to be too weird to deal with. How could he remember we were on a date, that Judy set us up, but not realize how we’re gotten from my place to the stupid mall? I was growing fascinated. Finally, the evening was getting interesting.

Kiss Me [Flash fiction]

“Kiss me.

I want you to kiss me.

Do I get a kiss?

So what about a kiss?

How about a kiss?

Goddamn it!”

Shannon’s face screwed up and she put her fists over her eyes, blocking the view of her rapidly reddening face in the mirror. She breathed deeply, trying to calm down. She felt the blush recede slowly, and took her hands away, although her eyes were still closed. Puckering her mouth, she made a soft kissing noise and then uttered a loud “yech!” Turning away from the mirror she grabbed the phone off her bedside table and scrolled through the texts she’d received from Peter. They weren’t many of them, but they all seemed to indicate that he enjoyed the two evenings they’d spent together.

So why won’t you kiss me? she thought fiercely, trying to telepathically send him the question burned across the coils of her thoughts. She wasn’t obsessing. She’d been warned not to obsess again, not over another one. The past three men had been nothing, bodies that she remembered stretched naked in her bed, unappealing in the morning when the alcohol and excitement had worn off. But Peter was different. He and she had known each other for years, had worked together companionably at the factory. There was that one week when she’d been transferred to make up for a lack of employees in some other section, and it had been horrible, full of men trying to hit on her and women who looked at her tank top and low-slung jeans derisively.

Peter saw past that. He told her about his troubles at home and how his wife’s last miscarriage had been the final blow for them. He was a widower, and three dead babies hadn’t helped him emotionally. But Shannon thought that she might be helping. She wanted to see him in her bed from the first time they’d met, but, uncharacteristically, she’d never made a move, even when he and his wife were separated. She waited until the divorce papers went through, and still never hinted at her interest in him. Instead, she continued to date others, pretending that everything in her life was just the same as it had been.

But then, finally, he’d asked her out. And now he wouldn’t kiss her. Tonight was the third date, and she didn’t know if she should kiss him or not. She didn’t want to, though. After years of being the initiator, she thought that it was someone else’s turn this time. She threw her phone back on her narrow bed and strode over to the closet. The door creaked as she opened it. She pulled down one of the blankets from the top shelf, a blue and purple afghan, and flung it over the mirror. Then she picked up her toiletry bag and went to the shared bathroom in order to get ready for her date.

But all night, the two words that kept going around and around her mind, looping like a broken record, were ‘kiss me.’

Marianne

An abundance of light brown hair, creamy skin and freckles made people stare whenever she told them she was born in Africa. It always amused her, seeing this prejudiced reaction in the people who ate at the restaurant where she worked. She sounded French, you see, and so they all assumed that she was a young photography student, maybe a dancer, who worked during the mornings.

She was a student, this was true, but not of what people always assumed. Her large eyes and pink lips seemed to give most people the impression that she was a dreamer, when, in fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. She hadn’t remembered a single dream she’d had at night for over ten years. This isn’t to say that she was without imagination – theoretical mathematics required more of the stuff than anyone who wasn’t studying it could believe, and Marianne possessed it in abundance. The simple logic of numbers, a universal language, was beautiful to her, and the deeper mysteries of unreal numbers and the roots of negatives fascinated her and raised a song in her heart.

It was hard for her to find a date – there wasn’t time between night classes, homework and her job at the cafe to go out anywhere. She got countless phone numbers from customers leaving a fat tip on their credit cards, smiling at her with cheeky grins, but she never copied them from the receipts, simply leaving them in the cash register where they belonged. She wasn’t interested in random men who saw her wrapped in an apron and looking like the picture of womanly virtue. Neither did she want the fawning boys in her class who drooled at the thought of a female mathematician. No, she was looking for something else, and she would recognize it when it came. She hoped.

Julie’s Last Blind Date

Checkered shirt tucked into tan-colored pants, the man struck an image that wasn’t charming or heartwarming, but somehow caused those who saw him to feel sorry for him. He knew that he had this influence on people, and he didn’t mind at all. On the contrary, he worked to preserve the sympathy that was directed his way because he knew how quickly it disappeared.

The problem was that underneath the thinning hair, bushy mustache and rather bulldog-like cheeks lived a mind that was almost entirely fixated inwards. The man heard a child crying and thought about how he’d cried when he’d been taken out of his mother’s arms in his earliest memory; he saw a documentary on a village that a big volcano had destroyed and he thought about how awful it made him feel; he saw the death of a distant third cousin as a cause for self-pity and an excuse for not listening to what other people said.

On the first date, however, Julie didn’t know any of this. She simply walked into the restaurant where she’d made plans to meet him, and saw a slightly scruffy face, strangely hairless arms and a nervous, scared look in the man’s eyes. She knew immediately that here was the man who was waiting for her. After fifty-one blind dates in the past year, Julie was proud to say that she could recognize that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look that graced almost every man’s face as he waited awkwardly to meet his future wife.

Julie didn’t have any intention of marrying this man (Pete, she reminded herself sternly, this one’s name is Pete). She’d never had any idea of marrying any of the men she’d been hooking up with through 1-800-FOURTYS, a dating hotline, but they all seemed to be sure that she was going to be their next, or sometimes their first, love. It made her sad to think about this, so she tried not to. Instead, she enjoyed the meals out, and collected material for her book.

Special-novelty-concept books were in now, and she had bowed down to popular demand. Her weekly column in the paper was doing well, but her fans wanted something longer, something substantial to hold and to put on their bookshelves. Her agent told her she might as well try, so she’d come up with a name for her book: “The Year of Dates.” Her agent was skeptical about the name, but he liked the concept.

Now Julie was on her fifty-second date (although the first with this man) after which she could finally finish the book. She breathed a sigh of relief as she walked through the restaurant, a smile fixed rigidly on her face, and thought about how she could spend next Saturday evening alone for the first time in a year.

“Julie?” the man in the checkered shirt had gotten up abruptly as she approached his table. He had a bit of a stoop, and he looked uncomfortable in his own skin.

“Yes,” she continued smiling. “Pete, right?”

“Yes.” He sat down almost violently, as if punishing his chair for something. Julie fought the urge to raise her eyebrows and sat down as well.

“So…” she tried. She dropped the smile, felt her jaw muscles relax and leaned back in her chair. She had already decided that she had enough material for her book already, and that she was only going on this date so as to come full circle and finish the thing properly. Still, there was no reason to make much of an effort.

“I’m married,” Pete said abruptly. He gave a small, sniffling laugh at Julie’s expression. “Well, still married that is. I’m going to get a divorce, of course.” His accent was strange, not New York or Boston, but also definitely not California. Julie couldn’t place it.

“Oh,” she said politely. “Been separated long?”

“No, well, yes, of course. I don’t know. After twenty years of marriage is six months a long time?” The last half of the sentence was muttered and Julie had to concentrate rather harder than she wanted to in order to understand him.

“I don’t know,” she said hesitantly. “I suppose that’s not very long at all. Not after twenty years.”

Pete stared at her intently before dropping his gaze and shifting positions in his chair. He seemed to have a breathing problem (was he asthmatic?) that made him sound like he was snorting with every intake of air. Julie didn’t find this attractive in the least.

The rest of the evening seemed to take its cue from the way the first minute of their conversation had gone. They spoke haltingly, uncomfortably, and of disconnected subjects. Pete’s eyes seemed to burn with fiery passion when he spoke of films of which Julie had never heard. He mumbled and became awkward when she tried to ask him about his personal life. All in all, Julie felt the evening was a failure.

“Can you believe I’ve been on twenty-five of these things?” Pete asked as they split the bill (Julie only let the men she’d enjoyed spending time with pay for her meals.)

“What things?” she asked distractedly, trying to calculate the tip. Math wasn’t her strong point and she was focusing quite intensely when Pete’s next sentence caught her off-guard.

“Twenty-five blind dates,” he said. He snorted and went on. “One a week since my cupcake moved out. Crazy, eh? My head’s not quite right these days.”

Julie looked at him and wondered if she could have heard right. So there was someone else as mad as she was wandering around? A date every week for months on end? With a different person every single time?! Nobody, she thought, in their right minds would do that.

“Do you want to go out again?” she asked abruptly, surprising herself. Pete looked surprised too, and Julie could tell that he’d never been asked that question in all those dates. She could sympathize with the other women – he wasn’t a very good conversationalist and seemed a bit odd – but for some reason, she suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing him again. It was as if his own brand of unique madness made her feel a little less crazy herself. “Not on Saturday, though,” she added quickly. “We can go out on Friday.”

“Alright,” he said. “Sure, yeah.”

They parted chastely in the parking lot, shaking hands rather than bumping cheeks. Pete walked to his car with an odd, off-balance gait, and Julie unlocked her own car and watched him go. She felt repulsed by him, but also fascinated. Maybe, and a bit of a grin began to form on her face as she thought this, maybe she’d just found the subject of her next book.

 

 

A Personal Ad

On the grandest of summer days, beneath a willow tree in the beautiful park that I can see from my bedroom window, I met my true love.

Wait, no, that was only the stupid plot of some sappy romance novel I read a while ago.

Truth is, I’ve never met my true love. How can I, with my line of work, my bad hours, and worst of all, my bad hair? No one could be attracted to this hair, that’s for sure. Sadly, it’s part of the job description.

Nowhere in my very extensive memory can I remember wanting to do what I do. Sure, I was smart. I loved watching all those television shows with chemistry sets and experiments. Yes, I got straight As in elementary, then high school. Of course I got into the best school there could be. But nope, I don’t think I ever really thought that I’d be applying for a post as “Mad Scientist, Female.”

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not really a mad scientist. I wish! No, I’m only playing one at the Museum of Scientific History and Literature. It’s an odd place, to be sure. They have all these different characters here, some playing cliches like me – there’s a Frankenstein plus monster, of course – and some taking on the parts of historical figures like Galileo or the Curies. Me? I was fired from my grown-up job at the Modern Science Research Center because of “budget cuts.”

With student loans I still haven’t paid off, rent and utilities due every month, and one mean landlord, I had no choice but to get a job as quickly as I could. So here I am, working at the weirdest museum known to mankind: we’re open between 10am to 5pm, and then from midnight to 5am; we have an Einstein who’s got worse hair than I have and a horribly false German accent; drunk science geeks traipsing around in the middle of the night; and finally, to take the cake, a huge fake library with bookshelves bearing fake cardboard books. What’s with the library? As the sign says when you enter: WE’VE CATALOGUED ALL SCIENCE-ORIENTED NOVELS SO THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO! People are supposed to walk around and write down titles of books and then see if our amazingly understocked bookstore and gift shop happen to have them. They usually don’t. We get lots of complaints.

But it pays alright, and I’m applying for jobs during every spare moment I have. Oh, the hair thing? Well, it’s a wig, obviously, but it doesn’t agree with my real hair, and so my dull brunette mop is matted and disgusting after every time I put that stupid fake tangle on top of it. The woes of the young and… employed?

I know I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. But not having a steady boyfriend since high-school has started to wear on me. During college I was stuck in my books, during my summers I interned everywhere that would take me, and after I graduated I was lucky enough to get a job at the Research Center. Working there for another four years has gotten me to the age of twenty-six without having kissed anyone since I was seventeen. Okay, that’s a lie, there have been encounters here and there, but I’m pretty ashamed and revolted with all of them, so I try to pretend that they haven’t happened.

Yes, people, even science geeks have needs, you know!

The point is, I really would like, for once, to meet someone who isn’t a) a smoker; b) an alcoholic and c) a complete idiot. Is that really so much to ask for? Apparently it is. But don’t they say that intelligent women intimidate men? Well, I seem to have scared all of them away – although I think the ones I dated were all much too dumb to have recognized me as being super-smart anyway.

No, excuse me, I’m not blowing my own horn, I’m simply stating a fact. I’m smart. I have powerful deductive skills, I grasp new concepts quickly, and if I don’t understand something then I’ll work at it until I do. I also have very small and steady hands which are an asset when you’re working in a lab.

So here I am, ready to break through all the barriers and say that Gertrude Jenkins, twenty-six years old, five-two and one hundred and ten pounds, is looking for a date. Not true love, so don’t get freaked. A good date will do just fine to start with.

[IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT gertrude_j CLICK HERE]

Lucy’s Diary, May 16th

For those who don’t know, Alex and I are slowly playing a little game with these entries. His most recent entry, which this entry follows quite immediately, is here: http://crystalgeek.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/journal-part-ii/

May 16th, 2008, Morning, “Larry’s Diner”

Dear Diary,

I cannot believe that I haven’t had time to write in you until now. As a confidante, you haven’t been much use yet, but don’t fret, dear, you will get to know more than enough now.

Life at P&S is… let us say, fast paced. My mind has been taxed in every area possible, and I believe that instead of getting fuller, it is rather emptying out a bit of its intelligence as the days go by and I learn to conform myself to the strict policy of “no opinions allowed,” the general policy of the teachers here. There are a couple who seem willing to hear us speak with a tone of voice other than a flat, learned-by-heart drone, but those two – the literature teacher and, surprisingly, the biology teacher – are the only ones. Every other subject seems to be taught by rote and meant to be learned in no other way.

This, of course, is frustrating enough. What is even worse than my studies is, unsurprisingly, the general company that I am forced to keep. Peggy, Sophie and Maria – the infamous roommates from HELL – are all so concerned about sneaking razors into the bathrooms to shave their legs that they never realize that they have more than three brain cells at their disposal if they’d want them. I’m sure that with time my brain will melt as well and I will only worry about how to sneak cheap lip-gloss from the pharmacy past the teachers and into the school on our afternoons off – but for now, forgive me, Diary, if I still try to find some use for my poor brain.

The library here is fantastic, which is my only comfort. Oh, that is not to say that I don’t play along with the other girls – I do, because there is no choice – but whenever I’m doing my homework I tend to dawdle for a while after the others have given up, so as to sit in one of the comfy armchairs and read a bit.

You are now wondering, dearest and only friend, what I am doing in a diner on a morning such as this? Well, the truth is that I really shouldn’t be here. But you already guessed that, didn’t you? It’s not as bad as you think though, dearest. We’re allowed out Sunday mornings into the small, dreary town. Sophie and Maria were off to the arcade to look for James Dean types and Peggy and her friend Sue went to the pharmacy to score some more makeup. I decided to give them all the slip, and I came here to treat myself to some pancakes and maple syrup. I must say that the diner is a cozy place, and I’m enjoying the silence immensely. It is hard to be surrounded by incessant chatter all day long without a moment’s reprieve.

Diary, I have just noticed something rather odd. How very strange! There is a young man, very thin, with dark hair and dark clothing, who is sitting at another table – I believe he was on the flight with me! What a strange coincidence, to see him here. Who could want to come to a miserable little place like this? Diary, he is eating pancakes as well, and he looks tired to the bone, as if he were up half the night. He keeps forgetting to take bites though, because he’s on his cell phone, trying to understand someone’s directions to a place called “Gaitec’s Reach.” Silly man, he seems quite distraught – in a good looking sort of way.

Ah, well, I suppose I should order the bill and head back to the girls now… I’ll ask them what Gaitec’s Reach is, though, because it is such a rare, romantic sort of name that I’m quite curious!

I hope to be more diligent about our sessions from now on. I cannot promise a thing though, because I’m still trying to catch up on my studies.

Much love to you, Diary!

As ever,

Lucy

P.S. I talked to my wicked cousin, She-Who-Sent-Me-Here, and I conclude that she’s enjoying the silence of her big, empty house just fine. She says she’s glad of getting me away from all the “bad influences that those little friends of yours were” and that she’s “pleased at your progress in your studies – your teachers send me weekly reports, you see.” Thank goodness I managed to hide my belly-button ring from her, or I’d have lost the only thing I like about my appearance now!