She never cared for online dating or apps, the whole ritual reminded her too much of shopping for used cars. Contrived. What’s more, she knew that she’d most likely walk away with a lemon, one that would eventually break down, leaving her on the side of the road, screwed. This was not what she was in the market for. She was a romantic, someone who believed in old fashion courting, the exchange of ideas through books, letters, and music. A dinosaur living in a sea of bearded lemons dressed in flannel and knit caps, she longed to meet another dinosaur like herself.
However, she was bored and frustrated with meeting guys at bars. Yes, bars. You can find love anywhere, she’d tell her nay-saying friends. But if that were true, then why not an app? And thus, by her own twisted logic she convinced herself to defy the very thing she had vowed never to do- go on a date with a guy she had met, on an app.
He was the only guy she had been matched with who was capable of having a conversation. While she appreciated people who were straight forward, one of the things she required of her potential suitors was that their discourse include something more than, hi, how are you, want to grab a drink tomorrow? Sometimes, they’d send the message as if it were one entire word, not even bothering to wait for a response. To her, it reeked of used car. Sadly, it was a smell she had grown quite accustomed to in the past few months, stale desperation. Consequently, anytime she’d pass a lemon on the street or at the grocery store she couldn’t help but feel a tad despondent. They were inescapable. Might as well go get an air freshener now, she thought.
Frankly, she didn’t know which was worse, those who chose to be overt or those who thought they were characters in a harlequin romance novel. Hey, it’s been a long time, an eternity actually. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Hey, let’s be spontaneous tonight. Are you curious and courageous?
For whatever reason, this guy was different. He actually knew how to use words. In fact, they had been exchanging words for a few days. “I’d only go to a baseball game for the people watching,” he told her.
He seems normal, she thought. I should ask him out. How mortifying, that this was now how she went about choosing men. Seems normal.
“We should go people watching sometime, with the help of alcohol,” she suggested.
“As long as you don’t mind me making up back-stories.”
“Oh so you already know how to play. Perfect.”
They agreed to meet at a local beer garden. She stopped inside first to order a pint of liquid courage. Hoping to give herself a final once over, she quickly scanned the bar for a mirror. Unable to find any, she settled for the metal back of the beer taps. Her nose but an inch away from its sleek surface, she peered at her distorted face and saw that her eyeliner had already smudged under her right eye. And this is why I never wear makeup, she sighed. Licking her knuckle she ran it across her skin; one eye now with slightly more makeup, she contented herself. It suited her.
With olive freckled skin and almond eyes she definitely looked mixed, attractive even, in an unconventional way. All the same, she knew she would always be one of those girls. From afar she could pass as someone who’s put together, but up close you knew exactly what she had eaten for lunch based on the stains on her shirt. She didn’t care how she looked and yet she did. Hence how the bartender found her, slumped over the counter, her face curiously close to the taps as she licked herself, asking for courage though what she lacked in that moment was dignity.
She spotted him first, sitting at one of the common picnic tables, and frowned. He wasn’t what she had anticipated. To be fair, the guy in his profile picture had a beard whereas the one sitting in front of her did not. Then again, the guy in the picture was also in black in white. Though she couldn’t say for certain what she had expected, for some reason seeing him there in person, beardless and in color, added another level of unfamiliarity to a situation she had already considered strange.
Courage in hand she made her approach. Like a gentleman he stood up and greeted her with a hug. He was tall, so tall that she had to turn her head in order to avoid planting her face in his armpit. Even so, she found the gesture warm and pleasant.
Once they began talking, the conversation flowed easily enough. She asked him if he knew how to cook. He did. “I make a really good guaquila, guacamole with tequila,” he told her. Naturally, this lead into his other culinary discoveries, mostly other sauces he felt should be mixed with alcohol. He spoke at length about condiments and this impressed her.
As he spoke her focus drifted to his eyes. He has kind eyes. Can’t tell if they’re brown or green? Hazel? Does it matter? Ugh, but those teeth! Wow, I’m shallow. Whatever. He’s probably doing the same thing. I wonder if he thinks I’m attractive. Fuck, what is he saying? Act interested. Smile and don’t say anything, that way he won’t know you weren’t listening and he’ll just think you’re being coy. Nod.
“Trust me, I do not usually talk about condiments for an hour while on first dates.” He was self-deprecating and she found it charming. He was her kind of weird. Even so, she could feel the weight of the word date, and the nonchalant way in which he used it, looming over her. Was this a date? In her mind, it was still too early to tell. She couldn’t be sure she liked him. For all she knew, they’d hit it off and mutually decide they were better off as friends. Or more likely, he’d turn out to be a lemon, whereupon she’d politely sit through one beer, before thanking him for his time with a high five, and never seem him again. Either way, she wasn’t ready to call this a date.
“So yah, I don’t cook very often,” he said, followed by a long pause, cuing her that the monologue on condiments was over, and as was custom in the get-to-know-you dance, it was now her turn to be entertaining.
Whenever she met someone new, she always asked three questions. How do you take your eggs, followed by, how do you eat your steak? While she fully believed people were entitled to their own opinions, she measured a person’s character by their ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, particularly a runny yolk and medium rare meat. Eating is one of my favorite things to do, she’d contend, if we can’t share a meal together, then they are not a person I want to spend time with. What’s more, she was convinced that she was not alone. Whether or not they care to admit it, everyone has their own way of judging a person’s merit. Mine just happens to revolve around food, she’d say.
Much to her surprise, he answered the first two questions perfectly. Now all he had to do was pass the third and final trial, a psychology test she had picked up somewhere, most likely one of those trashy magazines you read while getting a pedicure. Validity aside, she often used it at parties as an anecdote or if on a date, as a way to evaluate how the other person thought. Unlike her first two questions, this was not they type of riddle one wanted to get right.
“So there’s a woman at her mother’s funeral. From across the room she sees a man and immediately she’s convinced, he’s the love of her life. The man she’s supposed to be with. But before she can go over and talk to him or get any information as to who he is, he leaves. So the next day, she kills her sister. Why?”
Without hesitation he answered, “So she can see him again.” She had never heard a person respond so quickly, especially with the right answer.
“Congratulations, you’re a psychopath.”
“Four out of five psychopaths respond the same way you just did.”
“No. Cite your source! It’s the most logical answer given the lack of information. I think if you’d ask anyone else at this bar, they’d give you the same answer.”
“Fine, let’s take a poll,” she suggested and they walked around from table to table, asking random strangers why a woman would kill her sister after her mother’s funeral. With every incorrect answer her smile grew bigger. She loved being right and didn’t feel the need to do so with humility. Finally, after 5 unwitting participants failed the test, the pair chose another spot to sit and talk.
“Try not to beat yourself up about it,” she playfully reassured him. “Who knows, maybe you’re the one out of five who’s not a psychopath but just really smart. Or it could just be that you’re an engineer. I’ve gone out with a lot of engineers recently and all of them got it right too.”
“Oh, so you date a lot of engineers?” he replied smugly. There was that word again. Date. Why did it make her so nervous when he used it?
“That or I really like psychopaths,” she quipped.
They continued to talk and after a while she felt nature calling. Wanting to be polite, she decided to wait until the conversation hit a lull. So she waited, and waited, but to her dismay, they had great banter. And then she felt it, chemistry. She couldn’t remember what he had said or why, but that he had smirked when he did. In that moment, a tiny part of her felt drawn to him. When she looked at him, he seemed more attractive. His jokes were slightly funnier, his behavior, more dinosaur like. Suddenly, she became much more receptive to considering this a date.
Lamentably, her bladder was still full. Unable to hold it any longer she leaned forward onto the table and started to get up, as did he. “I have to use the bathroom,” he said.
“Me too,” she replied. “You go first,” she offered, expecting him to refuse and insist she go ahead. When he didn’t her heart sank. Well, that’s confirmed, she thought. Not a dinosaur.
A little while later, after she came back from using the bathroom he admitted, “I almost wanted to pee all over the seat so that when you went in you’d just see pee everywhere.”
Whereas an ordinary person would have found this comment repulsive, she burst into laughter. “You know, the first thing I thought when I walked in the bathroom was, oh god, I hope he didn’t pee all over the seat. But then I realized if there was pee, there would be no way to prove it had been you.” Somehow, they both shared the same twisted sense of humor. His comment amused her, and yet she couldn’t decide whether he was just another lemon with complete disregard for others, or a man secure enough with who he was that he didn’t mind walking the line between weird and socially awkward. Though she couldn’t be sure, she wanted to believe it was the latter. She also wished she didn’t take so much stock in they way one peed.
“I find the less I give a shit, the better the date goes,” she told him.
“So you must really not give a shit right now.”
“Yah, this is going really well. It’s probably best we don’t see each other again. That way, it just ends on a super high note.”
Although her cheeks hurt from laughing, part of her agreed. She had had her fill of short-lived romances, guys who posed as dinosaurs but who by the second or third date turned into lemons. End it now, and she’d be able to think back to that night and romanticize the events, each time remembering it a little differently, a little more tenderly. Plus, then she could go on wondering what could have been and build him up into the dinosaur who got away. Part of the fun would be making up some epic story as to why they couldn’t be together. If only he hadn’t been hit by that car, placed in a coma, and gotten amnesia in which he forgot all about her and their love for condiments. One of the greatest things about the unknown is that anything is possible, like falling for a stranger you meet on an app.
However, this was not the case with this guy. The man sitting in front of her was not perfect. He was not a dinosaur. He was a psychopath who peed on toilet seats.
Whenever she found herself in situations where she felt torn, she’d flip a coin. It’s not that she believed in letting chance decide; rather, she was convinced that she would know how she felt based on her gut reaction to the outcome.
Grinning, she fished a penny out her coin purse. “Heads, I see you again. Tails, this is it.”
“Wait! Do this when you’re at home. Don’t’ do it in front of me.”
Yet she insisted, “Nope. Doing it. That way we walk away knowing.” Without another word, she flicked the coin into the air, caught it, and rested it on the top of her hand next to her pink heart shape birthmark. Cupping her hand, she slowly peeled it away to make the reveal. Tails.
“So this is it. It was nice knowing you,” she said. They shook hands, smiling, neither one of them truly convinced she had meant it.
They walked out, still smiling and stood in front of the door, ready to say their goodbyes. She wondered how it would end. Silently, she pleaded that he wouldn’t try to kiss her. They had just met and she still had no clue if she liked him. Yes they had something; she just wasn’t certain it was something romantic. Then, maybe he read her body language; maybe he felt the same, he hugged her, with one-arm. Immediately she wondered if she had done something wrong? To be fair, he had a bike in his other hand, what was he to do, dramatically throw it to the ground, sweep her into his arms and passionately hug her? Well, yes. Who was to say that a romantic gesture wasn’t just the thing missing to help her conceptualize this as a date?
Bike in hand, he asked if he could walk her to the corner and she obliged. Side by side they walked down the street professing their disdain for modern courting rituals. “I’m not big on texting. I’m much more of a phone guy but I do it out of convention.” Her eyes wide with delight, she mentally drew a big checkmark on her imaginary list of qualities that she looked for in a dinosaur. At the end of the block they hugged once more, with one arm, before he mounted his bike. While he rode away, she shouted the names of condiments at him and he turned his head with a smirk that made her melt and disgusted all at the same time. You’re such a sap, she told herself.
Hug and all, it had ended well; nevertheless, she walked away confused. Perhaps he was the dinosaur and she was the lemon. After all, hadn’t he been the one to be unabashedly honest and more importantly, open to calling it a date, a good one at that? Why had she been so hesitant? Had all those lemons soured her to the possibility of putting herself out there? If this were the case, how would she ever find another dinosaur to love? No wonder she couldn’t tell if she liked him. Feeling oversaturated, she went to bed. The next morning she woke up smiling. Heads.