Do you remember that time? That time we met, when I was drunk at the salad bar?
The twilight of game day saw us crawling all corners of town. The other zombified day drinkers were scavenging discount fry baskets and cheap pitcher deals. But I knew where to get the good stuff. I knew Stop ‘n Shop stocked their salad bar with free saltines.
So did you.
I could tell you had the same idea by your walk. Totally innocent! Minding your own business, eyeing the ceiling, acting like you were just browsing. But I knew that lean. That lean! You kept course, straight for the metal tin with that plastic-wrapped manna.
I fell in love with your walk first. That herky-jerky gait was lopsided. Foolish. But it was intentional and vivacious. Man!
We were still giggling when we got to the exit, the kind of giggles that come from chemistry, not conversation. Do you remember that?
The town was waking from its stupor - as a second wind blew down the street, everybody wanted to find the next party.
"So...where are you going?"
I blurted, spewing crumbs between saltines.
You looked at me. Oh man, did I melt. You said:
"Wherever you're going."
Tonight is my fifth Tinder date in as many months. Two of the five "forgot." One obsessively talked about her sorority and Sizzle Pie. She absolutely loved sarcasm.
I mean, at least her Tinder bio was honest.
The fourth got to a second date. I was so thrilled, I asked her every day if Friday was still gonna work. And...she didn't reply on Wednesday.
But! Maybe this time! Just...maybe. You can't win if you don't play the game, right? (claps).
Alllrriiight, huddle up. We gotta review.
What do we know? Her name is Kate. This is our first date.
Man, she's too hot. Completely out of my league. I'm not going to -
I've got to keep going at this. Eventually...eventually it'll work. Just keep going...somewhere. I'll keep...uh...walking around until she texts me. C'mon Kate. Just text me.
The worst part about saltines is you can't have one. They always come in twos, and that salt is addicting. It's like getting a match and feeling that knowing satisfaction that someone thinks you're attractive. And you can't stop swiping, just like you can't stop eating saltines.
Perhaps Kate's a paleontologist. Our second-date banter would be faultless.
I'd say, cleverly, "This ground is pretty solid, but I bet I can make that bed rock."
You're so dirty!
Kate would reply with equal wit, wiping the dust off my standard-issue, khaki archaeologist hat. We'd survey the scene, scanning the horizon for a past we hope to reclaim.
Wait! What's this?
Suddenly, she'd stoop down and motion for me to tenderly break the ground. We'd dig and dig, and slowly uncover a perfectly-preserved fossil, but also uncover our mutual love.
My it's a...it's...it's a tyranno-ocerous-dactyl-raptor-odon! It's the catch of the century!
No, Kate, you're the catch. I can't believe I met you on a hookup app.
Do you remember that time? That time you and I found that little green paratrooper buried at Canon Beach? He had clearly aged, but he still looked ready for battle. It was your idea to station him at the dining table. He shared every meal with us, remaining vigilant next to the salt shaker. You took Sergeant Pepper with you. I hope he's doing alright, wherever you guys are.
Kate! Gah! I'm here for Kate! C'mon! Let's get it together!
Come to think of it, heartbreak goes down like a saltine.
There's that immediate spike - a salty taste. The "I don't need you"s, the "I'm fine, really"s, the "It was a mutual decision"s.
Then the doughy middle. Chew, mull it around, try to swallow...but you can't. And when you do swallow, it takes a little bit of that flavor down to the pit of your stomach.
In due time, it leaves the body and that's a beautiful thing. Because you can't carry heartbreak in your gut forever. Girls can smell that.
I must reek.
My mom says I just need a spark. Something to start my engine. Maybe Kate's a mechanic. But a hybrid mechanic, because this is Portland.
We'd start our second date at her garage - glowing with plaques like "Fastest Battery Change This Side of Kansas."
As we walked to the waterfront, Kate would explode about her day. It would be a humbling, grounding story about workplace discrimination:
I mean it's a current era! How can a man not connect that a woman can hold a job in any profession she chooses!
I would try to cheer her up with song, dragging my fingers down the fencing, generating a meter-less, haphazard jazz groove with every metallic twang twang twang. We would walk until our energy dissipated in the morning hours, disconnecting only to recharge with the promise of, heavens, a third date!
Do you remember that summer night in the old house we rented across from the train tracks? It was 100 degrees still and we had every window open and a fan in every room, desperately trying to move the listless air. You decided to microwave dinner and blew a fuse. Literally. So we gave up, pulled the bed near the window, and laid there.
Wishing for a breeze, listening to the trains, and not saying a word.
I guess I'm still chewing on you.
Earthquake House….huh. Maybe Kate's an architect. A real lover of art. She'll invite me back to her parlor room tonight - that's parlor with a u, of course - one with a long, red-velvet couch. While she directs our Uber driver through the scenic route, I'll watch YouTube videos on how to undress in a sexy way, and then do it on that long, red-velvet couch.
Kate would laugh while she set up the easel, jumbling around her art box - clattering her colored pencils, rustling her paintbrushes, booting up her Macbook, its arousing chime ringing forth. Ah, the chorus of foreplay.
On the second date, she'll invite me to one of her showings, and I'll make artsy small talk with artsy people.
Dear, have you met so-and-so from such-and-such? The juxtaposition in their recent work is nearly post-modern.
Why, hello. How do you do? Where did you get that handlebar mustache?
Do you remember that time? When we picked up a Dollar Store watercolor kit? It was the kind where the colors just couldn't wait to run into each other. We bootlegged Bob Ross, laughing at his pleas for gentle strokes while doing quite the opposite. (laughs) By the end, we had more paint on each other than on the page.
You...no. This is OMSI. I'm going on a date with Kate, and she's lovely. Absolutely lovely. I'm going on a date with someone else, that's right. (more confidently) That's right.
Well, Kate, it's been a wonderful time imagining dates with you. I saw the whole museum...
Oh, it's Kate. It's Kate! Kate's calling!
Hello, good evening, how are you.
Haha, what's up? Are you in the museum?
Indeed, I am, absolutely. I'm by...um...I'm by the space exhibit.
Perfect. I'll see you there.
Alright, she's coming. Act natural...stay focused...but...but it's...space!
Space! The final frontier!
And so, after my third trip to Venus, my alien friends sent a space invitation to their annual space banquet. One plus one permitted, the invitation said.
Kate agrees this would make a fabulous second date. We depart to great fanfare from the peoples of Earth.
Once we're out of orbit, Kate leaves me alone on the bridge to change out of her space suit into her space gown.
Then the broom closet opens.
Oh, it's you. I recognized that lean from a lightyear away.
You say "I told you I'd go wherever you went, remember?"
I look at the invitation.
You know it says plus one. Not plus one and baggage from your last relationship.
I can't take you on this journey anymore. It's unfair.
Kate's coming back. She's almost here.
I look at you and say, "There are crumbs after every saltine."
And for three seconds, three wonderful seconds, you look at me like you did outside the grocery store, like you had for three years. I watch you jettison from the ship.
Kate's back now. We're looking at the map, charting our course for the evening. It's alright to have heartbreak, so long as there's room for other things.
So...where should we go?
Crowd ambience fades in loudly over the sound of a rocket blasting off.