Â Â Â I’m setting the table, carefully fussing over each utensil. Some weird kind of home-brew curry sits bubbling on the stove and the house smells of garlic and ginger. Tonight, I have a first date with a girl I met in a local coffee shop, a barista. Â
. . . . . . . . .
Â Â I sat drinking cup after cup of coffee, reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, trying to work up the nerve to ask her out. She worked quietly, pouring Italian sodas and loading cups into the dishwasher. Finally, in a moment of literary epiphany,Â I brewed up a poem from the book I was reading and a snippet of Kerouac’s On the Road and scrawled it out on a napkin in my trademark elementary print. On my way out, I walked by the counter and quietly slipped the note across. It read:
Beauty is a riddle,
Love, a duel.
Pistols at dawn?
-Rory Maclean 230-0000
. . . . . . . . .
Â Â Â Lighting two candles, I glance up and see the time flashing on my microwave.
Â Â Â Shit! She’s supposed to be here in 15 minutes. I should never have told her to come to my place for dinner. What if it turns out we have nothing in common? What if it goes terribly? There’s no way out. At a restaurant, I could just make my excuses and go when dinner is finished. What am I supposed to do now, ask her to leave? Bad first date move.
Maybe I’m coming on too strong after that note I wrote. Damn, I was just trying to be playful. Then her boss calls, all stern, asking if I want to go on a date with her before she finally gives up the phone to Amy. I’m sure they had a pretty hearty laugh at my expense. Oh well, I guess that’s what you get for trying to be romantic — laughed at. OK, calm down. It’ll be fine.
Â Â Â Suddenly, the doorbell rings. Amy is early and I scramble to finish the last bits of home-cleaning I feel are necessary to make the place presentable: throwing out the remnants of old take-away pizza and Chinese food, and assembling a few — because there’s simply no time for them all — of the empty beer bottles that litter the apartment. After a quick mirror check (damn that cowlick!) I’m at the door.
Â Â Â “Heyyy!” I say, letting it hang longer in an attempt to feign excitement at her presence, but inside I can’t shake a feeling of impending doom. “You’re a bit early, hey? Sorry for the mess.”
Â Â Â “What mess?” replies Amy. “You should see my place.”
Â Â Â We chat and the conversation continues on in much the same cliched tone; it’s all, “Man, I can’t believe it’s been so cold this summer!” and “What kind of music do you listen to?”
Â Â Â Things are strained, but I cannot pinpoint why. Despite the lacking depth of the conversation, though, I can not help feeling there could be something to this girl. If only she would loosen up a bit, I think.
Â Â Â After dinner, we start to relax a bit and come to the realization that we are both diehard fans of Monty Python.
Â Â Â “The ministry of silly walks skit is so funny!” says Amy, struggling to stifle her giggles. “I sometimes walk around like that at work, but nobody ever gets it. People just think I’m crazy.”
Â Â Â “Maybe you are!” I reply.
Â Â Â Suddenly she becomes very serious and I think that maybe I’ve hit a nerve.
Â Â Â “Did I say something wrong? Look, I don’t think you’re crazy.”
Â Â Â “No. It’s just… there’s something I have to tell you.”
Â Â Â “What is it?” I ask, softened with concern.
Â Â Â “Well, I’m just going to come right out and say it. I want you to know I’ve had a really good time hanging out with you, but…”
Â Â Â “What?”
Â Â Â “But… I’m pregnant.”
Â Â Â I spit out my wine, aghast. “You you… b-b-but, we didn’t! Did we?” My mind races trying to think of how we could have possibly conceived between the curry and dessert. It just wasn’t possible.
Â Â Â “No, it’s not yours, you goof! The father’s my ex. We’ve talked about it, and I think we’re going to have this baby. So listen, if you want to be with me, you’re going to have to be a part of this baby’s life. I want a man who will raise this child like his own.”
Â Â Â “When did you find out about this?”
Â Â Â “A few weeks ago.”
Â Â Â “So you still agreed to a date with me, knowing this? And you’ve been drinking wine! I… I, well. I’m a lot of things, but at 19, I’m no dad.”
Â Â Â At this point, I break all my own rules and ask her to leave. To this day, whenever I read Jack Kerouac, I can’t help but let my mind wander to that moment when I almost became a father.
photo: Miss Messie