It all started with a bang. Well, two bangs, to be exact. I was putting the finishing touches on my moustache maintenance when I heard a third bang. I shouldn't keep her waiting.
I sprayed the only cologne in my medicine cabinet in front of me and walked through it. I saw a guy in a movie do that once, so it must be right. I gave myself a final look in the mirror, inhaled deep, and heard a fourth bang. Someone's in a hurry.
I hadn't been in a hurry for more than a year, but nobody needed to know that. Especially not her.
I opened the front door and my date for the evening looked up from her phone to greet me.
“Finally! You're late.” She turned to walk toward the elevator before facing me again. “I'm Kera, if you haven't guessed already. You're ready then?”
I nodded, ready to introduce myself properly, but she was already halfway down the hallway. I tried to keep pace as Kera spoke.
“I'm sure you made a reservation or something for dinner but let's do something else first, ok?”
“Uh ok, the reservation is at 7 so we have some ti-”
“Great, I'll drive.” She twirled her keys around her index finger as the elevator brought us to the first floor. I hurried to open the door for her on the way out toward the parking lot. She pushed open the adjacent door instead, saying, “thanks” as she whizzed by. I jogged to catch up to her as she got in the car.
I kept one eye on her speedometer as she blazed through the city. Everything with Kera was fast. The opposite of my pandemic lifestyle. Not that my pre-pandemic lifestyle was something to write home about.
“So, Allan, on your RateHim DateHim profile you wrote that you're adventurous and a free spirit, right?” Everyone lies on the internet, right?
“I used to be, yeah before-”
“Shit hit the fan? Yeah, you could say that again.” Should I say it again? No, not funny, Allan.
“Where are we going, by the way?”
She just smiled and said, “you'll see,” as we drifted around a corner. We talked as the cars we passed honked their displeasure, not veering too far from well-established first date topics: family, work... you know the deal. Kera used the brakes for the first time when we turned to enter the parking lot. An inflatable gun swayed in the wind as we approached the building.
Hamilton's Shooting Range.
I beat Kera to the door and held it open again. She obliged this time, not that there were more doors to choose from. The store clerk greeted us as we came near.
“Welcome to Hamilton's. Here to buy or shoot?”
“Shoot! Shoot!” Kera said, already looking down at the selection of guns beneath the glass display. “Can we try that one?” She pointed to a gun bigger than her, mounted on the back wall.
“Oh, no,” the clerk laughed, “that's for our more experienced patrons. How about this one?” The clerk held out a revolver of some kind for us to inspect.
Kera grabbed it and pointed it around the store. “Everybody freeze!” She laughed. I looked worryingly to the clerk, who was smiling. She whispered to me, “It's not loaded.” God, I hope not.
“Alright let's get this baby loaded up,” the clerk waved Kera over and took the gun. “Sign this waiver and meet me down the hall.” She licked her thumb, separated two pieces of paper, slid us some pens, and walked away with the gun and a box of ammunition.
“Have you been here before?” I asked, hoping she'd say yes.
“Nope! But I shot a gun once when I was little with my dad.” She signed and dated the waiver, waited for me to finish, and we walked after the gun lady.
I've never shot a gun before, but it can't be that hard. If video games have taught me anything, it's just point and shoot. Nothing to be nervous or afraid-
Bang! The saloon doors swung open and my ears were already ringing. Bang! Bang! Bang! Someone's got some anger issues.
Our gun lady put ear muffs on us (which I would've appreciated beforehand) and gave us a demonstration of how to load and unload the gun. Then she pointed at a sign on the wall that just said Safety, flicked a switch on the gun and handed it to Kera. I backed away, preparing for her next Pulp Fiction rendition, but she just lined herself up with the target and pulled the trigger.
Her paper victim took the bullet in the gut. Then in the neck. Then in the head. With every shot my heart tried to escape through my throat. It was my turn.
Kera reloaded it for me and gave me a thumbs up. My hands shook as I closed my bad eye and focused on my own paper target. I pulled the trigger, felt my wrist bend back with the recoil, and missed. Everything. I might have hit the target three times in fifteen minutes.
Eventually we ran out of bullets and Kera led me back to the front desk. I handed my sweaty ear muffs back to our gun lady. She left momentarily and reappeared with our targets. Kera's was ripped to shreds. Mine, on the other hand-
“Well there's always room for improvement,” the optimistic gun lady told me. I held my target at arm's length, looking at all of the stray bullet holes in dismay.
“Don't worry about it, let's go!” Kera said, pulling me away, “I'll let you win next time.”
“Wait, don't we have to pay?”
“Come on, already!” Next thing I knew, I was back in her car. I checked my phone to see the time, for the first time in a long time, and panicked.
“Our reservation is in 6 minutes! We're not going to make it.” I didn't like being late.
“Oh reservation shmeservation! I know a place.” That concerned me. First, a surprise shoot-out. What's next? A you kill it, you eat it joint?
Kera drove us across the city. We passed the restaurant district. We passed the place I booked, just past the restaurant district. We laughed at stories of past triumphs and failures as she weaved in and out of traffic.
Without warning, Kera threw the car into reverse. She nailed the parallel parking exhibition, ignoring the honks from jealous would-be-spot-takers.
“This is us,” she said, pointing at the faded sign overhead.
“Steve's Shawarma?” I said aloud, racking my brain if I'd ever heard of the place.
“I don't think his name is really Steve.” She opened the door and I walked in. The sweet sweet aroma of grilled meats seeped into my clothes. So much for that cologne spritz.
Kera ordered two number 1's for us, insisting it was the best. She made sure I wasn't vegetarian or something in the process. Before I knew it, I was chowing down on some of the most delicious food I'd ever had the pleasure of piling into my mouth. I hadn't had a moment to rest, reflect, or even notice how hungry I was. Kera must've been on the same page. She finished her meal before I'd even touched my french fries.
“So what do you think? Pretty good, huh?”
“Amazing!” I said, literally biting off more than I could chew. Perfectly good shawarma fell on my lap before splattering on the floor. I wiped my mouth off with a napkin and felt my cheeks reddening up.
Kera laughed, “Well I'm glad you like it. Wanna get a drink?”
“Sure,” I said, not wanting to sound too eager. My first date in a long time was quickly becoming the best decision I'd made in recent memory. I washed down the last bite with a sugary orange soda and exited our booth.
The door chimed as I opened it for Kera. But she was gone. I went back to the booth and looked around for signs of ditching or teleportation.
“Allan!” She was waving her arms wildly from the other end of the restaurant, with a huge freezer door at her back. I approached, worried that if I didn't join soon her arms might fall off.
“After you,” she knocked on the freezer door. Eyes looked through a slit at me, then at Kera. The door opened, revealing stairs descending into darkness. “Well? Go on! I'm thirsty.” She placed her hand on my back and guided me through the freezer door.
I walked down the stairs, opened another door, and entered a speakeasy. The walls were replaced with fish tanks and there was only room for two at the bar. Kera and I occupied the stools.
I tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor on multiple occasions as conversations were had and drinks were drunk. Time passed quickly down there. Although time always passes quickly when you're not thinking about it. Good company never hurts either. Before I knew it the bartender was telling us it was time to go for the fourth time and pouring us our last drink in a to-go cup.
We stumbled out of Steve's place, which had long-since closed on the street level. Then I remembered something.
“Wait a second,” I said, putting my finger on top of Kera's nose, “you can't drive!”
“Of course I can't,” she laughed, copying my nose fingering technique, “where we're going, we don't need cars!”
“Where are we going?”
Kera and I swayed together for several blocks. I asked her where we were headed several times, but she was a master deflector. By the time we got to the park, all of the decent folk had left the streets.
“C'mon, through here!” There she goes again. She crawled between two bushes, disappearing from view. I always wanted to create my own version of Allan in Wonderland. I got down on my hands and knees and followed her through the dirt.
We emerged inside the park. The security buggy was doing it's rounds and would be headed our way soon.
“Stay down!” Kera said, bopping me on the head, before giving the all-clear gesture. Which, for her, was leaving me in the dust.
We ran through the park. I felt like I could run for hours. I also felt some shawarma rumble around that disagreed. Thankfully, Kera found what she was looking for.
Before I could catch my breath, my date had removed her heels and was sprinting toward the water. I did what I'd become exceptionally good at over the last few hours. I followed.
We splashed and screamed and dunked each other under the water until the police mating call wee ooh weeped from the path behind us. We raced to the shore. She won.
By the time we reached our shoes, a police officer was waiting for us.
“Now I hope that was worth it, because I'm going to have to write you both tickets for-”
“Oh no! Officer, we're sorry, we didn't know. You see Allan here is from out of town, we...” Kera invented a story that wouldn't hold up well in a court of law. Luckily, we were in a court of past 3 AM and the judge was a tired policeman. He just told us not to do it again and escorted us off the premises.
Soaked, cold, and tired, Kera was finally ready to call it a night. What a night it had been.
“Walk me home, Allan. Would you?” Like I would say no.
As we walked the empty streets back to her apartment, doubt crept in. Or maybe I was sobering up. She probably does this with all the guys she dates. I'm not special. I'm just-
She grabbed my hand. Our fingers intertwined and she gave me a smile that would last me awhile. I hoped that night would never end. But they all do.
“This is me,” she said, gesturing to the front door of her apartment complex.
“Well, let me say, it has been a pleas-”
Kera kissed me, not letting me finish whatever bland thank you I had prepared on our walk. As our lips separated, I thought, I'm going to marry this girl one day. A stupid grin was plastered to my face.
“See you next week?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
It was finally my turn to keep her guessing. So I said, with that stupid grin of mine, “I’m never going out with you again.”