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9 Dates and the Bar by Spencer Deck

“So I’m thinking to myself—mid conversation with this girl—if you want me to buy you dinner and swing open doors for you, fine. That’s fine. I don’t mind doing that.”

“But isn’t that what you’re bitching about?”

“No, dude. You don’t get what I’m saying. I actually like doing that.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Just wait. Cause I like taking out my wallet and paying. I worked for that money and now I’m spending it on something pleasurable. In this case: good female company in a dimly lit space. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the kind of shit that got me up in the morning. But I’m still looking for a little something in return, you know? And don’t stare at me like that, man. That’s not what I’m talking about.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Your face did. Your face thinks I’m a sexist, just like she does.”

“She called you sexist?”

“You aren’t waiting for me to reveal here. She’s been doing this for a few dates now.”

“Then reveal. You dragged me out here all desperate. If this ends up with you and this girl having sex, though, I’m going to slap you in front of this whole bar.”

“Would I even be here telling this story if it ended in us having sex? Of course not. Then it wouldn’t be a story. It’d be like date number seven—take two. Okay. Whatever. You know that’s not what I’m saying. You know I don’t think it’s a transaction. I don’t think it’s dinner for sex. I’m just saying, in this particular situation, with this particular girl, that I’ve been getting kind of screwed in the big picture. Dinner wise. Balance wise. You following?”

“Land the plane, bro.”

“Fine. Don’t do me any favors here entertaining me, you dick. But listen, because I’m the one who is paying the price. Okay that’s the wrong word because, yeah, I’m literally paying the price for that dinner. But you know what I mean. And yet you’re still looking at me like you don’t know what I mean. I’m paying the price on two levels. This was date number nine. More context: two times now, two times she has almost asked me what we’re doing. We already know the weird faces we make in bed—god knows she’s noticed the beaver thing I do and that I drunk fold my clothes before bed. I know that her dog likes to watch us and that she keeps roller-skates by her bedroom door that she never wears—at least from what I can see, the wheels look new, they’ve still got that seam line on them—and that she always takes her makeup off before we do it because she doesn’t want to get it on the sheets or something. What I’m saying is that we are familiar with each other. Weirdly familiar.”

“And for some reason this is still bad news for you? You sound pretty into her.”

Right? You would fucking think so right? That’s the problem.”

“Well are you, you know, into her?”

“Hang on, let me circle back here before I look insane, because we’re forgetting the chivalry. We’re forgetting that she’s annoying me, and winning the balance game.”

“Right, the dates you’re paying for.”

“Yes, those dates. She’s hijacking the conversation out of nowhere. Her lip starts to curl up right around the appetizers or whatever and then it’s women’s studies breakdown right there in the restaurant. Feminism lady-parts-power. The whole deal.”

“Ah. The light comes through the trees.”

“Nah, see, you’re doing it again. I don’t mind talking women’s studies or whatever. Chicks had it pretty rough for a while. Thant’s fine. But she’s talking at me like I’m some kind of criminal. Like I’m the mastermind behind male dominance. And I’m thinking: don’t ask for chivalry and then sit there and eat that hummus you have no problem letting me pay for while you make me feel like a piece of shit for being a dude.”

“I don’t get it. This happens for the rest of the dinner?”

“That’s the crazy thing. She’ll all of sudden snap out of it. And then she’ll start talking about the weather or her yoga class and she’ll look at me with those dirty green eyes like, ‘yeah, I’ll take care of you later’ and I could just swear she’s borderline crazy, but I go on with it.”

“You keep going out with her.”

“Yeah because most of the time she’s super normal, it’s just gets intense, you know?”

“You’re completely into it.”

“Totally. And finally, right in that instant I realize that it’s terrifying. So now I feel crazy too like we’re in this craziness together or we’re competing for top crazy—her for the performance, me for the tolerance. So then, all of a sudden in the restaurant, I’m like holy shit. Am I putting up with this chick because I love her? Already? Is her crazy why I love her? I’m in full panic mode at this point and she’s got this smile on her face as big as a parade float. I am totally lost in it and losing it all at the same time, and the whole thing is running through my head like a messy slide show. The skates, the makeup, her lips, that fucking dog—I even like the dog, man.”

“What kind of dog is it?”

“It doesn’t matter. I fucking took off dude. I left her at the table. I just booked it. I texted you from the cab.”

“You just came from this date?”

“Yeah, man, don’t laugh. Look how I’m dressed. This is serious. She was already talking about some fuckin’ cartoon she was watching by accident that she just loved, and she looked so happy, just so goddamn happy, after being so passionately mad just a second ago. Mad at me it seemed. And I’m turned on by this? Turned on. And the what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-me sirens just start blaring in my head.”

“So you left? Just like that?”

“I literally think I just saved my own life. For now at least. She was like still talking as I’m standing there turned on as hell at this manic crazy chick eating pita bread. The last thing I remember hearing her say—and I barely heard her she was like reaching for my hand, desperate to tell me, almost half laughing—she goes ‘and then he turned into a crow!’

Spencer Deck’s stories have appeared in drafthorse, The Reporter, and Noctua Review. He’s a third year MFA candidate at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, CT.