by Robert Waltz
A date to remember, or try to forget?
I looked up from my drink. After a time, I managed to focus on the guy who spoke. Tall. Black hair. Wisp of a goatee. Ah, yes… Dave. “Hey, Dave.”
“What the hell’re you doing here, man? I thought you had a date!” Without an invitation, Dave sat next to me. I turned back to my drink.
“I did,” I said. “And now I’m here.”
I signaled the bartender, but Dave got to her before I did. “Two more of what he’s having,” he said. Turning back to me, he went on talking about the date. “So what happened? Either you got some real fast, or you didn’t get any.”
“Dude,” I said. “It wasn’t like that. She…” The cute bartender set drinks in front of us. I looked at mine. I’d forgotten what I was drinking. “What is this?” I asked the twin bartenders. I mean, bartender.
“Your last one,” she replied, walking away.
David guffawed; I winced and looked at him. “’Laugh it up, fuzzball,’” I quoted, which sent him into more hysterics. Star Wars quotes were practically guaranteed to get him going.
I nursed my drink and ignored him while he calmed down. Finally, he took a sip and grimaced. “What is this?” he asked, pulling a face.
“Dude, you need me to drive you home?”
“Dude,” he said again, annoying me further, “what the hell happened? Did she dump you?”
“Nah, nothing like that.” I finished my drink and pulled out my wallet. Dave put his hand over the billfold and got his own out, once more signaling the bartender. I didn’t resist. “She was… perfect,” I said.
“Dude,” he said, drawing it out this time.
“Would you stop calling me that, man?”
“Dude, I’m buying your drinks.”
I nodded, acknowledging the wisdom of his remarks. After a moment, I went on. “Well, she was perfect, until about halfway through dinner… it was the weirdest thing.”
“What?” The bartender handed him the bill. “What?” he repeated, this time to the printout.
I ignored him. “She started talking about snakes.”
“Snakes, huh? Look, dude, about this check…”
“I mean,” I went on, repocketing my wallet, “every time I tried to talk about, like, books, or movies, or even TV, or whatever, she found some way to relate it to snakes.”
“Um, Rob, could you, um…” he gestured towards my now inaccessible wallet.
“’Read any good books?’ I asked her. ‘Yeah!’ she gushed. ‘I read this really interesting one about this snake…’ Later, I was like, ‘I went to see Mission Impossible with my buddy Dave the other day,’ and she was like, ‘Cool! The last time I saw a movie, there was a snake in the theatre. Boy, did people flip out!’”
“Aw, fuck it,” muttered Dave, handing the bartender his credit card. Smiling, she ran it through the machine.
I tried not to laugh, and almost succeeded, snickering behind my hand. “Yeah,” I said, by way of covering it up. “Snakes.”
“Chick was into snakes, then?” asked Dave, though he was now looking around, not really listening.
“Yep,” I said. “Snakes.”
“So that’s why you’re in here instead of getting some?” Dave got the credit slip back. “Dude, could you at least leave the tip?”
I pulled my wallet back out. “Sure, how much?”
“Forty bucks,” he said.
I managed to pull out a couple of yuppie food stamps. He signed the slip and helped me to my feet, leading me through the nearly-empty bar towards the exit. “Nah,” I said, while the bar weaved around us, “I figured I could deal with snakes. So she asked me up for a drink, and I was like, ‘Okay,’ thinking I was going to score, right?”
Dave opened the door and led me out into the chill night. “Right,” he agreed. “But she had snakes in her living room, then?”
“Well, no,” I said, stopping. He paused and looked at me. I focused on his face, watching the shadows flit across it from the headlights. “It was full of Hello Kitty merk- um, mercher- michand- full of Hello Kitty stuff.”
“No!” Dave grinned widely.
“Yep.” I let him lead me on to his car. “Lampshades, cushions, placemats… even a Hello Kitty rug. Snakes, I could deal with. Hello Kitty? Man, that’s just whacked.”
“I hear ya, dude,” said Dave, beeping open his Honda. “I hear ya.”
Author's Note: "First Date"