For serial non-daters like Daniel, the first date was the ultimate bridge between theory and practice. He was old enough to know that movie romance existed in only small dosages. He liked to chime in on conversations about dating and relationships, glossing over the fact that he’s done neither. He almost always had something smart to say, some insightful comment that made people go “Hmmmm” or “That’s right” or his favorite, “That’s sooooo true! I never thought of it that way!”
He developed quite a reputation for this. His guy friends would come to him for advice about women and his girl friends would ask him about how guys work. Daniel had all the answers.
Still, he conceptualized more than he actually dated. He was quite proud of his perfect record, 0 for 0, and though that’s a statistical zero, it was better than being in the red: the dogs, playboys, cheaters, and horny motherfuckers who gave gentleman like him a bad name.
Think of his celibacy as a fierce defense of this zero. He maintained the purity of his love life like an acre patch of new fallen snow, untouched and pristine. Alison stepped into it with her perfect little feet, maintaining the symmetry of the scene by taking measured, plish-plosh steps toward the center. He met her there.
Almost immediately, Daniel knew that he had nothing in common with her. No talking points, no shared interests, no sense of humor. But she was the prettiest girl who ever showed interest in him and that would be enough to put his immaculate record on the line.
As soon as they sat down, he felt the need to regroup. He retreated to his bathroom sanctuary where he shaped every hair follicle, loosened his tie to signal cool-blue confidence, rinsed the sheen off his face. Every inch of him naturally contrived.
When he felt ready, he returned to the table where she was staring down at her plate.
The tone of his conversation was one of faux confidence. He started with light jokes, pointless observations, and dull questions. She responded by staring blankly at her sushi roll, now fondling it with her chopstick.
In a panic, Daniel moved to more serious talk, remembering how his insights had been so impressive to his friends. He said the following out loud:
“I think we can have something special if we gave it a try. What do you think? I really just want to keep things light and simple and fun. Nothing heavy. Just dates to see how things go because I think it can be great. Just fun and light, you know? I know you’re used to seeing me in a certain way, but I have feelings for you and I guess the question is if you have feelings for me too. Because if you do, then we should just give it a shot, because we won’t really know what’s going to happen in the future. We can just have fun and take things as they come. Do you have feelings for me?”
She continued to look down and avert his eyes. After a deafening silence, her lips opened slightly, as if to speak. But then, she thought better of it and shook her head ‘no’ instead.
Daniel kept it light:
“What if I told you that I don’t believe you?” He giggled. “I think you do just a little right? I know it’s a little weird right now, but if we just got over it, I think it’ll be a lot of fun. We can just watch movies and hang out. Nothing serious at all. Just light and taking it easy. Dating, you know?”
Sensing an opportunity, Daniel reached over the table to brush a wisp of her hair back behind her ear. It was supposed to be a tender gesture, one he saw in a movie somewhere. Instead, she twitched and he ended up poking her in the eye, dislodging her contact lens. The winning move ended up being his death knell, and for all intents and purposes, the date was over.
Her sushi roll was still on her plate, warm now and inedible. Facetiously, he asked her if she had room for dessert.
It was her first words of the night.
He paid the bill and they walked out together. To save face, he made one last joke about a dog across the street. She smiled politely but didn’t laugh.
He hugged her goodbye and stood silently as she walked away, a trail of muddy foot tracks left in her wake.
0 for 1.
For Make Room for More, see Jessica J.