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My father had once told me that in your whole life you’ll never find someone perfect. “Only good enough,” he said. I had long blown him off on that statement. After all, Dad had been listening to a little too much Cliff Richards, and I planned not to be a “bachelor boy until my dying day.” However, his cryptic words played in my mind as I twirled my stirring straw in my coffee. Normally I’m not much of a coffee fan, but just for today, I felt the need for that manly ego boost that comes with drinking the bitterest dark coffee possible. After all, she sat right across from me.
He sat right across, his posture a little bit too stiff to pass off as relaxed. He had dark brown eyes with specks of gold. Pretty specks of gold. That was the first thing I noticed. Then came the slightly ruffled dark hair, combed flat with a little too much gel. And of course the stirring, as if to grab for that first line without reaching for the cards that were probably in his pocket. I looked down at my orange juice. Was it too childish? What should I have gotten? Alcohol was the first thought that came to mind. Perhaps a bad idea. Lacy’s drawn out deep Southern accent played back in her mind with her favorite story about a friend of a friend of a friend who got dragged off on a date and ended up on maternity leave. I shuddered at the thought, then instantly tried to cover it up by wrapping my arms around as if it were too cold. As if the coffee had just now become evenly stirred, he lifted his head and the gold specked eyes looked straight into mine.
I closed my eyes and briefly ran through the tips that Carlos gave me. Start the conversations. Lead the girl on. Ok, here goes nothing. I wet my lips. “So, I guess you’re here because a friend set this up for you too?“ Stupid idiot. You haven’t even told her your name. “Oops, sorry, forgot. I’m Eric. Eric Wells.” I stuck out my hand, which just happened to put my champagne glass on its path. A quick shriek spread from the other side of the table. Instantly all eyes had turned to face just the two of us, one with a large dark splotch on her dress, and the other unsuccessfully attempting to soak up the quickly spreading splotch. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…” I didn’t even get a chance to finish. While I had reached across the table to clean up the mess, the knocked over champagne glass made its way to the edge of the table and rolled off, shattering into tiny shards of crystal on the white tile floor. Reaching over, I tried to pick up the big pieces of the glass. And knocked over the table. Utensils and china heaped on top of the original champagne shards. Talk about first impressions, Eric. You really beasted up this date. Way to go.
Cold. That was my first reaction. Somewhere along I might have let out a scream. Not even sure. Thanks a lot, Lacy. This dude is a klutz. And as if enough eyes weren’t already looking at us, the champagne glass ended up as a pile of broken bits right next to the table, followed by just about everything else. Just gotta get this over with. I’m hungry. We haven’t even eaten dinner. This guy, Eric, pulled a few bills from his wallet and left it on the ceramic-turned-trash heap. Great. At least he knows when it’s a good time to leave. I hope this ends soon.
“Are you still wet?” he said, leading me by the hand.
I looked at the quickly drying splotch on my dress. At least alcohol dries fast. “Not dry enough to sit back down at another table and eat here.”
Surprising enough, she was actually quiet through most of the commotion. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Carlos’s tips seemed to say it wasn’t exactly the best of scenarios. If she doesn’t talk, she could be shy, but it also could means she wants to leave. No matter what, GET HER TO TALK. Well geez, Carlos, way to fail. I, apologizing to all the waiters and waitresses along the way, led her out of the restaurant and once again back into the windy streets. Although she didn’t seem quite happy, I couldn’t help but stare at her hair, flowing strands of deep brown, fluttering in the breeze.
“ERIC!” It was right about then when I noticed that she had been shouting at me for the last ten seconds. “Idiot! Where are we eating now?”
I had to resist the urge to pull Carlos’ 501 Tips to Dating as he’d call it (it was really just a pad of Post-it notes with a bunch of tips scrawled on there), and flip immediately to the Emergency section. Seriously, I had gotten to the lowest of the low, the “Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200,” kinda low, only multiplied by a billion. I looked around. “Errrrr… well… there’s a McDonald’s across the street. Wanna try that?” Oh yeah right. Like McDonalds is really a major turn on.
Not only was he an idiot. He’s also deaf. And an idiot, if I forgot to mention that one. McDonald’s? Do I look like I want a happy meal? Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breath out. Just deal with it. Just a little more and you can kiss him goodbye. Figuratively, not literally. Definitely not literally. “Alright fine, let’s go. I’m hungry.”
The inside of the fast food joint was empty. Figures, everyone else is enjoying a fine meal across the road. Where we would be, if this idiot hadn’t been such an idiot. He, Eric, walked up to the counter then turned around. “So what would you like?”
“Great question. I’d like a nice piece of smoked salmon and a cup of red wine.” Was not supposed to say that out loud. Thanks a lot, inner self. Well at least now he knows what I’d much rather be having other than fast food.
“I’ll take that as a Filet-o-fish and a grape juice?”
“Haha, very funny.” Yeah right. This date is going nowhere. Lacy, thanks for giving me this idea. No really, thanks a lot.
Ouch. I don’t think she bought the Filet-o-fish joke. What would Carlos say? Rule number 327. None of your lame jokes. Dammit. There goes another one. “I’d like a number one meal, and a number six meal. Sprite and a grape juice. No ice in the sprite.” $12 bucks. Look on the bright side. Switching to Geico’s saved you 15% or more on your car insurance. And left you forever alone. Hey, I still got a chance. Yeah, like pigs are gonna fly. They can get on a plane. Not the point.
By this time, she had taken a seat at the closest table next to the door. I walked over and looked into her eyes, now glazed over and dreaming of somewhere else she could be. “Hey, I’m sorry about that back there. I didn’t mean to wreck the date.”
“Mhmmm.” The eyes were still glazed.
“Could you give me another chance?”
“Mmmm. Sure. Whatever.” Still glazed.
Sorry, Carlos, I’m gonna do this my way now. “Do you have any raisins?”
“What?” She stared with a perplexed look. “What’s—“
“How about a date?”
Silence. Oh dear I bombed it. Dammit, Carlos, you were right all along.
Raisins? Dates? Dates…? Oh! That kind of date. I chuckled then stopped. Don’t egg him on. You’re supposed to act cold until the date’s over. “If this isn’t supposed to be a date then what is this?”
“You stole my heart. But that’s okay. I have another one at home in the fridge.”
“Hey, stop that!”
“Can I have your picture so I can show Santa what I want for Christmas?”
“You know lame pick-up lines aren’t gonna work.”
“Maybe not. I’m gonna try them till I find one that isn’t lame then.”
“Oh yeah? Try it.”
“Give me your picture so that I can prove angels exist.”
“Nope. Not feeling it.”
“If I could rewrite the alphabet I would put U and I together”
“Excuse me, do you have your phone number, cause I seem to have lost mine.”
“Do you have a map—”
The lady at the counter interrupted him. “Hey, you! Order number 427 and 428 are ready. Do you want them or not?”
I walked over to grab the orders. I win! What now Carlos. I got her talking. Remember rule number 501. There are exceptions to all cases. And he just had to think one step ahead. Whatever, at least I managed to salvage this date. I carried the burgers and the drinks back to the table, where her eyes had regained the original light that was there at the beginning of the date. “So, here’s your order. One Filet-o-fish and a grape juice.”
She laughed. “You know, girls don’t really dig this stuff. Just a tip. When you get food for a date, get the stuff that won’t add five dress sizes in one meal.” She tore off the wrapping from the Fillet-o-fish and took a bite. “Mels laif tis pith of faif fith.”
I took up her tone and lectured her back. “You know, girls don’t really dig talking with your mouth full. Just a tip. So what were you saying?”
She swallowed with difficulty, choking slightly on the ground up bits of the fried fish. “Very funny.” She cleared her throat. “What I meant to say was ‘Meals like this piece of fake fish,’ but obviously talking with my mouth full wasn’t exactly the greatest idea either.”
Everything according to plan. I glanced at my watch. Never mind, take that back. Things just have to come up when everything was going well. “Errmmmmm…” I paused. Dammit, Eric, just get it over with! “Well, I got good news and bad news.” Yeah way to stall.
“What is it now?” She took a swig of her grape juice. “As if things can get any worse. Well, anyway, bad news first.”
“We’re gonna miss the movie.” I winced. Please don’t get mad.
“You shoulda planned the date so there is actually time to eat. Geez, if we went to the restaurant, the movie would probably have been over.” She paused. “And the good news?”
“Well, I got something planned as a plan B.”
“You better! Just a second ago I was about to walk out on you.”
“And when you said something planned, you meant the history museum? Seriously?” I shook my head. Why am I still following this guy. It’s not as if I’m actually having fun. “Well?”
He shrugged. “What’s wrong with the history museum? They’ve got a nice Genghis Khan exhibit going. I think you might like it. And of course there’s the great musicians exhibit right next to that.”
Definitely got problems, this one. We’re back to square one. “Hey, I dunno what’s up with you, but I don’t really think I’d enjoy a history lecture.”
“Well you seem to have enjoyed McDonald’s even though you thought you wouldn’t.”
“Did not.” Did too. Oh shut up.
“Well, whatever you say, but give it a try.”
Oh yeah like that’s gonna do me any good. This guy reaaaaally doesn’t know where to go on dates.
“Did you know Genghis Khan is the epitome of the superpimp?” I smiled. Trivia was what you could call my strong point.
“Does it really matter?”
“Well he is related to .5 percent of the world’s population, just saying.”
“Theoretically speaking though, Adam and Eve are related to all of the world’s population.”
“Actually, sorry to burst your bubble, but Adam and Eve theory has been disproven by scientists. They’d be so stricken by incest that they can’t even follow God’s laws about not committing incest.”
She laughed. “Well, glad to see you’re a believer.”
“Well, Genghis Khan wasn’t exactly much of a believer either. A Mormon at best.”
“He had 500 wives, what else could he be. And that’s not even mentioning his thousands of concubines.”
“500! What did he need that many for?”
Here goes nothing. “You’re right, after all I only need one.”
She showed no reaction on her face. Slick move fail. Violation of Carlos’ rule number 328. Don’t use pick up lines except as a joke. And even then, assess the pickup line under the lame joke rule, number 327. “Yeah, nice move there.” Great. Just what I needed, sarcasm. “You know pick up lines never actually work right?”
“Genghis Khan seemed to have pulled it off. Although his pickup line might have been a little more like. You, me, now.”
“Nice try there. You aren’t Genghis Khan.”
“Way to crush my dreams.”
She laughed, stroking through her flowing brown hair. “I think torturing one girl with McDonald’s dates is probably enough. In fact, it probably would have been better if you became one of his eunuchs.”
“Just Kidding!” she ran off into the crowd of exhibit observers with me hot on her heels.
I sat down on the large marble statue in front of the museum to catch my breath. Eric followed close behind, and sat down next to me. He panted for a few seconds then started laughing. “I can’t believe you managed to run through not only the rest of the Genghis Khan exhibit, but also the whole exhibit on musicians. Are you some kind of track runner?”
“I was just speed-learning. After all, isn’t that what the museum is for.”
“I thought it was for taking time to enjoy?”
“Too bad.” I paused for a second. “You know what, I actually did kind of enjoy that. Kudos to you on not being a complete failure.”
“Oh please. I feel bad enough for having to ditch the original plan for the date.” Eric looked down. “So, would you like me to make it up to you… Perhaps next week?”
Do you seriously want this klutz taking you on another date? “Sure, where should we meet?” Maybe I should give him another chance. Even if plans went wrong today, I guess I did have fun after all.
“How about the same time, same restaurant. Let’s try the original date again.” He thought for a moment. “So…now can I have your number?”
“Congratulations on being sneaky about it. Here, I guess you’ve earned it. You’re one woman closer to Genghis Khan.”
He chuckled. “Not quite yet. In fact, I don’t even have a name for this contact. Well?”
I briefly revisited the restaurant, McDonald’s, and finally the museum in my mind. Wow. You really didn’t give him your name. Nice job ignoring the guy. “Aria. Aria Bright.”
“A beautiful name for a pretty girl.” He reached into his pocket. “A little ironic, because I bought a gift that fits your name, just to apologize for the change in plans.” In his hand, he held a necklace with one silver music note. “Aria. A piece with one voice.” He held the necklace out and dropped it into my waiting hand. “Hopefully, you don’t stay solo for long.”
“I don’t know about that. That will be decided by next week. But…” She paused. The “but” is not a good sign. Carlos’ tips number 126, the second the girl says that word, prepare yourself for the worst.
“But…?” Oh dear…
She spaced out for a minute, waiting, listening to the wind blow the leaves along the rough sidewalk. “But if you take me out to McDonald’s again, don’t even think about it!”
I looked around.
I found myself staring Lacy right in the eye.
“Stop ignoring me! What’s that little charm you’re playing with? Did you get it from that guy?”
I looked at my hands, which were, once again, playing with the silver music note. “Yeah.”
“Was he that good? He swept you off your feet? Told ya you should try blind dating every once in a while!”
My hands played over the smooth curves of the note, recalling Eric’s gold specked eyes. “He’s a bit of an idiot, and nowhere near perfect, but probably just good enough for me to end my solo.” I snapped out of the daze. “Why are you asking me? Why don’t you get your own guy!”
“So, bro, how’d the date go? Gimme the details.” Carlos sat down on the bed and laughed. “Was she hot?”
“Yeah.” I scanned over the individual letters that made up her name, pondering whether to call her now or later.
“Did the tips work? Approved by Carlos the Master.” He jumped up and gave a playful punch. “C’mon, bro. What was she like?”
“Well for one, the 501 tips were completely useless. Spent all night reading that junk. But as for her, Aria, let’s just say she’s not exactly perfect, but she might as well be good enough.”