Jenna figured that if things didn’t turn around in the next 10 minutes, she would about-face and fuck off.
He wasn’t all that terrible. He was actually kind of charming. Charming doesn’t help with being on three hours of sleep and nursing a cold and a hangover.
“You alright?” he said.
“Yes,” Jenna said, thinking about every way in which she wasn’t. She could barely open her eyes. She was dehydrated. She wished she ordered the double caesar instead of the single coffee. She questioned why people go for brunch for a first date. She vowed she wouldn’t give her number to randoms at the end of a night out and when she broke that promise she wouldn’t answer texts even though she hated the “ghosting” phenomenon that was so prevalent now. Even if he was a random, there was no need to be rude.
“Cool, just wanted to make sure,” he said.
Ugh. She wished he would stop being nice.
“I’ve been battling a cold for a few days, you know?”
“Ya, that’s horrible.”
“It is,” she said.
Jenna had been on worse dates, but usually she was the victim not the perpetrator. She wondered how long the silence would go on and couldn’t help but look at him as he stared at the menu because when she moved her eyes, they hurt. She knew it wasn’t a good sign because they had already ordered, so if a used menu was more interesting than her, maybe he was catching on to her ire for everything.
“Alright. I’ve got an idea,” he said, raising his eyes from the Sandwich section.
“Congratulations,” she said, and immediately felt bad for her snipe, but was pleasantly surprised when he laughed.
“Thanks,” he said. “Deal-breakers. We can talk about all the regular bullshit people usually talk about or we can talk about something interesting, stuff we hate. The only thing is, we have to explain why and the other person can’t question it. You go first.”
First, don’t tell me what to do, she thought, and second, this has potential.
“Talking,” she said.
“Talking,” he said.
“You said we can’t question it!”
“That was a statement.”
“Still waiting for your explanation,” he said followed by a slight smirk that Jenna found was growing on her.
“Talking. While it can help and people can find out things about each other and connect and solve problems and feel the feelings, I find talking also just leads to fighting, and war and hate mongering. If politicians couldn’t talk they couldn’t give dumb speeches and then people wouldn’t die. If people didn’t talk then we would all have to communicate with hand gestures and facial expressions and unless you know ASL, that generally ends up with people looking like idiots which inevitably ends up in laughter. So yes, talking ruins everything.”
She stared at him waiting for some response, though it was on the edge of the rules.
“Fair enough,” he said. “Not ever saying bless you after a sneeze, or only saying Gesundheit. I’m not religious, so the bless you thing is more tradition than anything, but just say it. It’s courtesy. You bless me, I bless you. But this whole gesundheit epidemic has got to stop. It’s raging beyond any semblance of sincerity and we aren’t German, unless we are. But we aren’t. And have you noticed that the only people that say gesundheit are the ones that also are proud that they know a foreign word, or are proud to know the word “selfie” even though people have been selfie-ing themselves since before Ellen and the Oscars were invented?”
“That was gorgeous,” she said, and wanted to add his name to the end but couldn’t remember it. Wait, she thought. Guy! His name is Guy! French Guy!
Their food had arrived and Jenna gulped a home-fry before continuing. Guy left his untouched.
“Loud talkers. Talking above the acceptable level for the room or area you are in is entirely unacceptable. The only reason this is okay is if you have a hearing issue. If not, who wants to be with The Yeller? Everywhere you go, say to a party, you show up and everyone says hi, but they are all thinking, ‘Jenna brought The Yeller again. There’s no point in even talking because no matter where The Yeller is, the volume of his voice will distract me from my own conversation.’ It’s particularly bad in quiet places because the quiet version of The Yeller’s voice is like the normal version of normal people’s voices. Not that you should be talking during a funeral, but if something is going to be whispered, goddamnit if it’s The Yeller who has to whisper it. Picture it. The room is silent. Everyone has taken their seats and is ready for the service to start. It’s an open casket as the dead peep passed away from natural causes, and then he says, ‘They did a great job with her. I was worried with her face and the stroke and all, but the make-up and stents did wonders.’ Then everyone looks back at you and wonders why the sweet holiest of fucks you would ever date The Yeller, let alone allow him at a funeral.”
“For all your hatred of talking you – ”
“Rules,” she said, then calmly took a sip of her coffee as Guy raised a hand in recognition.
“Loud chewers. No one needs to hear or, in the worst cases, see it. Unacceptable,” he said, picking up his fork and slicing into his over-easy eggs.
He put his first bite into his mouth and looked at Jenna. She had her peameal sandwich in her hands and had just chomped down. The slapping and smacking of her lips didn’t stop even as the egg yolk started running down her chin and onto her plate. Guy, horrified, took up his napkin and started dabbing at his own mouth as Jenna kept a lock on his eyes. It was only when she grinned through the streams of yellow and began to wipe them off, did he catch on and laugh. She finished chewing and cleaned up.
“One-uppers. You know the type. I climbed Kilimanjaro. Oh ya? Well, I climbed Everest naked and Sherpa-less. I dressed myself this morning. Oh ya? Well, I dressed myself this morning in the dark with my eyes closed. I once gave a guy three orgasms during the same ‘job’. Oh ya? I once gave a guy four orgasms in fifteen minutes and he died and then I resuscitated him by giving him another orgasm all while eating a burrito one-handed and not making a mess. One-uppers. Die already.”
“Socks during sex. Unless we’re outside, why not fully nude up? Are you worried your feet are so abhorrent or your circulation is that bad that you have to wear socks all the time? Do you also shower with your clothes on?”
“Foot fetishes. Yes, there are erogenous zones down there but why not hit numbers one through twelve first, and then delve into thirteen through fifteen. I’m not entirely opposed but if I’ve been walking around in flip-flops all day or worked a long shift, those babies are dirty and sweaty and even I don’t want them out in the world. Put your mouth where I want it and then maybe I’ll let you get a fungal infection.”
“Eating peas one at a time. There’s no real explanation for it. I just don’t understand why you need to eat them one by one? Peas are a spoon food. Why people even try to eat one or multiple ones with a fork astounds me. It really is like eating soup with a knife.”
“Insecurity. If you are so insecure and have no idea why anyone would like you, why should I even bother trying? If it’s a mental health thing, then grab some meds and/or therapy and work on it. Then, when you have some semblance of why you are a decent person, fire me a text and we can grab some froyo.”
“Disrespect,” he said.
“Ultimatums,” she countered.
Her slow start to the morning was waning at pace with the food on her plate. Their back and forth was helping as well. Beyond the world ending, this date had potential. She wished two of their exes were on a date with each other at a table near them just to amp up the good time.
“People that ask, ‘You’re wearing that?’ Yes, I’m wearing this. It might clash or be gross, but I’m wearing it and leave me alone. There’s no shit or food stains. If I want to wear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, then you need to look at why you feel uncomfortable by clothes that are on my body.”
“Answering ‘just cuz’ to any question. Just cuz what? You can’t say because instead of cuz? Will the extra syllable kill you? If it does then I’ll lament your short life and add it to the list of unusual deaths on Wikipedia. ‘So-and-so died of saying because instead of cuz and the extra beat of the full word literal dragged the life from their husk of a body. This is the first record of death by syllable, but leading experts in the field fear it might become an epidemic in the recent future as people are forcing themselves to speak real words and not text-speak that has become so popular. They ask that people stay vigilant.’”
“Passive aggressive behaviour. If you are angry, say so. Talking won’t kill anything or anyone contrary to what may have been discussed here earlier.”
Jenna raised a finger in warning.
“That’s not a rule breaker,” he said. “I was referring to something else.”
“Referring to what exactly?”
“I was referring to anything but your reference to how talking is a deal-breaker,” he said. He stone-faced her for a moment and then gave her a giant, goofy smile with his eyes wide and his mouth open wider. She smirked and he relented, but she hoped he would never make that face again.
“Asking for me to tone it down for your friends. Why should I be someone other than the person I am for your friends? You like me don’t you? Why wouldn’t your friends? And who are these stuff pots anyway? Are they missionary-only-sex-with-the-lights-off-sleep-in-separate-twin-beds people? And why should I worry about their judgement? Why do you? It’s not like I’m going to go around the circle and tell them exactly why and how they can go fuck themselves. Which, if you’re asking me to tone it down, is something I should actually do. But I wouldn’t because I’m a good person. If they are particularly rude to me I might recommend that they lube up their tight asses, but that’s not being toned up, that’s just friendly advice.”
“Lubed anything. Friction is my Eden.”
Jenna noticed a guy at the table behind Guy eyeing her with a twinge of disdain and she stared back with a slight squint and furrowed brow. Guy picked up on her interaction and turned to face him.
“Excuse me sir, but if you would like to join in on the lube talk please pull up a chair,” he said. The eavesdropper turned his attention back to his phone and grilled cheese sandwich and Guy turned back around.
“Lube is actually pretty good,” he said.
“And sometimes necessary,” she said.
Guy refocused. “Lazy, with no desire to improve. If you don’t give a shit about yourself, why should I?”
“Conflict avoiders. While talking might be a horrid thing, it helps resolves things. Even if sometimes it causes the thing that needs to be resolved. Conflict helps build things, even if at the time it feels like they are being torn down in the process.”
Jenna looked under the table and saw that they were both wearing them. When she looked back at Guy and opened her palms in question.
“Rules,” he said.
“Fair enough,” she said and continued, “dutch ovens while I’m asleep. Farts are funny. They are also gross, however, an appropriately timed fart can save a relationship. But the possibility of waking up to a freshly dutched oven is akin to cheating for me. It’s devious. Take those bombs out of the sanctuary of the bed. Unless it will save our relationship. I can’t say when that time would be, but if you get it right, then we are obviously meant for each other.”
“Murder. Don’t murder me or other people. You would think this one is obvious but with all the people going around murdering each other, you never know. I’m not big on murderers. Not a fan. If you bring murder into our relationship I will have to leave, as murder and I can’t co-exist.”
“Rape. Sexual or otherwise. If you rape me, or if I rape you, or one of us rapes the fridge and doesn’t replace what we raped, we clearly don’t respect each other to be in a healthy relationship, so one of our raping idiot asses needs to get some prison therapy and figure that shit out. And further to your point, murdering rapists. What the hell happened to you that you have to one up rape with murder? Like, seriously! Because I didn’t tone it down for your friends, you now see me as this object for abuse. Raping and murdering. Never acceptable. Turn yourself in Minority Report style, and fuck off.”
“Fuck,” Guy said, looking at his phone.
“What? You’re late for your 1pm rape?”
He smiled. “No that’s tomorrow. I didn’t realize how quickly time has gone. I said I’d meet up with a friend who just got dumped and is feeling shitty. This was a lot of fun and I’m sorry I have to run off.”
Damnit Guy! Jenna thought. “No problem, I hope everything works out with your friend,” she said.
“I’ll text you later and let you know, but thanks again. And if I’m being completely honest, I would have rescheduled with my friend, but who knew you would text back?” he said.
I sure as hell didn’t, she thought.
They both got up from their seats and Guy took out enough to cover the bill for both of them and placed it on the table.
“You don’t have to,” Jenna said.
“I insist. And if that’s a deal-breaker, then consider this broken,” he said.
“It is and so is caring about your friends. Have a nice life,” she said.
They hugged and as they parted, shared a kiss on the cheek. Jenna sat back down and watched Guy leave.
She thought that maybe next time they could talk about things they actually liked besides lube. Considering how much of the same stuff they hated, there might be some overlap. But then again, what if there wasn’t?