Call Me Elaine, If You Must

Another first date. She checks in the rear view mirror to make sure there's no lipstick on her teeth (none) then looks at the door of the restaurant to see who's there (him). She knows the staff and the menu and the quickest route to the door and can be home in less than ten minutes if this goes south.

They get their water and bread. He's relatively attractive for his age, and even though he is ten years her senior, he's held up okay. He never removes his suit jacket even though it's a lunch date and the sun is beating down on them through the glass. She decides this means he's either hiding sweaty armpits or a soft midsection. She feels a bit bad for him, but also thinks it might be kind of cute.

He's pleasant, courteous, generous. Comes from a pretty rough childhood, but has a positive outlook on life in spite of it, or maybe even because of it. She's impressed that he served his country and retired from the air force and now works for a non-profit. Kids? Nope, but still wants them. Good.

When she presses him about why he never got married if he always wanted to, he admits that he had married when he was twenty, but it had lasted less than a year. He's honest, she thinks. Pretty smart, too. And even though the waitress is slow and forgetful, he makes small talk with her, smiling and genuinely unbothered. Three hours they sit and chat and eat and laugh. The chemistry is so-so, but first dates are funny things, she tells herself.

So when he walks her to her car and asks her if she'd like to go out again, she says yes, and realizes it's because she can't think of a good reason not to. He hugs her, goes in for the kiss. She turns her head and he hits her cheek. They both pretend that's what they meant to do. Everyone retreats with dignity.

She hadn't lied when she had accepted a second date. In fact, it's not until she gets in the car that she realizes that she is NOT going out with him again. And she wonders if God will punish her with eternal singleness and childlessness for her shallow and Seinfeldian reason for rejecting him.

The first time it happened was over bread and dipping oil, and she had hoped it was a fluke. The second time it happened was when the salads had arrived, and she had teased him about it, secretly wishing he would take the hint. When it happened the third time, something inside her had clicked, and it was then that she had known--without even knowing--that he was not the one for her.

As she puts the car into gear and pulls out of her parking spot, she is at peace with her decision. Others could mock her, even criticize her, but she was NOT going out again with a man who says "Delish."

[Attention all Jerrys and Elaines! What's the dumbest reason you've ever turned down a date--or even broken off a relationship? Don't be shy. We're all friends here.]


ChickenFreak said...

I love it, the concept and the writing and the details. Can't find a thing to criticize. :)

Happy Dog said...

Thanks! Struggled a bit with the verb tenses. Lots of jumping back and forth from present to past...I think I caught all the inconsistencies, but I'm not sure.

Hey, question for you: do any of the fiction romps strike you as something that I should experiment with working into a longer piece? I never write anything longer than about 800 words but would like to try writing something of more length? Which, if any, of the characters or events seem like they could be expanded? If none, fine. But if you think I'm missing an opportunity, help! I can't figure out how to branch out to a longer piece, but it's certainly time to do so!

Happy Dog said...

BTW, ChickenFreak, I put a link to your blog on my blog page. Didn't know if you saw, so I just wanted to let you know! People should read your vignettes, for sure!

ChickenFreak said...

Belatedly, thanks! For the link. You are also in my blogroll.

I understand the difficulty about branching out. I've been chewing on the idea of making something of my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel--starting entirely from scratch, but I liked the core idea and can see it expanding. But that's a rarity. Normally, I struggle to see where a piece, whether mine or someone else's, can go.

I just finished reading Stephen King's _On Writing_ for the second time, and was struck by his describing so many of his novels as the result of a "what if?" The NaNoNovel does have a "what if?", so maybe that's why it can go somewhere.

I babble.