To Hell In A Handbasket

Submitted into Contest #28 in response to: Write about a date that was so terrible you’ll never forget it.... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction

It was early 1992. I was 29 years old and up to this point I had been batting about .001 when it came to girls/women. I say it that way because it started as early 2nd grade. In any case, this was at a time in my life when my only goals were getting high and finding a female companion. Unfortunately, I was a thousand times more successful at the former goal.

I am a fanatical music lover. Since 1984, after I joined the Marine Corps, I had started collecting music, always expanding on my tastes. While I am not a huge fan of Opera, I do like some classical music. Opera is actually quite entertaining to watch. I had never been to an opera before the occasion I am about to relate. It was Mozart’s Don Giovanni; a good opera for first-timers.

I actually managed to secure a date for the occasion. This was as rare for me as snow leopard sightings. I didn’t make a lot of money back then, being a line cook at a restaurant. But concert/show tickets were much more reasonable in those days. She was a waitress that I worked with who was more than happy, to my delighted surprise, to accompany me. I didn’t know her well. In fact, I really didn’t know her at all. We hadn’t chatted before, other than the usual small talk you engage in with people you don’t want to really know you, which is almost everyone. I had never seen her in anything but her uniform. Being that the restaurant was a nicer establishment, her uniform was fairly attractive; white blouse, burgundy knee-length skirt and nylons. She was attractive enough, and had a nice, fit shape. I could live with the short black hair, although I preferred long blonde – the longer, the better. I was certainly in no position to be picky.

There was one little problem. The show was on a Saturday at 1:00. My date let me know ahead of time that she was scheduled to work that afternoon and was unable to find anyone to work for her. I initially offered to drive her to work, leaving the show early. She insisted that she could just ride the bus so I wouldn’t have to miss any of the opera. I felt a little bad, but relieved, and happily agreed to this arrangement.

The big day arrived and I was pretty excited – my first opera and a date to go with it! Life was good for a change. You have to understand one thing; for people who date all the time, this might not seem like a big deal – just another date, so what? But for me, any such opportunity meant a possibility that my deepest longing might at last be fulfilled. A girlfriend, a potential soul mate, a spouse. Yes, I was that pathetic! Perhaps I was a romantic, perhaps just a desperado. Perhaps? Ha! I was a naïve fool!

I picked her up at her home, and my excitement level dipped considerably. When I pulled up, she was smoking a cigarette. Yuk! I used to smoke myself, but had quit about ten years prior to this. I couldn’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke and find it to be a major turn-off! I imagine kissing a smoker would be the equivalent of licking a dirty ashtray. As my smoke-like-a-chimney dad expressed after I gave him crap about smoking – again - us “ex-smokers are the worst!” He’s probably right.

The smoking was almost as big a turn-off as her attire. You can call me judgmental if you like, but times were a little different then – although, clearly, the transition was well underway. While people were no longer wearing suits and ties to the Super Bowl, they weren’t exactly wearing pajamas to church. I don’t remember if I was wearing a tie or not, but I certainly went dressy-casual at the very least – as were all of the other attendees. What was she wearing? Faded blue jeans and, worse, a faded denim jacket. With patches. Maybe she had heard wrong. Perhaps she thought I said “Grateful Dead,” not “Don Giovanni.” Okay, so I was a young pothead high school dropout with not much going for me. But at least I had a little class.

My memory of things bygone is a bit hazy, especially for details. However, I think it is safe to say that at this point, I had no plans of any future engagements with this woman. But the date wasn’t over. It got worse.

I was really enjoying the show; the music was lively, for the most part, and the story was easy enough to follow. Being caught up in the gaiety, humor and drama, I was really looking forward to see how it would all pan out in the second act. The lights came on for intermission. I prepared to say good bye (more like good riddance). Before either of us could even stand up, she says, “Well, I guess we better get going.” I was stunned. I was speechless. As a matter of fact, I don’t know that I said another word all the way back to her home – or the restaurant, whichever it was. If I did, I’m sure my sour mood and indignant demeanor squelched any prolonged babbling from her. She never did say anything about the bus – as if that conversation never happened.

I know some people would have at least spoken their mind, if not flat out refused to leave the show to drive her. But I hate confrontation and I’m too nice to leave someone hanging like that, even though I probably would have been justified in doing so. It didn’t help that I learned the next day about the dramatic finish to the opera, where Don Giovanni is dragged into hell by demons and they had actual fire on the stage! A cruel fate for a young man who had to continue living here in another kind of hell.

February 11, 2020 17:42

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