Creative Nonfiction Speculative Romance

This story contains sensitive content

Triggers: mention of suicide and overdose. Also erotic (but not sexually explicit).

You got that button-down short-sleeve at Walmart, didn’t you? It looks like a Walmart shirt to me. You wear it well. Who are you? I want to cherry-pick your brain, keeping the things I like and leaving the others to whither - like an orchardist, cutting down the bad trees so the healthy ones can grow. 

As you open the door for me,  I catch an unmistakable glint of heaviness in your gaze. If not for that, I’d have thought you were enjoying yourself. Is this a glimpse of how you manage, when you can’t manage? I can’t help wondering if that’s the expression you had on when you found your friend’s lifeless body and read his suicide note, two years ago. To you it’s not two years ago, though - is it? You wear that sadness like an unhealed battle scar - like that suicide note is permanently stuck to your forehead. I’m not saying sadness doesn’t suit you. I’m just thinking that maybe your Zoloft isn’t doing as much for you as you thought.

As I give a shy smile and step through the door, I catch a whiff of your cologne: Old Spice. I’d know that smell anywhere. I want to say “Good choice,”  but stop myself at the last second. (That’s second-date material.) I can’t help wondering if you always open doors for the ladies or if that behavior is saved only for the ones you want to impress.

Your barbershop haircut and Rolex watch say “privileged.” The initials tattooed all over your forearm for every friend who OD’d say something else. Those funky, washed-out boy-jeans with the loop on the left pant-leg and gaping holes in both knees somehow suit you. Are the jeans a Walmart-special too? Something about your gentle, attentive demeanor makes ripped jeans and dirty Vans first-class. (I hope you know that’s an attribute not everyone has.) I’ll probably come up with a clever way of wording that, later - and send it to you in a text, knowing that it will make you laugh.

I get it - you’re a SoCal boy, born and raised - but I can’t help wondering if you thought the Rolex would impress me. I don’t care if you’re wearing a diamond-studded Rolex or a plastic bangle bracelet from Wish.com! Authenticity is not an attribute that can be purchased; it has to be harnessed in the wild, and never too tightly.

As we ascend to the second floor of the mall on the escalator, I throw out a random-ass frisbee of conversational initiative - and you jump up to snatch it, like a well-trained retriever. Thank you. (The car parked in the middle of the mall with the signs all over it is ugly as shit. You wholeheartedly agree.) 

You shove your hands as far as you can into your pockets, like you’re afraid they’ll start doing things without your consent. As we wait in line for a table at Café Sevilla, you slump awkwardly against the wall. I can’t help wondering if you’re feeling self-conscious because I’ve already out-vocabed you twice tonight and I’m almost your height in flats. But instead of bowing to your insecurities, I zero in on your less-than-happy, faraway gaze and say, “You okay?” Then you snap into gear and say defensively, “Yeah. Why?” Which only confirms my suspicion that you are not okay.

I make a mental note to tell you when I know you better that despite society’s stupid status  quo, it’s not sexy for a man to pretend to be okay. In fact, it’s rather annoying. (Of course, if I didn’t give a shit about you, it would be different. But I do, so I guess that’s my problem.)

You ask if I’m okay with sitting at the bar, or if we should wait for a table. Your voice drives me wild. It makes me want to lean against your chest, so I can feel your ribcage vibrate when you speak. I feel guilty for imagining those finely toned arms wrapping firmly around my waist. Then I look over and realize that if anyone’s thoughts are in need of a good scrubbing, it’s yours. 

When we slide onto wooden chairs at the bar, you order a shot of whiskey straight. You drink it like it’s a dose of medicine - and maybe it is. I smile and say, “There ya go. Have another. You need it.” You give me a quizzical look, and then chuckle as you put up a manly hand to get the bartender’s attention and order a second shot.

I order a watermelon margarita - on the rocks. It’s very stereotypical of me to buy a frou-frou drink while you chug whiskey shots, but I don’t care enough about defying stereotypes to deny myself a sweet, delicious beverage. I know without asking that you’re buying. (You’re that kind of guy, and I won’t say no to a free drink from a cutie pie like you.)

You confess over a refill that your cheeks hurt from laughing. I ask if that’s a pain you can live with and you just laugh. As I swirl my straw around in my margarita nonchalantly, I feel your gaze on the side of my face. My cheeks flush. Your hand finds my knee and my knee finds your hand. You reach over to pull me closer and I obediently scooch to the edge of my seat, turning it to face you. That’s the nice thing about these bar seats - they swivel.

Your hand expertly cradles the back of my neck. Clearly you’ve done this before. I love that sweet spot between confident and cocky. You’re right in there. You ask if this is okay and I reply that if it wasn’t you would know already. You say “That’s fair” and lean forward so our lips can touch. I’m flooded by the sensation of your touch and the smell of your cologne mixed with the smell of you. But your kiss is electric. I don’t know how else to describe it. I love that you kiss me hard - like you mean it - like you know that only kisses can hold me together. You pull away with a look of surprise on your face. “Wow,” you say. You look down at your shot glass, and run a hand through your naturally auburn hair.

After a couple of contemplative seconds, you look back at me - speculating. I can see that there’s something on your mind. Your tongue slowly traces your lips, like you’re savoring something. “Hmm,” you say, swallowing. “Tastes like watermelon.”

June 08, 2024 03:45

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Nina H
10:30 Jun 13, 2024

You really nailed the thoughts, insecurities, and emotions of a date in this story! Well done!


Amelie Peterson
14:55 Jun 14, 2024

Thanks so much! I really appreciate that positive feedback. And thanks for reading it!


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