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.

Curtains and Loud Curtsies

The curtains were drab, dyed a dark, oppressive brown that hurt Miranda’s eyes as she took in the room. The bedstead was plain and the lamps dull, but it was the curtains that made the whole of the room so depressing. Miranda imagined how cheerful the room could be made to look if only the curtains were yellow, but the brown ones were so undeniably present that she gave up trying to make herself feel better, and sat on the bed with a heavy sigh.

There was a soft scuttling sort of sound inside the wall that made her cringe. Mice and rats and spiders and filth, she thought acidly. She was about to cry out, but the maid entered her room without knocking at that very moment.

The girl was as neglected as the small inn. Her apron was singed in places and her little white cap was askew and rather grayer than it should be. Her face was still fresh and young but there was no rosy tint to her cheeks nor a bright glint to her eyes. She looked defeated and tired, as if she were up since dawn and wouldn’t be abed until the small hours of the night. Miranda looked at her with distaste, feeling that maids ought not to look like this.

“Please knock in future,” she said coldly to the girl.

“Pardon me, mum, didn’t mean no disrespect, mum,” the girl curtsied nervously, knees cracking and elbows sticking out awkwardly. She didn’t sound very sincere, but rather tired. “What can I do for ya, mum?”

“My baggage is in the carriage downstairs, as you no doubt saw already. I’d like someone to bring it up. I won’t have it left in the stables for anyone to rob. When is a meal served in this… establishment?” Miranda asked haughtily.

The maid lowered her eyes before answering. She didn’t want the grand lady on the bed to see that her eyes were prickling with tears of shame. “Ya just missed dinner, mum, but tea’s at four and supper’s at six. O’clock,” she added hastily.

“Good, so there is someone civilized here,” Miranda nodded approvingly. She felt that tea should always be at four o’clock and supper should always be served promptly at six. However, she’d lately stayed at rather nicer and more modern – she winced mentally at the word – hotels where they served tea at five and supper at seven. She supposed this inn may have once been a fine place but that it had gone to the dogs when the larger and smoother road had been built a few miles away.

As the maid curtsied loudly again and left the room, Miranda stared at the ugly curtains and reflected on her bad luck. It was no use – she would have to ask her husband to spend the money they’d been saving, and build a road between their estate and the main road to London. She was tired of taking this small, pathetic byway. Every time she visited her sister in London she feared that the carriage wheels would get stuck in the seemingly ever-present mud, and this time it finally happened. Her driver was downstairs, probably getting drunk already. He’d promised that the wheel would be fixed by tomorrow and that she’d be able to get home. It was lucky, he kept telling her, that they broke down near the old inn and that she would have a warm place to sleep that night. Miranda had solidly ignored him, as she often did.

She checked to see if the door to her room had a lock. Thankfully it did, and so she felt able to take off her outer clothed and wash her face and hands in the basin in the privy that lay behind a not-so-discreet door. She touched the handle gingerly and went in. The water in the basin looked and smelled stagnant. She sighed heavily and put her face in her hands. So, she thought to herself, nothing is to go right for me today.

Bad Hair Day

I have never paid much attention to my hair. I’ve tried, time after time, to care. I’ve tried arranging it in different styles, I’ve tried dying pieces of it to see if my old love of black hair would resonate on my own, I’ve tried to muster up the courage to cut it into some completely different and new shape. But no, none of it’s worked.

My hair is long, right down my back. I’m told that it’s a blessing that it’s so straight and thick, although personally I just feel that it’s rather dull. I’ve been told that I’m anything from blond to a redhead, but yet when I look at it I see a very normal, dull shade of light brown and nothing more. No matter, though. I truly don’t care about it enough.

My default hair-style is a ponytail, tight as can be, so that I don’t feel it tickling my neck or shoulders and so it doesn’t get in my face. Sometimes, when I take the scrunchy off at night, my hair retains some of that pony-tail shape, giving the hair going down my back a funny little dent in it where it had been restrained all day.

For all that, I can’t cut it. I have dreams of getting a cool new haircut, shorter than it’s been since I was just a tiny tot, but nothing ever comes of them. I’m scared of the change, I suppose. Still, even though I find my hair to be rather dull, I’m blessed with never having had a bad hair-day. Day started on the wrong foot? I’ve got those. Days where I seem even clumsier than usual? Got those, too. Days where I just wake up and think something’s absolutely wrong with my life and the world? Yup, those are around as well. Day where I wake up and think about my hair being problematic? Nah. Not at all.

A Monarch’s Responsibilities

History is a vast and incomprehensible mystery to me in many ways. We have facts about things that have happened in the past – we have dates, records of events, paintings reproducing the faces involved in those events, poems and diaries devoted to giving opinions and preserving what happened in a biased manner. We have all these things. Mystery, to some people, seems like a wide-open book, its contents there for us to look through, sift for what interests us, and indulge ourselves in knowledge of old.

I don’t feel this way. In my opinion, history is full of so much that we don’t know and so much that I wish I could know. True, we know when Martin Luther began to speak and write about his emotions about being a monk and part of the Catholic Church. In his instance, we can find quite a lot of emotional and sentimental writings from his own pen, or maybe quill, and we can see into his mind, as far as he lets us.

But what about others? What about the farmers and the spinners and the dye-makers that England had in such profusion in the sixteenth century? What were the children running barefoot through the streets of London, so much smaller than it is today, thinking? What games were they playing? What was the man smuggling illegal documents from Europe into the English Empire thinking as he worked? Was he scared for his life or merely waiting to get paid so he could go home to his wife and child? What were the nuns, sequestered in their cloisters, talking about? How did they speak to their young students, and how did they infuse them with a love and a belief for the divine? Through fear? Through love? Through simply offering worship as a fact of life?

And if these so-called simple people’s lives aren’t interesting enough for historians to dwell on – well then, what about the monarchs? How could Henry VIII hold such power in his hands and play with it so lightly at times? What did Katherine of Aragon feel as she was condemned? We can guess, surely, but how can we know? What of Elizabeth? How did she feel when she was sought after for marriage through the years? Did she decide on her own to remain a single ruler in order to maintain a stable throne? Did she, perhaps, not find men pleasing in the manner she would have been expected to? Had she fallen in love with someone who never returned her love or never could?

It’s bad enough, thinking of the power that politicians and governments hold today. At least it’s distributed power, and is more or less given by the people. But monarchs… They were born. Some of them believed they were chosen by divinity to be kings or queens. They held so much power in their cupped hands, that they’d let some of it run through their fingers to those sitting at their feet, just waiting for a pearl or jewel to drop from those mighty hands. I can’t imagine how such responsibility could be held without driving the holder mad with indecision, worry, guilt. Such are the things that the annals of history can’t reveal to us. Thoughts, emotions, private sighs of elation or grief.

The Businessman

The Businessman sat at the same restaurant every day during his lunch break. Every day was the same for The Businessman, and one of his few joys was ordering a different thing for lunch every day. He would take the specials each day, and if the specials contained something he absolutely hated or was allergic to, he would take one his favorite regular dishes. In this way, he managed to keep the favorites special, and he never got sick of them.

The Businessman had the same routine at the restaurant every day. First, he would find a table outside. Rain or shine, he had to sit outside. If there were no tables available, which happened sometimes during tourist season, he would wait. The waiters, the servers, even the manager knew him, and they always managed to find him a seat quickly. Once he found a suitable table, he would sit down and reach into his bag. He had a worn black leather briefcase, one that looked dignified but not stuffy and too new. He would take three things out of his bag at first.

The first was a bag of tobacco. The second was a box of rolling papers. The third was a lighter. Until the waiters came over – and indeed, the waiters knew not to come over until this ritual was over or they would need to deal with a very flustered man – he would meticulously roll himself three cigarettes. He would smoke one before the meal, the second after the meal, and the third after his post-meal coffee. He felt that rolling his own cigarettes was the one roguish behavior that he’d kept from his college days when he’d been wild and carefree.

The Businessman considered himself to be rather homely. He didn’t think he had particularly interesting features, and he knew that he blended in with the endless flow of suited men in their late forties. He didn’t realize that his eyes were a beautiful and rare light blue. He didn’t seem to notice the fact that he cut a fine figure. He wasn’t entirely aware of the fact that his face, lined as it was, was full of character and intelligence. He only saw himself as The Businessman, a man who knew and understood his trade but couldn’t explain what he did to others very well. Because of this, he was convinced that he was boring.

The Businessman ordered a different thing every day at the restaurant. He hoped that one day he would take a last meal there, shake the waiters’ and the servers’ and the manager’s hands goodbye, and turn his back. He hoped he would have the opportunity and the courage to go somewhere different one day and leave the business district forever. He hoped.

Taking Off

Reader, beware! Following is something that very closely resembles a regular, boring, dull and dreary diary entry by yours truly [if yours truly kept a regular diary.] This is due to weariness of mind and very little time in which to write. Your forgiveness and patience are asked for. Thank you.

Well, it’s April 9th, and at 11:35PM Jerusalem Time, I will be taking off from the state of Israel and beginning the long journey to the United States of America to commence my two week trip of seeing universities and colleges. My excitement is currently a tight ball somewhere on the inside of my ribcage, and is being pushed back by the necessity of keeping my head as I go about the last check-ups of luggage, carry-on bags, and house.

In less than one hour, my mother and I will be entering a taxi with all our baggage and making our way to the airport, where the usual boring routine will commence: check-in, security, passport, one-more-coffee-and-then-bathroom stop, and then finally, the Ritual of Boarding the Airplane.

I am carrying with me a few good Terry Pratchett novels, my notebooks for writing in, my beloved IPod to soothe me and lull me to sleep and a variety of necessities.

Hopefully, I will be able to blog regularly on my trip and perhaps, if I feel it is interesting enough, even tell you anecdotes about my travels.

When the Chamsin Breaks

Israel is a strange country when it comes to weather. A tropical country, some might say – all I know is that it’s mad-as-a-hatter weather over here. Near the ocean, where I live, it could be hotter than hell, but up in the hills of Jerusalem it’ll be cool at night, the desert not far from those hills will be even cooler, the mountain in the North will be covered in snow and the border in the South will be even warmer than the ocean but dry.

Yesterday and today we had what is called a “chamsin” here on the coast. A chamsin is a few days when the weather is perceptibly hotter than normal, usually quite dry, with sandy winds that blow dust into the houses. Everyone leaves their windows open in the hope of coaxing a non-existent breeze in, and the wardrobe changes appropriately to tank tops, shorts and sandals. In Los Angeles, this weather would be called “earthquake weather” because there is an unsettling quality to it – all day, it feels as if something is about to snap, as if the air cannot stand any more of the still and silent electricity that seems to crackle in it.

Then evening comes along. The first evening of a chamsin might be just as hot and horrid as the day was. The second night might be the same, making people toss and turn in their sweat-soaked sheets as they try to rest. But eventually, the chamsin breaks, as it did tonight. When it does, it’s as if the world breathes a sigh of relief – there, feel that breeze? It’s over, at least for a few more hours. There’s air that doesn’t sting anymore, the windows are open for a reason now, and you can finally get some sleep.