“So, tell me, how was the date?” It’s Jett. He must have radar. He calls the second I walk in the door.
I hold the phone in the crook of my neck as I pop a Lean Cuisine into the microwave. “How do you think? It’s 10 pm on Saturday night and I am home about to Netflix 'Dark Victory.'”
“No, it wasn’t awful, but pretty typical.”
“Where’d you meet this one?”
OK Cupid, as you probably are aware, is another online dating service for the busy singles looking for connections. If you have never taken one of these mate matching quizzes, they are a perplexing series of questions, seemingly unrelated, and all equally weighted. “Do you believe in God?” “Do you like cats?” “Is fidelity in a relationship important to you?” “Do you enjoy soup?” I don’t know of the validity of these inquiries. Personally, I’d take an atheist over a cheating cat lover. You answer these, and about a 100 more, and of course you are careful to use your “best” answers. Why yes, I am conscientious. No, I don’t like people who lie, etc. They take your responses and put them through the hopper, and out comes a list of your matches. Like magic.
Frankly, I think they should have more essays. I loved essays in school, you could basically bullshit your way through anything. For instance, which 'Golden Girl' are you, and why? If I had known my ex was such a Blanche, it may have saved me a bit of heartache down the road, who knows? Tonight’s date was a Rose, no doubt about it.
“Tell me all bout it, details, spare nothing.” I can hear Jett settling into his couch, sipping something with ice. Jett is fatally married to Bernard, so my forays into the world of dating provide theater for him. In earlier days, we all went out on double dates, triple dates, when all of us in the circle were coupled up, but now my canary in the coal mine adventures into the single life are both titillating, and cautionary tale.
The microwave beeps. I burn my hand on the little plastic tray. Peeling back the thin film, the steam rises up with a pungent tang. They have a lot of nerve calling this "Linguine Alfredo." I lean against the counter and twirl a forkful.
“So?” Jett is getting impatient. “Dish.”
“Where do I begin?”
“Where’d you meet him?”
“He said it was his favorite place in Harvard Square.”
“That should have been a red flag right there. no taste. But at least you were close to home.”
“And the margaritas are decent.”
“What did he look like?”
“Not bad, really. Kind of slight, slim, sandy blond. Non threatening.”
“Pretty much.” I blow on the molten lava of pasta.
Paul, my date, was already there, sitting at the bar, even though I was ten minutes early. I like to be the early one, it gives me a chance to settle, check in, check out the place, maybe get a drink. “There you are!” he waved. “I was about to send out the bloodhounds!”
“Am I late?”
“Oh just kidding, can’t you take a joke? Where’s your sense of humor? Come and give me a great big hug!”
I was groped and enveloped in a cloying scent I eventually recognized as Shalimar, a fragrance more associated with my grandmother, now deceased some years, than an evening of conquest.
“Wow! You are so much cuter than your profile picture! I love the beard! Can I touch it? Please?”
He was stroking my facial scruff when the bartender came over. “Cocktails?” she asked.
“Yes, please,” I said.
“So what did you talk about?” Jett swallows a hefty swig of his drink.
“He did most of the talking.”
“Oh, one of those.”
“He talked in exclamation points. He was very emphatic, enthusiastic.”
“Pretty much. Oh, he kept calling the waitstaff "girlfriend." like “OOH girlfriend I love those shoes! You’re so gorgeous, girlfriend!”
“Embarrassing. We don’t say that anymore, no one says that anymore.”
“And twice he told me to ‘Talk to the Hand’.”
About midway through our Cuervo Gold margaritas, while waiting for a chicken quesadilla to arrive (he insisted we split something, “It’s more romantic!”) Paul gave my upper thigh a squeeze. “This is going well, don’t you think? I feel an instant chemistry with you.”
“Maybe it’s the tequila,” I said, deciding to ignore his hand.
“You are so funny! OMG. Laugh riot! I’m being serious, Honey. I really think we could have fun!”
“What do you enjoy doing?”
“Oh, you’ll find out!” he licks the salted rim of his glass and gives me a wink.
“Was there anything good about it?” Jett sighs. I think in his heart he wants a happy ending for me. So do I.
“The drinks were strong.”
“Well that’s something. Sounds like you needed a good buzz to get through it.”
“I had three. The first two I sucked down like lemonade.”
“You must be drunk.”
Paul matched me drink for drink. He got loose, and giddy. His face flushed red. He laughed a lot, and loudly. Then suddenly he got quiet, his hand, now on my shoulder, tightened its grip. “I have a serious question for you.” He looked at me, with mouse like gaze, his eyes bright and timid.
I nodded for him to go ahead.
“What are you looking for? I mean really. Are you looking for just a hook up? I couldn’t deal with that, no way, Jose. That’s two snaps and a bag of chips. No way! I am too special. I want someone to love me, really love me! You know?”
“Well, sure,” I said, not sure what else to say.
“I’m so tired of the game! Aren’t you? Isn’t this lame?”
“You made a rhyme,” I observed.
Jett is in motion. “I gotta scoot soon babe, the husband just came home with Chinese.’
“Ok, I’ll talk to you tomorrow? Tell Bernard I said hello.”
“Ok. So, you going to see him again, Mr. Shalimar?”
“What do you think?”
“Guess not,” Jett sighs again, deeply, still hoping for that happy ending.
So am I.
I left Paul on the corner, after a quick hug. It was snowing. “Nice to meet you, handsome,” he said. “Call me?” he held up his hand to his face like he was holding a little phone, or an empty seashell, with the whispering sound of the ocean inside it.
Norman Belanger is an HIV care nurse by profession. He’s also a writer, by some character flaw to be explored through intensive therapy. A lot of his writing comes from experiences in the LGBT community, but he hopes these pieces will be entertaining to a wider audience as well. Now more than ever, we need to hear each other’s stories. Some of his other works can be found in Aids&Understanding magazine, Sibling Rivalry Press, Red Fez, and Blunderbuss. Follow him @norman_belanger.