Dating

Amy met Chuck online. Their first date was at a bar. He drank beer while she had gin and tonic. He chugged his down (and he had more than one) while she sipped hers daintily. They ordered a plate of nachos, which he ate most of. He had an olive stuck in his teeth the for the rest of the night, and his breath smelled like onions and cheese. When he tried to kiss her at the end of the night, Amy feigned choking on a bug and ran inside.

Amy met Bryan at the grocery store. He caught a can of beans she knocked off a shelf. He asked her to dinner and she said yes. They went to a sushi place, where he ordered one of everything on the menu. They tried combinations they had never considered before, laughing when things tasted good and grimacing when they were foul. He paid the bill, but she offered to pay the tip. He didn’t want her to know what the meal cost, so told her the amount to pay. Later, after he drove her home and they kissed in the car, she spied the receipt on the floor of his truck. She had only given a six percent tip. They didn’t go out again.

Amy met Danny on the train. They spied each other checking out the other over the spines of their books. They introduced themselves, and he suggested going for a drink. It was late, but they found a small bar near both their apartments and had a couple of glasses of wine. He walked her home and got her number, then kissed her on the cheek. When he called her to ask her to dinner, he stuttered and was unable to make concrete plans. He called her every day for a week, but he could never pinpoint a time. He finally stopped calling and she never saw him again.

Amy met Andrew. Then Patrick. Then Caleb. Then Marc. They met at the library or a bar or crossing the street. They went to the movies or for coffee or a book reading. They tried to kiss her or tried to fuck her or god forbid, tried to get her to sleep over. After a while she got tired of dating and started calling her friend Ben up for physical comfort.

Amy’s friends would try to set her up with their boyfriends’ friends. She went out Amber’s boyfriend Greg’s friend Steven. He blew his nose at the dinner table. She went out with Erik, a friend of Megan. He caressed her hand across the table and told her he thought she was the greatest woman he ever met, before their drinks had arrived. She went out with Jordan, who ended up being a woman because Jenny’s boyfriend Pete didn’t know that Amy was straight because she had been single for so long. She had a fantastic time, but at the end of the night realized she just wasn’t attracted to women.

Amy got tired of dating. She kept Ben on speed dial, but eventually he met someone and stopped answering. She stopped letting her friends set her up. She stopped going to bars or clubs. She refused to discuss dating with her friends, and they stopped bragging about their relationships. She became that sullen girl you only hang out with because you’ve been friends for so long.

Amy’s professional life flourished. She put all her efforts into writing the best reports her boss could ask for. She got a promotion and a raise. She celebrated with her girlfriends with glasses of champagne in her tiny apartment. She moved to a bigger apartment, got a cat and invested in a Kitchen Aid mixer. Her cat’s name was Arnold, so she could call to him, “HEY, ARNOLD!” like that 90s TV show. (Her friends didn’t get it.) She baked cookies and brought them to work to share. She made cupcakes and gave them out as gifts. She started baking her own bread.

But Amy was alone. Arnold was a fair companion, but the conversations were one-sided and Arnold slept a lot. Amy found herself talking to herself a lot. Once, she forgot she was in public and was caught talking quietly to herself in the elevator at work. Her boss thought she needed a vacation, and gave her two weeks off.

Amy went to Paris. She stayed in a tiny apartment near in the Latin Quarter, near the Sorbonne. She walked the streets for hours on end, popping into bakeries and bookstores and museums along the way. She sat outside cafes, sipping cafe au laits or glasses of wine. She ate macaroons and people watched. She climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Couer. She ate crepes on the street, in the rain. She meandered through fruit stalls and fish stalls. She ate chunks of cheese and bread in the park.

Amy met Jean-Luc in the park. He took her to dinner, then dancing. He kissed her outside her tiny apartment. He showed up the next morning and took her for coffee. They spent the day walking through bookstores and drinking wine. They made love in her tiny apartment with the windows open. They did that every day until she left.

Amy returned home. She cried as she kissed Jean-Luc, before getting in a cab to the airport. He promised to write and to call and to visit. She smiled and nodded, but she thought could hear the lie in his tone. She slipped her address into his pocket then closed the cab door.

Amy came home to her cat. Arnold was happy to see her. She had dozens of messages from her girlfriends, asking when she would be getting home and asking for details. There was no message from Jean-Luc. Before she went to bed she made macaroons for work the next day.

Amy filled her days with work and friends. She and her girlfriends would drink wine and pretend they had gone to Paris with her. They would bitch about their boyfriends and Amy would talk about her trip. She didn’t mention Jean-Luc, because she hadn’t heard from him. She decided she wanted to keep the memory intact and not let her girlfriends pick him apart. She longed for him in secret.

Amy tried dating again. She had dinner with Harry, coffee with Stu and went to a play with Paul. She smiled and laughed her way through each date, but she couldn’t stop comparing them to Jean-Luc. Harry talked incessantly about his dog, Miss McCutie, and Stu kept picking his nose. Paul texted throughout the entire play. Amy continued to check her messages every night and baked a lot of cookies.

One day, about a month after she returned from Paris, Amy stood in her kitchen braiding bread. Just as she put the final loaf in the oven, someone knocked on her door. Amy assumed it was one of her girlfriends, not doubt fighting with a boyfriend. But when Amy opened her apartment door Jean-Luc was standing there.

Amy, without thought or reason, kissed him before he could speak and dragged him inside. She closed the door behind him and without a word they made love on the floor of the entry way. When she finally let him speak, Jean-Luc apologized for not calling or writing. He explained that he had been working around the clock to get the money to come see her. He told her he couldn’t live without her. That she was his soul mate.

Amy decided to believe him.

Amy met Jean-Luc in Paris. They went to dinner. They went dancing. They had coffee and took walks. He held her hand and whispered sweet nothings into her ear. She spilled her wine, he snorted when he laughed. He didn’t call for over a month and had a tendency to show up unannounced. His left shoe was constantly untied and his hair was always a mess. She never let go.

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Why

I used to define myself as a writer. During my prepubescent years I wrote like mad, copying the styles of Ann M Martin and RL Stine, sadly. I had one short story published in my middle school’s literary magazine and that might have been because both my mother and I were on the selection committee. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said “a writer, an author, a novelist.”

But then I entered high school. And met a man who took away my love of books and writing for some time.

My freshman year I had a English teacher named Mr. Selby. He was a young, plump man with boyish features and clean bowl cut. He wore ill fitting khakis and a sweater every day. He was obviously gay, but used the hottest teacher in the school as his beard. I hated him.

I didn’t hate him at first – in fact for the first few months of that year I adored him. He was silly and funny – he read Shakespeare with such energy and showed us a raunchy movie version of Animal Farm. But then he started to show his true colors. I was (and am) a talkative girl, no doubt about that, but I was not someone who would chatter during class. I chose to sit in the middle of the room, not the back and not the front, because I felt like I was trying just enough. But Mr. Selby decided that I talked all the time. He forced me to sit in the very front of the room, on the corner, away from all my friends. He could never pinpoint what exactly I did, except once, and in that case it wasn’t actually me talking but my friend. Even after she admitted her guilt, Mr. Selby said she was lying and separated us.

I admit, it wasn’t so bad to sit in the front of the room. Until we had our first major test. Mr. Selby would walk through the silent rows. He would stop and comment on answers we would be writing out. Then, when all you could hear was the squeak of his soles and the concentrated breathing of the students, he stopped at my desk. He took a deep breath and at the top of his lungs sang “ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOXANNE! You don’t have to turn out that red light!”

I was so startled that I knocked my test to the floor and my pen went flying. Other students choked on their breath. One student let out a tiny yip. Mr. Selby laughed and went silent again. A nervous laughter made it’s way through the rows. Quiet descended over the class again as we went back to our tests. Just as the last nervous giggle disappeared, Mr. Selby once again sang, “ROOOOOOOOXANNE!”

Now, you may not know this about me, but I was never afraid to speak my mind, even to teachers. I was pissed, so I looked up from my test and asked him why the hell he was doing that. Shaking with glee, Mr. Selby explained that he wanted to keep us on our toes. I scowled at him and returned to my test. Another student spoke up, saying that it was too distracting and asked him to stop. He grumbled an agreement and was silent for the remainder of the test.

This happened almost every time we took a test with him.

At the end of the year I was ecstatic that I was done with him. I was already a poor test taker, so his distractions had made me a worse one. I was nervous that the next year I wouldn’t excel in English, that I would be behind. I was devastated when I received my schedule for the next year and there it was: Mr. Selby would be my teacher again.

I entered my sophomore year with a positive attitude. I had read the entire reading list over the summer and had written in my journal daily. I was ready to take this asshole on. Lucky for me, he seemed to have forgotten that he believed me to be talkative, and let me sit in the back with my friend Lauren. We were on our best behavior, for fear that he would split us up.

He was fine for the first few months, only singing during tests every other week. Right after Christmas break, he announced we were reading The Joy Luck Club. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it is not told chronologically and the stories seem unrelated, though all come together in the end. Part of the beauty of reading this book from beginning to end is discovering how these stories intertwine. Mr. Selby, of course, had us read selected chapters here and there and out of order, as to not confuse us. No one understood that book. (Except me, who defied him and read the entire thing in one weekend, in order.)

During this time, my parents took me and my siblings down to Orlando for a week. It was a week before February break and we would be missing school. My teachers gave me the work I would be missing – Mr. Selby’s pile was unbelievably large, of course. I took one day and stayed home from DisneyWorld just to work on his pile. I finished the entire thing in record time (then proceeded to get locked out of our condo for hours, but that’s a story for another day). When I returned to school I gave him my work. He looked at me in confusion, saying that he never assigned it to the rest of the class so he would not be grading it.

Dumbfounded I left the work on his desk and sat down. I don’t remember what we learned in class that day. When I got home that evening I told my parents what had happened and they immediately scheduled a parent-teacher conference. When they sat down with Mr. Selby he had “forgotten” his grade book and feigned confusion over his assignments. He claimed that he hadn’t “assigned” that work to me, that it had been a suggested pile of assignments. He said he couldn’t possibly give me credit for work that no one else had done/been assigned. My father, a man who gets mad extremely easily, was silent. My mother, the calmer and logical one, stood up, called Mr. Selby a four letter word and made her way to the principal’s office.

Needless to say, I got credit for that work and I got an A.

The rest of the year was tedious. Due to this incident, Mr. Selby refused to let me fully participate in discussions – he would refuse to call on me and often ignored my hand, even if I was the only one who knew the answer. At least he continued to grade me fairly on my written work. After a while I kept my head low and did the minimal. I just wanted to get through the class.

At the end of the year I celebrated never having to have him as a teacher again. He did not teach above the 10th grade. On my last day I saluted him sarcastically and never turned back. I got an A in the class.

Those two years made me hate everything about writing. My vocabulary was horrendous (he never once focused on vocabulary, a fact my 11th grade teacher nearly cried over since it was obligated BY THE STATE). I still read like a fiend, but my heart had attached itself to musical theater. I stopped writing in my journal as a writer and only wrote diary entries about the boys I dated or the fights I had with my friends.

It was sad, to say the least.

When I entered college, I did so originally as a musical theater major then switched to undecided. I had no idea what I wanted to do anymore. During my English 101 class (obligated by my university), we were given 1 minute to write a train of thought from the view of someone we found evil. My professor (who later became my adviser and mentor) approached me after class and asked me what my major was. When I admitted that I didn’t have one she told me that I should be a writing major. I was surprised as it had been years since I had written anything of substance.

Within weeks I was established as a creative writing major. I had never been happier.

I have written next to nothing since I left college. Part of a poem or a paragraph here or there, but nothing of note. I work with books for a living and yet I never find the time to sit down and write. Which is why I am starting to write here. I have a skill, a talent even, and I need to exercise it.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I know I will enjoy writing it.

Until then,

Emily