Won’t lie. I had it all. And I knew I had everything. It’s what makes everything in life that much worse. Knowing you had the world in your hands. And then, in a blink, watching it not just crumble, but shatter. Having been married for fifteen years to a beautiful woman, three amazing kids, a house in the suburbs, and a solid job with a large corporation—what more can anyone ask for? Not much. And if someone in that position asked for more, than fuck ‘em, they’re just greedy assholes. I wasn’t greedy. I didn’t want more. I was content. No. More than content. I was happy. And when it ended, a horrible evening five years ago, it left me empty. Feeling rejected. And lonely.
How did I handle it? Oh, there were many, many different paths I traveled. Many, many of those paths are bound to wind up as future blogs. This story, however, is unique enough to demand a blog of its own. See what I did, was I joined an on-line dating service. I won’t give the name of the site. But it rhymes with Blenty Bof Kish. You might know it. You might not. The name of the site isn’t important. Not really.
So what happened? Slow down. I’m getting to that part.
I log on. I surf through the pictures of available, seeking women in my area. I read the profiles, of course, but let’s be serious, it’s the pictures that initially will draw a man’s attention. I don’t suppose it’s much different for women. If the attraction isn’t there, what’s the point, right? Of course, right.
This girl is on. She’s blond. Thin. In the photo she is wearing jeans, and a long sleeve red shirt. She’s cute. Not hot. Not a knock-out, but cute. We use the chatting feature. Instant messaging back and forth. Getting a sense of who each of us is. We do this a lot over the next several days. We seem to hit it off. She claims to work as a nurse at an emergency room in a hospital in her town. No kids. Never married. Maybe a few years younger than me.
Sounds good. Trouble is, she lives sixty miles away. Not quite long distance, but far enough away that even if it worked between us, it could never really work. I knew it. But at the time, I ignored that. I wanted to meet. We made plans. It was summer. June, maybe July. I think June, though. Hell, it could have been May. But if it was May, it was late May. You know what? The exact month is insignificant to the tale. The point is, the day I drove all those miles, it was hot. Not warm. Hot. Humid. It’s why I was thinking June or July. But in the back of my head, May just keeps nagging away.
I take the trip. Listen to the radio on the Interstate. My stomach is in knots. It’s been 19 years since I went on a date. Do you understand how long that is, 19 years? But that thought, as much as it made me apprehensive, also excited me. The idea of new love, a first kiss – damn, a first kiss. Is there anything like a first kiss? I mean, it happens once. Once, per each new date, sure, but each first kiss only happens once—so I am excited, no doubt.
The plan was to meet at a Pancake House. Thought it might be like an IHop. Had never been to a Pancake House before. Neurotically early, I realize a Pancake House is really nothing like an IHop. It’s more like a Denny’s. At least, that’s how I remember it now. Like a Denny’s.
I park. I stand by the main door, under the awning out of the already blazing morning sun. It’s got to be eighty degrees. I’m in jeans and pull over shirt. And pissed. Because, my car doesn’t have air conditioning, and I know I’m sweating. Sweating is never impressive on a date. Especially not a first date. Self-conscious, I try not to think. By not thinking, I can slow my pulse. Hopefully curb the sweating. It’s a thought. Don’t recall it working. By trying not to think, I think I thought all the more.
I went over the schedule for the day. It was me, I know, who suggested since I was driving so far, that after breakfast we should go to a park, or somewhere and talk more. Figured we’d make an entire morning out of the occasion. And why not? Why drive sixty miles for scrambled eggs? As an idealist, I suspected since we’d hit it off so well on the computer, meeting in person would be similar to fireworks on the Fourth of July. There’d be more than sparks between us. There’d be colorful explosions popping between us so intense they’d quite possibly be visible to everyone around us.
And that has always been part of my problem. The idealist. My mind is awesome at making mountains out of mole hills. Of creating amazing times, out of hum-drum plans. I didn’t plan to be an idealist, and I didn’t work at it, either. It’s just my make-up. It’s not a blessing. It’s more of a curse. How much easier would it be to expect nothing, and then occasionally by pleasantly surprised by some unexpected turn of events?
So I see her pull in. I recognize her as she drives around and parks. The blond hair, though, is shorter than it had been in the photo. And when she gets out of the car, she, herself is shorter—heavier. Older. My guess? The picture she had posted on the Internet was at least seven years old. Maybe as much as ten.
I shrug it off. She’s wearing jean shorts, exposing nice legs. I like legs. Legs are very important. And she also has on a white tank top. I freaking love a girl in a tank top. It’s hotter than a teddy, or being all dressed up. And she’s not fat. Just heavier than the person depicted in the photo.
We smile as she makes her way across the parking lot. She’s about ten minutes late. I don’t immediately hold it against her. However, her hair is a bit wet, and messy. You think if you are going to be late, your hair would at least be dry. Not to mention it’s a first date. Why the hell would you show up late to a first date late, and unkempt like a slob? I wouldn’t. But that’s me. The idealist.
I hold open the door to Pancake House, as we say a quick hello and enter. Despite all of this, it is only now – as we are led to a booth, that everything spirals out of control. Badly.
The hostess sets down menus as she and I slide into the booth across from each other. My breath catches in my chest, and I gasp. Literally, I gasp, “Hnnnnnn.”
On her forearm, halfway between her elbow and wrist is a spider. A big, fucking spider. One of the hairiest arachnids I’ve ever seen! And I am a fraction of a second away from slapping it off her arm. I hesitate because, if you don’t already know, I am terrified of spiders. Paralyzing-ly terrified! And it is that gripped-in-fear moment that saves me a most embarrassing moment.
As I stare at the forearm, at the waves of quarter-inch hair sprouting off the back and legs of the spider, I realize … Holy Shit! It ain’t a spider at all. It’s a … It can’t be … It’s no spider … It’s a mole.
The mole is the size of a half dollar. Round as that piece of coin, and sporting a mane a lion would be proud of. And I’ll be damned if the mole’s hair isn’t better groomed than the hair on the head of my date. (And for what it’s worth, I have absolutely no idea what her name is. I could make one up. If only so I can stop using pronouns to describe her. What if we call her, I don’t know, Shelly? That work?)
It looks like Shelly brushed and hair-dried the bush of hair on her arm, maybe spritzed in some gel? I don’t know. It looked, clean, neat. Like I said, well-groomed. Show-dog Poodles would be considered pampered if they had an owner like Shelly, if you ask me.
I’m not shallow. Okay. A little shallow. I’ll admit it. Again, it comes down to attraction. And having a mole might not be something someone asks to have, but neither should it be something shown-off, exposed, out in the open without shame, right? I mean, a tank top? Really? Why the hell would you wear a tank top on a first date if you knew – and you have to know – there is a tarantula posed on your forearm? You wouldn’t. It’s like a guy having a grossly hairy back and going topless to a public swimming pool. Do guys do it? They do. Should they? Hell no!
Raised to always look a girl in the eyes when she’s talking, and not to let my gaze drop, I struggled. I admit it. I wanted to look her in the eyes as we talked, waiting to order. But I was clearly distracted. I don’t think for a second that Shelly was Italian. But she talked with her hands. Waiving them all around to punctuate and accentuate whatever the hell it was she talked about. I wasn’t listening. I couldn’t. And I wasn’t looking her in the eyes as she talked. I couldn’t. I was like a freaking penguin following a beam of dancing on a wall. My head rolled, neck twisted, eyes locked on watching the bounce of the hair on the mole. Got to the point where if she didn’t shut the fuck up, I was going to get dizzy and pass out.
When the waitress returned to take our order, I had two things on my mind. I knew what I was going to have. Shelly ordered what she wanted it. I couldn’t help wonder if I should get a half-stack for Charlotte. (Oh yeah. I named the tarantula. Charlotte. Like from that kids’ story about the spider and the pig). Charlotte might be hungry. And if she was, I’d rather she fill up on hotcakes and syrup than risk the thing sucking blood from my veins. Sounds melodramatic, huh? Well, I thought it. And the other thing I was thinking, if my phone rang, regardless of who was on the other end, regardless of what they said, I’d proclaim an emergency back in Rochester. And I’d run the hell out of there! (I’d drop a twenty on the table. I’m not a jerk). I even recall pulling my cell out of my pocket and setting it on the table. Trying to will it to ring.
(And from this I did learn to set up the fifteen minute first-date alarm. It’s apparently not new. Just new to me. Someone who’s been out of the game for nearly two decades. Just in case you are not familiar with it, and I can pass down some words of actual wisdom . . . Have a friend call fifteen minutes into a first date. They are basically just checking to see if you need and out, or to ensure things are going okay. I’d also suggest having a pre-escape plan prepared. Nothing like taking a call. Saying you gotta go. And then when they ask what’s wrong – and they’ll ask what’s wrong – you’re not put on the spot. Grandma fell and has been rushed to the hospital, or your house is on fire, something, anything, just have an excuse planned. Trust me).
But you know what? The phone, it never rang. Not once. It didn’t even chirp to notify me of a dying battery. Not a sound. Not a peep. And I still resent that phone till this day!
The bad thing? The part your might have let slip your mind. I planned out the morning with Shelly. Breakfast was just the beginning. We still had the park to go to.
And after we ate, she offered to drive. She brought us to a park. A nice park, mind you. There were trails. They snaked through the woods. She wanted to walk them.
I’m the guy. I’m the stranger. She’s supposed to be weary of me. Apprehensive and cautious right? Not the other way around. But she’s all aggressive. She drove. She found the spot at the park. She picked the trail we’d walk. It was hard for me not to be suspicious of Shelly and Charlotte. What might they have in store for me? The fact that she didn’t carry a duffel bag with us on the walk was somewhat reassuring. A duffel bag definitely would have made me curious as to intentions.
The walk was, to be fair, nice. Hot. I was working up a good sweat, but still, nice. We continued to talk as we walked. She was a sweet girl, Shelly. I’ll admit that.
It still boggled my mind though, the more she talked about work. As a nurse in a hospital, you think at some point she’d be close enough to some doctor to ask if they could cut Charlotte the fuck off her arm on a coffee break or something, right? Or is that crossing the boundaries of friends? Mixing friendship and work? It might be. But if it were me, I’d risk tainting a friendship for a few swoops, and slashes of a sharp scalpel.
When we emerge from the trail, the parking lot yards away. Her vehicle is like sanctuary from the heat, and sanctuary to the fact that soon this date will end and she will drive me back to Pancake House for my car. Unfortunately, at this point, she reaches for my hand.
It’s not the hand attached to Charlotte. It’s the hand on the end of the opposite arm. Or her “good arm” as I’d begun to associate to her limbs. Good arm, fucked-up arm.
I was too stunned to pull away. I let her fingers lace through mine as we walked back toward her van. Each step I took I cursed myself. Why did I still have to be so charming and funny? Why didn’t I just leave when I had the chance at the restaurant? I could have excused myself to use the john, and then crawled between rows of tables to the exit. I coulda, shoulda, but didn’t. And now, now we were hand holding.
Thankfully, the front of the van separated our latching hand-hold. She went to the driver side. Me to the passenger side, resisting an urge to wipe my palm over my jeans just in case Charlotte liked to limp-hop from forearm to forearm or something. Maybe, to ensure that Charlotte’s eggs hadn’t transferred from her digits onto mine. Irrational, but again, it is the thoughts that plagued my overactive imagination.
We drive back to Pancake House. She parks next to my car. And what follows is that awkward good-bye silence. Usually, it is the guy anticipating whether or not a first date will end with a kiss or a hand-shake. I am not anticipating shit. She, Shelly—that is, seems to be silently asking for a kiss goodbye. She keeps leaning a little closer. Keeps the conversation kind of going. Like she won’t say goodbye until we seal the morning with a smooch.
All I think is, if I lean over and kiss her, she might wrap her arms around my neck. And if she does this, where will Charlotte wind up? Brushing up against my skin? What if the thing starts giving me a hickey or something? It could. I swear at one point, I swear I saw a mouth and fangs – this after a good breeze ruffled the mane. Damn right it’s what I saw!
I didn’t oblige. I didn’t kiss her. I shook her hand, undid my seatbelt, unlocked and opened my door, all in one Jackie-Chan-style fluid motion.
On the drive back to Rochester, I was a gentleman. I sent Shelly a text. Thanked her for the nice morning. Told her there was no love connection. Sorry. And when I got home, I deleted my Internet Dating Web account, and burned my computer.
Until next time—have an awesome day!