In retrospect, I should have known something wasn’t right. He was a bit too reliable. And I don’t mean that in an I-am-jaded-so-I-look-for-issues-even-when-none-exist kinda way. I mean he was always too… punctual. If he said he was going to call at 6, he called AT 6. If he told me to call him at 3:42 and I called at any point before that, he was incognegro. His schedule ran like clockwork. And it wasn’t until our 5th date that I realized why.
We met at exactly 8:35 that night, not a minute before or after, and rode the train to the movies. The entire way we were laughing and cracking jokes and flirting heavily, despite the fact that I noticed he seemed… distracted. Every once in awhile I’d catch him looking over me and into the crowd, or he’d respond just a beat too late to my witty banter because he had been focused on something else in the distance. I chalked it up to the fact that we lived in D.C.; if you didn’t pay attention to your surroundings there was a significant chance that you and/or all your belongings would not make it home safely that night. So, he was just being all manly and protective.
Once safely inside the movie theater, he seemed to loosen up a bit. We hung around the lobby, cracking jokes on the other patrons and sneaking a kiss or two while we waited for the line to start forming for our movie.
“You are even tinier without your sky high heels on. I feel like I’m dating a munchkin,” he said, smirking down at me.
“I am not tiny! Puberty just hit me sideways instead of vertically.”
“You kinda are though. I am gonna see if they have a booster seat for you when we get inside so you can see the screen.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“Make me.” And with that, I leaned in to kiss him, as I had been doing routinely all evening.
About an inch away from my lips, he stopped cold, a look of wild panic sweeping over his face.
“Oh shit!” he hissed, spitting on me. At the moment I was too preoccupied with wiping his spittle from my upper lip to concern myself with what had him so terrified. So there I was, still half leaning into him, my lips still a bit pursed, and wiping my face down with my palms.
“Oh my god,” he said, once again looking over my head and behind me.
It was then that it occurred to me to turn around. I followed his gaze to a gaggle of girls who had just come up the escalators, all of their eyes trained on us, and not a single one of them looking friendly. The angriest looking of the bunch stepped forward towards us.
“What the fuck, Gary*?”
She glanced from him to me, back to him and to me again, before I suppose realizing that the awkward girl half leaning over this guy she apparently knew very well, had no idea what the fuck was going on any more than she did.
“Who is this?”
“Who the fuck is this?!”
By now, people had turned to stare at the sound of her raised voice. I was frozen to the spot, not exactly sure what was going on, like when you tried to watch scrambled porn as a child, but, much like then, being able to understand the general gist of what was going on. And much like that time I stumbled onto a scene with 4 guys and 1 coed, I did not like what I was seeing.
“You said you were going to be in Virginia at your parents’. And you’re at the movies with some girl?!?!”
I started to put it all together. The calling exactly when he said he would wasn’t him keeping his word. It was him knowing exactly when he would be free from whatever other girls he was juggling to fit me in. The unanswered phone calls weren’t because he was “in class” but more than likely because he was “in Cassie” and therefore indisposed. He was scheduling me and her and God only knows how many others, so that we would never overlap each other. And here, by some stroke of infinite bad luck for us both, two of us had indeed overlapped. Finally, my brain started sending my body distress signals. I had to get the entire fuck out of there.
“No, it’s not like that,” he said, fumbling like a rookie in a playoff game. “We…”
“…know each other from school,” I finished for him. He looked at me, with not so subtle relief in his eyes.
“Yeah. Yeah! This is Karen. The girl I was telling you about from my Poli Sci class.”
That was all a lie of course. I have never taken a political science class in all my life. Nor did we even attend the same damn school.
“Oh,” she responded, only slightly less defensive than she was just a second ago. And then just as fast as she started to thaw, she hit us both with another icy glare, once she took in my half leaned stance and us standing far too close together to excuse with anything good. “So why is she all up on you?”
“Actually, I dropped my tickets and we both went to pick them up. He just got to them first,” I told her, sliding the movie tickets out of his hand and holding them up to strengthen my story.
“So, you two aren’t on a date?”
“No!” I answered a little too loudly. Because, let’s face it, my experience with being the other woman is entirely limited to what I’ve heard in MoKenStef songs. “My date is actually on the way. I’m just waiting. She should be here soon.” I put as much emphasis as possible on the “she”, in hopes that if this girl thought I was a natural born citizen of Pudendatown, that she wouldn’t cause even more of a scene that the Young and the Restless excerpt we are already standing in the middle of.
“Ohhhhhh,” she said, all drawn out like it all made sense suddenly. “I’m sorry. I just saw you together and he was supposed to be somewhere else and you’re really pretty, and I just assumed.”
“Well, thanks. I dunno about the whole being in Virginia thing, but we are definitely NOT dating,” I replied with a pointed look at his sheepish face. “You know, I think I am going to go wait for my girl downstairs. I’m sorry about the confusion.”
I slipped around her group of friends quickly, trying my best to avoid their glares. I can fight, but there were too many of them and I didn’t need any problems. They shook their head at me, and then at the happy couple who, from the looks of their rolled eyes and sideways glances, seemed to go through this kind of thing quite often. About halfway down the escalator, I heard yelling voices from behind me, various curses and questions of the why you weren’t where you said you were and why you gotta lie variety being hurled back and forth. So, I did the only thing I could logically do…
I took the tickets back to customer service, got his money back, and went and bought myself a round at the bar. The gentleman, Jack? He never lets me down.
*name changed to protect the bitchassness