In Which I Attempt a Date

Well, dear readers, it was bound to happen eventually: I actually went on a date last week. And you’ll be happy to hear that it was on every level an absolutely insane and embarrassing failure…not because you’re rooting for my continued loneliness (though you may be, I don’t know), but because it makes for a really entertaining story.

I met this fellow (let’s call him “Patrick”) while waiting for the G-train late one night. I was too tired to read anything and didn’t have my headphones with me. He made eye contact and I cut him dead with a glare, as is my habit. But he came over and started talking to me anyway, and well, he was really, really good-looking. So I gave him my card.

After the usual three-to-four day waiting period, Patrick called, and we agreed to meet up in the Village for dinner. He explained that he had to pick something up at 7:15p.m. around Washington Square Park?

I said that was fine, and then he said (and I thought this was really odd at the time), ‘Hey, wear pants, alright? Not, like, a skirt or anything.’

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Are we going bowling or something?’

‘Uh, did you want to?’ he asked. ‘I mean, I thought we’d just grab a bite and maybe-‘

‘Oh, yeah,’ I said. ‘No, I just thought, because you said to wear pants that-‘

‘That we were going bowling! That’s hilarious – do you always bowl when you wear pants?’ he laughed (a lot). ‘You’re so funny!’

‘Well,’ I said. ‘Why did you-‘

‘So, I’ll see you then, then, in your bowling pants!’ he said, and rung off.

So, okay, whatever. People are strange.

Anyway, the big date night arrived, and I went down to the park (wearing my usual jeans), and soon Patrick arrived. He was still really good-looking. And he was carrying a small cage with a guinea pig in it.

‘Hi,’ he said.

‘Hi,’ I said. ‘What’s with the guinea pig?’

‘Well, this is what I had to pick up,’ he explained. ‘I did some work for this friend of mine, I, uh, I built this really piece of furniture for him, you know, and so then – get this – I get done, and he’s like, oh, I don’t have any money to pay you. But he just got this guinea pig? And I don’t know, I was just like, well, I’ll take the guinea pig. Because I’ve been wanting a pet, but I don’t have a lot of space. I’ll have to get a bigger cage for him, though. I sort of wonder…do you think they kill mice?’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘He’s cute. What are you going to name him?’

‘I’m thinking Palin,’ he said.

‘Topical,’ I said. I then told Patrick about how I knew this guy in Tennessee who raised guinea pigs and had cage after cage of them in his garage, and took them to guinea pig shows and so forth. And that there’s a guinea pig transport system, where if you live in South Carolina and you buy a purebred guinea pig from Seattle, there are people signed up in every state that will drive the guinea pig along to you, like a sort of pony express for guinea pigs.

‘I don’t believe you,’ said Patrick.

‘It’s true,’ I said.

‘I think you’re making up stories, and honestly, if you are, you should just stop it, because I’m about just being real.’

This was sort of funny, because I really do make up stories sometimes when I’m talking to strangers I don’t think I’ll see again (say, at a party…although sometimes I do end up seeing them again, often, and then it’s awkward because the lie has to be kept up forever), but this was actually true – I do know a bit about guinea pigs. I sort of apologized and changed the subject, and then we went back and forth on where to eat, and Patrick suggested Red Bamboo, which is this vegetarian place that I’d been to before and was agreeable to. When we got there, we had some issues with the guinea pig at the door. The hostess wasn’t sure we could bring Palin in, since Palin is basically a rodent, but after Patrick promised to keep the cage discreetly under his chair with his jacket over it, she said it was probably fine.

‘So,’ I said, as we looked at the menus. ‘Are you a vegetarian?’

‘No,’ said Patrick. ‘But I tend to…what I do is, I’ll like pick a color? And then for a week, I have to only eat things that are that color. So, this week, I’m only eating black things. So, I’m thinking I’ll get this black bean ginger stir-fry, but I have to check and make sure it really looks mostly black.’

Now, a lot of you may be thinking, ‘Freak!’ But I actually have really weird eating habits myself (Clif bars, anyone?), so I’m sort of understanding about this type of compulsive behavior. And additionally, I had once flipped through this book at Barnes & Noble about challenging your brain every day a little bit to keep sharp and stave off Alzheimer’s, and it basically said that you had to always be looking for ways to break your routine in non-routine ways so your brain doesn’t just go into habitual autopilot, and one of the specific suggestions it gave for doing this was to make a new eating rule every week, like maybe just pick a certain color and only eat things that were that color for a week. So, I figured Patrick had read this book.

‘Did you get that idea from a book about keeping your brain entertained?’ I asked.

‘What?’

‘Um, eating all things of one color,’ I said. ‘Did you read to do that in a book about how to keep surprising your brain, so that-‘

‘-It’s got nothing to do with my brain,’ said Patrick. ‘It’s about my body. I figure you should only ask your body to break down a certain kind of compound at one time, you know?’

This was a really bad sign, as I have no patience whatsoever when people start spouting this kind of bullshit, so I quickly changed the subject, and the conversation was more or less okay until the server came to take our order.

‘Is the black bean stir fry black?’ asked Patrick.

‘Well,’ she said. ‘It’s black beans, yes.’

‘But is it black-colored? Like, if I looked at the plate, does everything look black?’

‘Um,’ she said. ‘It’s in a black-bean glaze, but it’s all vegetables, but it’s…’

‘Is it mostly dark?’

‘I guess.’

He sighed heavily. ‘But is it- you know what, forget it, I’ll just get a double order of the black rice, and black beans, and a chocolate milkshake.’

Seriously.

So, fine, you know what? I got a gigantic dessert for my meal. Because I am always wanting to get dessert for dinner, but I always figure people will give me shit about it. But at this point, Patrick sure couldn’t say anything about it, so I got a slice of peanut butter tandy heaven cake with a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

‘That’s disgusting,’ said Patrick.

‘I’m only eating desserts this week,’ I replied, and stared him down.

At this point, I’ll admit, I was actually kind of thinking Patrick and I might be perfect for each other. I began to think it might be quite freeing to be with someone so much more eccentric than I am that I could just give total free reign to my own eccentricities. I imagined how being weird in a pair in public would be far more comfortable than being weird alone, and you know, actually, I could probably kick it up a notch and be even weirder if I had a partner who could act as a buffer. It might be really fun. And the conversation was going along just fine, the food came, all was well. And then…

We got to talking about our favorite authors, and I mentioned how upset I had been that David Foster Wallace just died.

‘Oh, me too!’ agreed Patrick.

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘In fact, I have to say, I kind of cried when I read that-‘

Me too!‘ screamed Patrick, and he burst into tears. I shit you not. Right there at the table, out of nowhere – and we’re talking giant, chest-heaving, gape-mouthed, wrenching sobs. I mean, he was screaming. Everybody in the entire restaurant went dead silent and turned and stared at us. I was mortified. I didn’t know what to do. It seemed like that moment went on and on for hours, for days. Patrick just bawled his head off – he didn’t even put his hands over his face, he just stared straight ahead with his mouth wide open and howled – and everybody stared at us, and I was so humiliated I wanted to drop through the floor…and then I started to laugh. I kept picturing the scene from the outside, as if it were in a story, the way it looks now as I’m blogging it, and it was just so damn hilarious that I went into a sort of hysterical, giggling anxiety fit and couldn’t stop. Patrick sobbed, and I brayed with laughter, and we sat there over our insane dinners with the guinea pig scrabbling around under Patrick’s chair, and I feared we’d be frozen there in that demented tableau for all eternity.

What eventually happened was the manger came over to ask if we were okay, and we both said that we were fine, and he suggested that we might be happier the hell out of his restaurant, so we paid (well, I paid – Patrick apparently had forgotten to go by an ATM), and got out of there as quickly as possible.

‘Do you want to come with me to shop for guinea pig stuff?’ asked Patrick, who had more or less gotten himself together, but had not apologized for his mad behavior.

‘I should probably head home,’ I said. ‘I have to be up early tomorrow.’

And then, even though I knew I should leave it alone, I just had to ask:  ‘Patrick,’ I said. ‘Why did you tell me to wear pants?’

‘What?’ he said.

‘On the phone, you said I should wear pants. Why?’

‘Look,’ he said, looking pissed off. ‘I move slowly, okay? I’m a slow-moving guy. And I’m honest about myself. And I don’t make any apologies. So, just, you know, I take my time! And I won’t apologize for that.’

I didn’t want to press him further. I went home, and I haven’t heard from him since, about which I’m extremely relieved.

I rarely take a chance on going out with a complete stranger, and sure enough, every time I actually throw caution to the wind, the guy invariably turns out to be a complete psychopath.  My intuition is either hopelessly broken or missing entirely, so perhaps I’m wise to be standoffish.

Elizabeth Bennet’s Missed Connections

To the Foreign Gentleman
(in the newsstand who complimented my bustle this morning):

You and I are similarly of low fortune. While in rare circumstances, a certain charm and affection can make up for a deficiency in income (for a time), in our case, no such affinity exists, and we would surely be as miserable as ever two people could be. I dread the despair into which this missive will surely cast you, but I implore you: bend your thoughts to your daily task, to living virtuously, and to God’s grace, and in time I am certain that you will forget your disappointment, and find some measure of peace and happiness in a life well lived.

Gently,
Elizabeth Bennet

To the Dear Sirs In the Helmets
(at work upon the scaffolding near my residence):

For some months now, you have been engaged in making some renovations to an estate adjoining my own property, and so I have had occasion to pass by you several times daily. Thus frequently tossed together, we have developed a familiarity with each other that perhaps we would not have done, had circumstances not caused it to be so. I cannot say that I regret this turn of events, as your cheery greetings of a morning never fail to bring a smile to my face. However, of late, I have noticed that all of you, dear sirs, do seem to be somewhat competing for my affections. I would not trifle with honest working fellows, so let me be plain: I do so value the friendship of each of you that I could never forsake the dear, genial esteem of all for a closer intimacy with one. I hope that we can carry on as before, feeling for each other the true, deep love of brothers and sister.

Your Neighbor,
Elizabeth Bennet

To the Young Laborer Upon the 6 Train:

I did not mean to appear, all windswept and partially undressed, on the threshold of your subway train. It was the storm, you see. And rude it was indeed of you to heighten a lady’s shame by exposing her to ridicule and unseemly remarks, especially in front of a train car’s worth of strangers. I am no woman of easy virtue. I merely could not afford to secure myself a taxicab. Am I to be subject to such abuse merely because I have not wealth enough to hold myself remote from it? Does it make you high to bring me so low? Would you make sport of a richer woman in this way? Am I not, though poor and undefended, a woman, after all, with a woman’s heart, a woman’s shame? What have I done, sir, to deserve such ill-treatment at your hands? Is my offense merely to be of little fortune, alone and beautiful and subject to the whims of public transportation? I may not be wealthy of purse, but I am proud, sir – proud and honest. I pray that this letter may work some remorse in you, and teach you not to use another woman thusly. However, for myself, I merely hope that our paths never again cross.

Firmly,
Elizabeth Bennet

To the Fellow in the Tavern Friday Last,

Having had some little time to reflect upon our brief tête-à-tête and the unfortunate way in which we parted, I have decided at last that perhaps I was to some extent to blame. I will admit that I had gone into a bawdy place and imbibed too much wine. I was low of spirits and convinced to enter the tavern by a dear friend who, while possessing of a good heart, does not, I am sad to say, always conduct herself with the utmost prudence. I am in charge of my own affairs, however, and ought not to have behaved myself thusly. I had lately been disappointed in a marriage proposal, and perhaps I sought to cure my wounded vanity by attracting admiration from another. A dreadful, wanton way to behave, true, but if you but knew how I had been wounded!

However, it was still my hope, in any event, to attract the attentions of an upstanding and genteel young man of suitable birth and proper comportment. Little did I expect, even in such surroundings, to be so accosted by one who I now cannot but regard as a most debauched and sorry fellow. Furthermore, just because a lady consents to speak privately with a strange gentleman in an alleyway, it does not follow that she is likewise prepared to enter a taxicab with the gentleman and proceed unchapheroned to his private residence! If your black eye did not teach you the truth of this, allow this letter to remove any remaining doubt. And so, while it may indeed have been true, as you so unkindly and repeatedly asserted, that I was in some respect ‘begging for it’ . . . not from you, good sir! Never from you! I would bed an hundred hipsters before I ever stooped so low!

(I do sincerely apologize, however, for becoming ill upon your oxfords. That part of the business was indeed my own fault.)

Scathingly,
Elizabeth Bennet

To the Stockbroker Who Took Me to Dinner
(and bragged about his ventures all night, then stiffed the waiter):

I guess money can’t buy class, you dick.

Decidedly,
Elizabeth Bennet

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