1. The horn

Sometimes, when I’m starting to drift off, my mind decides to drift to the first time I ever touched a tit, just to be a dick. I was fifteen. Or sixteen. I’m not quite sure, because I’m fairly certain I repressed most of the memory way down deep, next to my fear of the dark and that time I shattered my tooth on a concrete floor.

I was on the swim team at school. I was pretty damn good at it, too, which unfortunately didn’t exactly translate into success with the ladies. But bless my cringey heart, I tried. We had gone to compete a few towns over, which meant staying in a hotel. Between meet sessions, we simply relaxed and watched TV, and that led to myself watching TV with a girl I had been crushing on, and who I was sure was also crushing on me. Soon my arm was around her shoulder, though our faces remained on the television. She leaned her head on my shoulder. This was it. My big chance.

So, I put my hand on her boob. And, in my sudden panic attack—this was happening—I said the only thing that came to mind:

“Honk.”

“Did you just say honk?” she asked, nonplussed.

“Yes.”

Any hopes of a relationship with her died in that moment. I walked back to my room and thought about the life choices that led to saying “honk,” wondering where I had gone wrong. Surely, I could sue somebody for allowing this to happen to me. It would be years before I touched another boob. Putting the wrong foot forward can trip you up.

2. The jacket

My dating life was scattered after this, and I rarely held a girlfriend. But occasionally, I would outdo myself. Sometimes, I would find myself on a date with somebody so spectacularly out of my league that I would go to the bathroom beforehand just to check for hidden cameras.

I can only imagine what sort of ratings these dates would draw. Probably bring a generation back to cable, they would.

If your brain was really feeling like a dick, which we’ve established my brain well and truly does, then it might reject the vodka altogether.

One evening, I was sitting at a booth across from a woman I could only describe as Barbie, carrying a conversation decidedly well despite my disbelief that she wasn’t there on a bet. She was dressed to the nines, with clothes more valuable than the car I had driven us in. I had drunk my beer particularly fast to calm my nerves, and she had chugged hers to keep me. We were beginning to feel drunk, and I was beginning to like my chances.

Suddenly, a large group of friends walked in. It was a coincidence—there had been a football game on earlier in the day, and while the venue was a bit of a sports bar, we never usually came to this one. But they were all liquored up after the win, and when they saw me, they demanded I partake.

I graciously accepted the shot of vodka, and they gave one to Barbie as well, who didn’t look particularly thrilled at the prospect. We prost-ed as required, and I downed the shot, hoping they would leave immediately after.

There’s a moment when you take a shot of vodka where your brain has to decide what to do with it. Sure, it could simply swallow and get on with its life. It could also decide that vodka doesn’t mesh well with the beer you’d been drinking. If it was really feeling like a dick, which we’ve established my brain well and truly does, then it might reject the vodka altogether.

It might expunge that vodka. Violently. Along with the beer you’ve been drinking. Along with about six jalapeño poppers you weren’t quite finished yet. All over the expensive jacket your date left on the table between you. The one worth more than your life, and certainly more than the prospect of sleeping with you.

Barbie left without a word, presumably to go to a 24-hour dry cleaner. My friends went to the bathroom to get some paper towels. And since I was already there, I went to get another drink.

3. The silent treatment

Like any young person my age, I’ve tried about every dating app that comes along. I’ve taken longer looks at attractive profiles, knowing they wouldn’t have swiped right. I’ve lamented and grumbled about not getting a reply while simultaneously ignoring messages simply because I can’t be bothered to hold a conversation with three blurry profile pictures and a Marilyn Monroe quote.

But every once in a while, I’ll strike up a conversation with somebody I get along with. She’ll have the banter, while simultaneously being able to hold a serious discussion. She’ll be beautiful to boot, and for once, I won’t waste any time in asking them out for a drink.

And so I ended up in a bar in Alphabet City with Daisy. Daisy was gorgeous, but with a sense of humor that made me question her sanity. We spoke for two weeks before deciding to meet, and in that time I never knew what she was going to say, which is why I was more shocked than I could have ever expected when what she said was absolutely nothing.

Nothing.

I asked her about her day. Nothing. I asked her about her job. Nothing. I was able to get a few words out of her, a couple of times, but they were usually spoken into her beer, as if the warm swill in front of her (she’d barely touched it) were more interesting than the guy she’d only recently said (or a message) that she wouldn’t mind chaining to a radiator. The most complete sentence she uttered in two hours was “I’m not very good at small talk.”

I would have presumed the date was going terribly, but whenever I would finish a drink, she would order me another one. She wouldn’t let me put any on my own card, so while I’m a fan of conversation, I’m an equal fan of free beer, and the date continued in a gradually normalizing silence, like some strange game I didn’t know I was playing.

Finally, I had to leave. I made an excuse about work in the morning and stood up to leave. She stood up as well, gave me a hug, and said, “I had a lovely time.” And then she was gone.

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