Hi everyone! *waves enthusiastically* This is my first story, so forgive the imperfections and occasional grammatical error. Hopefully, this makes you smile (and maybe cry later on) and you stick with it. It's really about growing up and moving on for yourself, even if it hurts like a motherfucker (wine, ice cream, and great girlfriends help). I will send you my eternal gratitude and maybe a cute kitten if you leave a review (my apologies to PETA). I'd love to know what you think (even if it's for the kitten)! :D
The Work in Progress
Sometimes I seriously question how we've survived as a species. The few biology classes I was forced to take in high school and college informed me how and why we're here, yet I fail to see how natural selection didn't siphon out the creeps, losers, and dysfunctional cynics who think they're being clever when they roll their eyes at couples and say, "Honeymoon stage, amirite?"
No, you are wrong on so many levels. Now go away.
There is no shortage of articles, celebrities, media, and drunk strangers (re: college) that describe (sometimes with gifs) how horrible dating is. It's an emotional minefield that usually leaves you with casualties and more questions than answers. But as cynical as I am, as much as I know how bad it can all get, I will come crawling back every time. Even if I don't crave emotional intimacy as much as I should, the unintentional celibacy sucks.
Which is exactly why I am currently sitting across from Alec, the 32 year old lawyer (Washington D.C.: We produce lawyers like Whole Foods produces overpriced goods) who has either just come from the Sahara Desert or has a very serious glandular issue. It's been awhile since I've gone on a date, but I'm pretty sure trying to see if I can check my reflection off of the accumulated sweat on his forehead is not proper date etiquette.
Unlike this dress, which I had to squeeze myself in, because apparently first impressions can make or break a date. Well, fuck you, antiquated dating advice. I should have just shown up in a tight sweater and jeans.
"So you work for an environmental law firm?" I ask politely, trying to move the date along, although it's starting to feel more like a hostage situation.
He doesn't even glance up from his menu, but manages to mutter, "Yes."
I clearly lucked out in the conversational skills department tonight.
"How do you like it?" I try again, hoping I'll get more than a word this time.
"It's alright," he replies, seemingly distracted by something on the menu. I'm wearing a push-up bra that's advertised as "dangerously erotic" and you're scanning over the appetizers? I really know how to pick them.
"So are you going to tell me I should stop using my hair dryer or the penguins will all be extinct in the next five years?" I joke, hoping to elicit a nonverbal reaction. He finally makes eye contact, his gaze slightly unfocused, but doesn't display any visible emotion.
I stifle a slight shudder, wondering if I was looking into the eyes of a serial killer who I had accidentally triggered.
He finally breaks eye contact and just mutters, "Fuck those flightless bastards."
I shit you not. He actually said those words. Those words came out of a (supposedly) highly educated man's mouth.
Time for plan B. I pull out my phone and pretend to take a call. "Hi, yes this is she," I greet brightly, hoping I look a lot more convincing than I sound. "Oh, of course. I'm so sorry-I'll be back as soon as possible." The phone slides from my palm into my grip.
I don't even attempt to look like I'm ending the call because he's still trying to find all of life's secrets in the fucking menu.
"My cat is throwing up, and it looks like I have to go back to find his medication," I state, barely managing an apologetic tone. Using my imaginary cat as a excuse to get out of date-I really hope this isn't a sign. "This was...interesting. I'll see you around."
Alec glances at me skeptically, mixed with traces of what looks to be disgust (?), before uttering, "You have a cat? Aren't those just assholes in animal form?"
I mentally debate whether it'd be worth it to slap a lawyer in broad daylight but decide I couldn't afford to be sued (or hold myself back from "accidentally" stabbing him with that fork near his hand), so I just manage a shaky smile and say, "Goodbye, Alec."
I'm going to spare you the typical twenty something female rant that usually consists of these major points:
Being single sucks.
Dating also sucks.
Why must it suck when I am a smart, good-looking, relatively accomplished adult who's not an asshole?
All I need is alcohol.
Here's the truth: I know I don't need a man, but I'd like one. It's like when you're at a restaurant and you're so full you know you can't eat anything, but then you see the creme brûlée or a giant lava cake (my personal weakness). As a sensible adult who can barely stand and looks three months pregnant, you know you shouldn't have it. It's clearly a bad idea. But do you order it anyway and stuff as much of it inside you as possible?
Abso-fucking-lutely. Sidenote: If you're feeling generous, you can also share said dessert with a friend, although you might want to check with the dessert and get consent first.
Being on the precipice of 30, it's becoming harder and harder to distinguish what I think I want and what I think I need. The expectation is no longer a boyfriend or a man-it's a husband. And given my recent luck with dating, I'm pretty sure my hymen will grow back sooner than I find a partner to spend the rest of my life with.
The uber stops and I quickly walk into the bar where my best friend/confidante/partner in crime Rosalie sits, chatting up the bartender. She raises her eyebrows when she sees me. "That bad?" She asks, knowing just from my aura that it was horrific.
Just kidding-pretty sure the text I sent in the uber: "I want a cave full of fluffy cats. And wine. Maybe tequila. But mostly the cave and the cats thing" tipped her off.
"He was...abnormally sweaty. And I thought maybe he had just come from a run or Crossfit, but he was wearing a suit. A boxy suit that made him look like a kid dressed as a grownup," I complain.
Rosalie blinks, absorbing all of the horrific details, steeling herself for what will be a half hour dedicated to picking apart every excruciating moment until I've purged it from my memory.
"Was he nice at least?" She asks hesitantly, trying to find a redeemable moment in a dinner of bullshit.
I shake my head as I rub my temples, my obvious nervous habit. "At one point he said to fuck the penguins, those flightless bastards, and that cats are animal forms of assholes-the type of people, not the literal-"
"I get it," she interrupts, carefully slanting a glance at the nachos that arrives in front of her.
"I don't-but it-just, why?" I groan. "Why is it that every guy I meet up with inevitably pisses me off or forces me to re-evaluate my stance on lobotomy?"
Rosalie laughs, and though I try not to resent that she is happily dating her boyfriend of three years, it's hard in these moments not to hate her a little bit.
"Listen," she says, after inhaling three nachos. "I'm not going to tell you how to date but you've been here for six years now. You can probably walk into a bar in a decent area and just start talking to someone you think is cute. Why waste time on Tinder or OkCupid or LoveMatch?"
I roll my eyes. Typical. "First of all, there is no such thing as LoveMatch, mostly because it sounds like an 80s adult version of the Guess Who game," I correct. "And secondly, I have tried almost every possible setting in which a possible love match might happen-bars, clubs, speakeasies, cute bookstores around the corner, cafes that are trying hard to appear Parisian and unironically failing, the Lincoln memorial, and the express lane at my grocery store."
I point at her. "Never have I struck dateable dick."
She giggles at my refreshing wit-never mind the two empty wine glasses beside her-before sitting back, appraising me. "You might have better luck if you broke your third rule."
Ah, yes. My rules. There's a set of general rules that everyone tries to follow in order to not hurt anyone or be hurt by anyone through dating, but then there are specific rules that we actually follow. My three were:
1) Tell someone up front if you're not interested in either a casual hookup or a relationship.
2) Treat others with dignity and respect, unless they act like a complete waste of space (if that's the case, then bury the body and run)
3) Never, ever date anyone who works on the Hill.
It was only by breaking each of these rules that they became part of an automatic checklist I run through every time I'm out on a date. There's been a few times when I had to tell the guy I wasn't interested, a handful of times that I slept with them but wasn't interested in looking for anything more, and only one time that I've attempted to form any meaningful connection to a Hill staffer.
Needless to say, that last one still gives me pause sometimes.
"Never," I assert, before deciding to fuck it all and order a Long Island Iced Tea. Deadly? Probably, especially because I hadn't ordered anything at that restaurant. Necessary?
Um, have you not heard about my date first-hand? At this point, chugging a bottle of Fireball doesn't seem like an overreaction.
"Hmmm," Rosalie muses. "Well, why don't we just throw a dinner party or something, invite a bunch of people that we barely know and see if there's any good prospects?"
I glare at her. "You want to essentially round everyone up like cows and see if I find one that I like? Seriously?"
She rolls her eyes, used to my dramatic and more than off color descriptions by now. "Yes, they'll all show up in chains and demonstrate their skills for your benefit. No, you idiot, this is the friend of a friend of a friend scenario here. But I like the cow thing-that's pretty cute," she laughs dazedly.
Annnnd that's when I know she's tipsy.
I roll my eyes before craning my neck to see what's taking the bartender so long. "I'm going to go see what's up with my drink," I say, eyeing Rosalie a bit cautiously, alarm slightly raising when she just smiles all zen-like at me.
If she's on something, I will end our friendship if she doesn't share.
The bartender, noticing my appearance, apologizes for the wait and starts to make the drink. I uncomfortably adjust my dress, knowing that any attempt to pull the mid-thigh fabric down will just inflate my breasts even more, squeezed together by what I assume is an 18th century deathtrap that's cutting off my circulation as I ramble-
"Well, well, well. It's been a long time."
I freeze, and suddenly everything except the deafening beat of my pulse fades into white noise. I even pinch myself not-so-subtly to escape from what can only be a nightmare. I feel him move toward me before I see him, and clench my jaw before finally turning to face him.
He looks the same, just a bit more tired. Blonde hair neatly cropped with a few strands in disarray (I try not to think about the possibility of female hands responsible) with bright blue eyes still as sharp and observant as ever, radiating an openness and deceitful honesty that con men would gladly give a limb to have.
What the fuck is he doing here? Didn't he leave to manage Carpenter's campaign?
"Wow-hi," I exclaim, wondering if my breathlessness can be masked by the blaring sounds of Florence and the Machine. "I thought you were in Indiana? Did you just get back in town?" I've already lost my cool girl advantage, having asked the two questions I wanted answers to the most, and therefore the two questions I definitely shouldn't have asked.
I don't care how he's doing anymore. He is not your problem.
He cracks a smile, no doubt aware of my unease. The Long Island Iced Tea chooses to materialize in that moment, and although he raises an eyebrow, he simply replies, "Yeah, I decided I missed being in the center of it all here. So when they offered me a legislative director position on McClansky's staff, I packed up and moved back. It's been about a week."
One week. Seven days. 168 hours.
"That's quite a transition," I say lamely, wishing to god I could just end this conversation and start wiping it from my memory as soon as possible. My fingers tap insistently against my glass. "Um, I actually have to meet with a friend-"
"Rosalie, right?" He interrupts, a knowing stare on his face. "I thought I saw her on the way here." Of course he knows Rosalie; they were practically BFFs before he left.
"Yeah, sorry," I say, hopefully not sounding sorry at all.
Don't say it. Don't say it. Just tell him you have to go. But dear god don't-
"It was great running into you," I say robotically, and immediately picture a version of myself falling to my knees and yelling, "NOOOOOO!"
He smiles, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "You too-I'll see you around."
I nod with my smile frozen to my features before brushing past him, taking care to not actually touch him, and downing the not-really-tea drink in my hand.
"Holy shit," I exclaim. "Holy fucking shit."
In case it's still not clear-that was Jasper, and he is precisely why rule number 3 exists.