Boring people sometimes say boring things like “Love is in the air”. People who are even more boring counter this with things like “No, oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen are in the air,” because they think it’s funny and witty. Whatever the literal or metaphorical composition, on this evening, there is certainly disappointment and the aroma of cloves in the air. It’s a Sunday evening, our hero is in a rather brightly-lit restaurant with his so-called Valentine seated across from him. She’s looking at her fingers on the table. Hero is seated with his arms spread out on his seat’s backrest, seeming very laidback, but he’s in fact scared. He’s glad she can’t see his legs shaking under the table. See, this is a blind date, a surprise from Hero’s very thoughtful friends who took it upon themselves to ruin his plans – a romantic night of watching Quantico and killing mosquitos. Now, he’s stuck here getting to know a complete stranger. Hero is not good at getting to know complete strangers. Even worse, he’s unprepared.
“So,” she says, dragging the word.
I’m sorry for the worst dinner of your life, Hero thinks.
“So,” he replies detachedly without even looking her way.
“What’s the deal with your hair?” she asks.
I use it to draw attention away from my horrible personality. I’m sorry.
He looks at her, says, “Don’t know. Just grow it,” then looks away again immediately after.
“Okay,” she says, as she goes back to facing the table. Just then, a waiter comes to the table to clear the plates and asks if they’d like a drink.
“Cold mango,” she says to the waiter.
I see what you’re trying to do. Get your own turf, buddy, Hero wishes he could tell the waiter.
“I’ll have a coffee. Black,” he orders.
Black. And bitter. My soul, oh my soul.
The waiter leaves with their orders and Hero tries to spark conversation. He recalls a guide he read on WikiHow on talking to strangers while out with them for the first time.
“I like swimming. And reading. I love books. I know it’s clichéd, but they send me to another place, I can become someone else, you know?”
“Not much of a talker, are you?” she quizzes.
He shrugs his shoulders.
I’m afraid that people wouldn’t care about what I have to say.
“Read much?” she asks.
I frequently hold The Fault in Our Stars close to my chest and cry silently in the dark by myself.
“Not really. I find books monotonous,” he answers.
“Oh. What about movies?”
Oh, sweet mother of Cannes, I can quote every single movie directed by Martin Scorsese word for word. Go on, test me.
“No. Don’t watch those a lot. I prefer reality,” Hero says.
“But I was told that you like Star Wars,” she reveals.
Be cool. Star Wars is for nerds. Girls don’t like nerds.
“Hmmm…Must have been someone else,” he lies.
The waiter returns with their drinks, setting them on the table and starts explaining to her that it took a while because they didn’t have chilled juice ready. Hero grits his teeth at this uninvited interruption to their small talk.
Keep it moving, buddy, he thinks to himself as the waiter leaves.
She continues, “No books? No movies? I suppose you don’t have a fictional character you see yourself in.”
Well, there’s Hannibal Lecter.
“Well, there’s Prince charming, from all those fairy tales. Ha-ha,” he strains with the laughter.
“Ha-ha,” she strains as well, though less than Hero, “There’s one called Mick that I see myself in. She’s from this old book…she has such fascinating traits…I could talk about it all night…I just wish you could…I cried when…she’s just so much. I don’t know,” she says muddily.
“Interesting,” Hero replies indifferently.
I know! I saw myself in Singer sometimes. I cried, too. I’m sorry.
“I’m sorry. This must all sound like nonsense to you. Let’s talk about something else,” she apologizes.
“You remember how you said you prefer reality to movies?”
She listens! But where is she going with this?
“Well,” she continues, “they say reality is stranger than fiction. Hey, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done? You know, really bad secret. I’ll go first so you trust me. I once broke all the glasses in a cabinet, and I blamed my baby sister. I feel bad about it.”
I killed a man. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
“I’ve got nothing,” Hero says.
“Oh,” she says, looking back at the table.
Time passes, they remain in silence which seems to get to her after a while, “So.”
“Music? Or do you find it monotonous as well?”
“Ha-ha,” Hero strains, “Of course I listen to music.”
Kartel wat a weh ya benz a beat dem bad.
“House, trance, that stuff,” he says.
Rambo Kanambo, go fi the cash
Wa do Ta-FOCUS!
“Oh,” she sounds jaded.
Hero looks at the drinks on the table, set across from each other just like them. Elegant porcelain cup facing a tall lackluster glass. He can’t take it any longer.
“I have to go,” he says, getting up.
Ask me to stay.
Ask me to stay.
Ask me to stay.
“Couldn’t you stay just a while longer?” she bids.
But then again, there’s bugs to kill.
“I can’t. I’ve got stuff to do. Can’t wait.”
“I’ll see you around?” Hero says to her as he shoots the waiter an angry look.
“Sure,” comes the reply.
* * *
Back home, Hero is swatting away at mosquitos using his favorite book when he hears his phone buzz; text message, from one of the very considerate people who set up the blind date.
“What happened tonight?”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s ranting hard on Twitter. Look.”
Hero receives a screenshot showing the following tweets from her account:
[10:38 pm] That’s it! I’m done with Valentine’s Day and people in general! DONE! DONE! DONE!😭
[10:43 pm] Guys today are so simple-minded. Can’t even have stimulating conversation with them. Smh.😒
[11:01 pm] There are no more gentlemen left in this world. How do you let a lady walk home alone in the streets AT NIGHT?😡
Hero puts the phone down, picks up his favorite book and holds it close to his chest.
“Someday,” he whispers into the dark as he cries silently by himself.