The last date I went on pre-corona, before everything went to shit – was shit.
Right away it dipped into the midday, weekend, city lunch, first date rhythm. We met at the cactus, like clockwork. Walked to BamBamBoo and ordered off little iPads, like clockwork. He talked about a bunch of dumb shows he liked that I hadn’t (and haven’t) seen, like clockwork.
Things finally started to get interesting when he told me his last relationship ended shortly after he backed into her car and had to fix the dent with a toilet plunger. Only problem apart from the utterly deadpan execution of this entire story was, this guy didn’t see anything remotely funny about what he’d just told me and proceeded to get quite offended when I, inevitably, burst out laughing.
Picture this: you’re sitting opposite an adamant stranger who is staring right at you, brows furrowed and asking, entirely seriously,
um how would you feel if you’d backed into someone’s car and had them suggest you fix it with a toilet plunger? It was humiliating! I really can’t believe you’re finding this funny. You’re actually heartless – you know that?
It was at that moment I finally realised there would be no punchline. I gave myself an under the table fist bump for ordering an entrée and mentally pat myself on the back for picking a loud restaurant, thinking of the deafening silence that would’ve otherwise followed this historical exchange in my dating career.
Severe awkwardness aside, all that lingered was an intense awareness that both parties desperately wanted to leave. Luckily, I have a plan of action for situations exactly like that one.
I pulled out my phone, opened messenger and typed 6 letters, sending the word to my friend Peter.
(the question and exclamation marks are optional, but I had time)
In navigating and surviving dating-app-dates (D.A.D.’s for short), it is entirely vital to have some sort of escape system – although not necessarily one this elaborate:
Code Red: call me immediately, I need to pretend I have to rush off (good for a loud place where the other party can’t hear the caller bluffing)
Code Orange: flood my phone with texts it’s not on silent (good for a quieter place where a fake emergency call won’t cut it)
Code Yellow: oh god they brought a friend (not a call to action, just a live-complaint)
Code Green: it’s going better than expected! (not a call to action, just a live-update)
Code Blue: they won’t stop talking about their ex (not a call to action, just a live-complaint)
Code Indigo: something hilarious just happened on my date are you free to come chat shit
Code Violet: we haven’t needed to come up with something for this one yet
After two minutes of frantic chewing my phone chimed with Pete’s response.
CITY?? ON IT!!!
An unmemorable goodbye and twenty minutes later, I practically jogged to Viet Hoa – their Pho is fucking amazing by the way you should really go.
Pete was standing on the street corner in slides and sweatpants with his arms crossed. He smiled when he saw me, laughing when we hugged hello.
The things I do for you.
I said: Yes poor, sleeping beauty (or something along those lines). Don’t try acting like you had anything else to do!
You’re right it was becoming too much effort already HAHA – now I wanna hear all about it so GET YOUR ASS INSIDE AND SPILL!
Laughs already escaping the corners of our mouths, we spilled into the restaurant. The place was almost full, despite the sky just beginning to darken. I ordered Pho Tai, he ordered Pho Ga – like always.
I began explaining what had happened: Yeah, basically he couldn’t take a joke –
– ok that’s a disaster already, you literally laugh at everything –
– I don’t know how I missed it –
– stop I know exactly what happened. Try telling me, that this wasn’t a case of you misreading his texts as sarcasm!
I’ve known Pete for about three years. When we’d catch up (past tense because the present is an era of Zoom dates) we’d talk about everything under the sun, be it pubes, men, whether or not what the lecturer said on Monday was racist,
Listen, babe, n-e-v-e-r be sad over a boy, aight?
He’d chew his noodles loudly, mouth slightly open in a way that was so endearing to me it almost hurt
Boys are like buses… there’s always another one coming!
We’d laugh in unison, big, obnoxious belly laughs, annoying couples at faraway tables and making them turn in their seats.
They’re just jealous they aren’t having as much fun as us, sucks to suck I guess…
He’d rolled his eyes animatedly as he said this, or something like it.
We’d often talk about sex, too. Just two clueless eighteen-year old’s, trying to understand. Desperate to find ourselves. I’d say something like: but how does receiving and giving pleasure make any sense to you if its someone you don’t care about, or even like?
Sis, you just pretend. Its way easier to like someone if you don’t wait around for them to open their mouth and spew bigotry-disguised-as-humour everywhere. No thanks, in my head he’s whoever I want him to be.
He took a quick sip of tea.
There’s no such thing as actually liking a man for who they are, sure you might know more about him but you’re still seeing him subjectively – you ignore the bits you don’t like and you think about the things you do, over and over and over until you trick yourself into thinking: hey, this could work, I should compromise what I actually want so this ogre continues to like me and I can eventually have his children and contribute to mankind’s destruction of the earth! That sounds like a great idea! Bitch, what you’re feeling is your body’s way of slowly leading you towards ending up as a baby oven, stay woke.
There would always be five seconds of silence after he’d go on a rant like that because I’d have been stuffing my mouth with noodles that I was yet to swallow. Then: no, that’s ridiculous. You’re framing me – no, WOMEN – as these idiots with absolutely no control over anything!
Forget women, I know for a fact that you don’t have control over your car…
I remember I laughed at that, despite myself (I’d failed my PDA for driving on the wrong side of the road just days earlier).
Every time we’d say goodbye after catching up, I’d feel invincible (regardless of the fact that we disagreed on basically everything). I craved that feeling almost as much as I looked forward to seeing him and when I told him that one day, he responded unblinkingly,
Duh, I’m the only one who gives it to you straight
And we laughed, again, at the irony
(I thought this ending was cringey, but Pete liked it, so here we are).
Baran Rostamian is fascinated by people and their mistakes and their yearnings and their baggage. She is a CaLD, Iranian-Australian writer and second-year student studying English and Literary Studies at the University of Western Australia. Recently involved in the Inclusion Matters mentoring program at the Centre for Stories, her writing this year has been published in Singapore Review of Books, The Tiger Moth Review, the Centre for Stories anthology To Hold the Clouds and Pulch Magazine among others. You can find her poetry at the Short Story Dispenser in Raine Square. In her spare time, Baran enjoys bubble tea, cats and repurposing trash into earrings. You can follow her on Instagram @baran.com.au, @baran.writes and @trashy.com.au for fun and a healthy dose of catastrophe.